The Repertoire Jolt Project

KVAST started the Repertoire Jolt project in order to collaborate with orchestras and help put more works by women composers in their repertoire. The role of the orchestras in the project is central. KVAST chair Stina Lyles noted, “KVAST is a small nonprofit association and the matter is too important for us to pursue it alone. The orchestras have the power and resources. It has to be their issue.”

In May 2013, KVAST was awarded a grant to work with the orchestras of Sweden in a repertoire project. The funding came from the Swedish Performing Arts Agency, whose hope was that it would help bring about long-term, structural change.

After eight years of working on the issue of how to expand Swedish orchestra repertoires, we at KVAST can see that our efforts have filled a gap. Today, we can offer orchestras the following resources:

  • Our Repertoire Bank of more than 1,670 compositions

  • A list of introductions to some 800 composers and their works

  • A variety of lists, links, and tips on our website, www.kvast.org

What progress has been made on the orchestras’ side?

During the five-year period since 2008, when KVAST made its first analysis of the general programs of Swedish orchestras, the percentage of works by women composers has risen by 2.3%, reaching 3.5% of the total repertoire. That figure doubled in the 2013–2014 season, to 7.9%. Now, at the close of 2016, we have begun to see very promising and positive changes; but still, for a number of orchestras, the journey is not really underway. According to our most recent statistics, if we look at total duration of music played, only 4% of the music performed across 18 Swedish orchestras and opera houses was composed by women. This means our work must continue. As recently as the autumn of 2016, our efforts received a huge boost from the Swedish government, which undertook a broad national initiative to achieve progress on this issue.

We are happy to see this evolution, and we believe it is due in part to our work in publicizing the problem, and the resulting media coverage.

Still, according to our statistics, at present 92.1% of the repertoire programmed by our largest, publicly financed orchestras is composed by men.

This is not just an artistic problem but a democratic one. Awareness of the problem is growing – but we think it is growing too slowly. This is why we started the Repertoire Jolt project: so that we can collaborate with orchestras to help them get more music by women into their repertoire.

How KVAST can help

We want to continue our dialogue with Sweden’s symphony and chamber orchestras and invite them to partner with us on this important issue. One project objective is to encourage and support orchestras in defining their own, quantitative gender equality goals (read: play more music by women composers).

We have built a Repertoire Bank, available on the internet with some 1670 works in various categories by women composers. We also stand ready to help in other ways – with information, encouragement, and dialogue.

The Repertoire Jolt project will run from the fall of 2013 to the spring of 2014, funded by a gender equality grant from the Swedish Performing Arts Agency (Statens Musikverk).