The Swedish Association of Women Composers (Kvinnlig Anhopning av Svenska Tonsättare – KVAST) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise awareness for women composers and promote the performance of their music. Gender equality on the concert stage – for democracy and artistic excellence.
What’s a kvast, you may ask? In Swedish, the word kvast means “broom.”
Why Was KVAST Founded?
In the spring of 2008, a survey of the general programs of Swedish orchestras for the 2008–2009 season revealed that of all the pieces programmed, only 1.2% were composed by women (10 pieces out of a total of 283). For works composed after 1950, that figure was 6%. On orchestra stages around Sweden, a musical conversation was taking place from which women were largely excluded.
Back then we counted the amount of pieces, but since some years now – latest in a very thorough statistics covering 3 seasons 2016-2019 published in september 2019 see pdf here we have started counting the amount of minutes – durata – of music composed by women being performed. We strongly believe this is important, since muisc by women tend to be given less space/time/resources. The result was a percentage of 6,3% for all three seasons put together counted in durata. Counted by number of pieces the percentage was 9,3%.
Against that background, KVAST began working to support orchestras, as well as commissioners and programmers of chamber works, electroacoustic music, opera, and more, in expanding their repertoire of music by women composers, inspiring them both to program more existing works by women and to commission new ones. We have since continued to compile statistics on gender equality in programming. To produce our two most recent reports, we partnered with Föreningen Svenska Tonsättare (FST), Sweden’s professional society for composers.
- To increase the percentage of works by women composers in the repertoire
- To educate program committees about the existing repertoire of music written by women from all eras and all parts of the world
- To raise awareness for gender as a consideration when selecting repertoire
The Repertoire Bank
KVAST maintains one of the world’s most extensive databases of compositions by women composers, currently with over 3,000 works! The database allows you to browse and search for symphonic works, chamber music of all kinds, electronic and live electronic music, choral works, and opera. Search for works by genre, instrumentation, difficulty level, title, duration, and more. Link to page
KVAST has curated an extensive list of websites and databases from around the world dedicated to women composers and their music. We invite you to have a browse and learn more! Link to page
KVAST is committed to dialoging with Swedish orchestras and can help coach them toward programming more music by women by consulting on repertoire selection, the existing repertoire, and how we can work in solidarity to ensure greater representation for women.
Sweden’s publicly financed music institutions perform more than 100,000 minutes of Western art music each year. But just what pieces are they playing? That question forms the basis for a recent report produced by the Swedish Society of Composers (FST) in partnership with KVAST, entitled “Repertoarstatistik över tjugoen svenska musikinstitutioner under spelåren 2016/2017, 2017/2018 och 2018/2019” (Repertoire Statistics for 21 Music Institutions in Sweden during the 2016–2017, 2017–2018, and 2018–2019 Seasons). Link to page
The Gold Broom Award
KVAST has instituted its own prize, the Gold Broom Award (Guldkvasten). The award is given to an orchestra or a commissioner of orchestral music, chamber music/electroacoustic music, or opera, in recognition of excellent work undertaken in support of women composers. The prize includes a specially composed fanfare that is played at the awards ceremony and is also envisaged for use on other occasions. Link to page
Support for KVAST Has Come From
The Helge Ax:son Johnson Foundation (Helge Ax:son Johnsons Stiftelse)
The Royal Swedish Academy of Music (Kungliga Musikaliska Akademien)
The Swedish Performing Arts Agency (Statens Musikverk)
The Längman Culture Fund (Stiftelsen Längmanska Kulturfonden)
The City of Gothenburg (Göteborgs Stad)
The Swedish Postcode Foundation (Svenska Postkodstiftelsen)
The Initiator of KVAST
who also served as its first chairperson from 2009 to 2011 is the composer and Karin Rehnqvist, professor in composition at Kungliga Musikhögskolan – Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm.