Background

The Swedish Association of Women Composers (Kvinnlig Anhopning av Svenska Tonsättare – KVAST) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise awareness for and increase programming of music by women composers.

Kvast? In Swedish, the word “kvast” means “broom.”

Why KVAST?

In the spring of 2008, a survey of the general programs of Swedish orchestras for the 2008–2009 season showed that only 1.2% of all the pieces programmed were composed by women (10 pieces out of a total of 283). The figure was 6% for works written after 1950. On orchestra stages around Sweden, a musical conversation was taking place in which hardly any women were participating.

KVAST wants to support orchestras and other commissioners and programmers of music – including chamber music, electroacoustic music, and opera – in expanding their repertoire of music by women, by inspiring them to program existing works in addition to commissioning new ones. We are happy to report that our efforts have yielded results – more and more Swedish orchestras are programming works by women composers. But we hope that still more will recognize the importance of this issue – an important one in so many respects, not least that we can keep and attract audiences now and in the future by including women’s music from both the past and the present. And from the future – by programming women composers, we can inspire future women to become composers!

KVAST’s objectives

  • To increase the number of works by women composers in orchestra repertoires
  • To educate program committees about the existing repertoire by women composers of all eras and from all parts of the world; and to raise awareness of the need to address gender issues when choosing repertoire.

KVAST’s activities

– Visits to orchestras

In dialogue with orchestras, KVAST hopes to inspire them to include music by women in their repertoire: by arranging conferences, discussing repertoire choices, presenting the existing repertoire, and exploring how we can work together to ensure better representation for women.

The Repertoire Bank

KVAST wants to develop a system whereby communicators who are experts on the repertoire can travel to orchestras and program committees to provide information about the existing body of works by women composers. We also want to create an internet-based Repertoire Bank of music by women, with information about genre, instrumentation, score availability, etc.

The Gold Broom Award

KVAST has instituted the Gold Broom Award (Guldkvasten), presented annually to an orchestra or commissioner of orchestral music, chamber music/electroacoustic music or opera that has worked to promote and support women composers. The prize includes a specially composed fanfare that is played at the awards ceremony (also envisaged for use on other occasions).

KVAST received early support from

The Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation

The Royal Swedish Academy of Music

The driving force behind KVAST and its first chairperson, from 2009–2011, was composer and professor Karin Rehnqvist.