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Proof vs. Potential

The Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award for Female Composers

Men are hired for things based on potential, whereas women are asked to supply proof. Organizations need to be taking more chances on younger female, non-binary, gender non-conforming composers who have tremendous potential and just need someone to see that potential in them. ”

Missy Mazzoli, Composer

In what spaces is it appropriate to characterize individuals by their gender? Composers Veronika Krausas, Missy Mazzoli, and Sarah Kirkland Snider take up this question, provide perspective on their early careers, and ponder elements of the composerly life in this conversation hosted by DSO clarinet and bass clarinet Shannon Orme

Learn more about the DSO-commissioned works written by Missy and Sarah as former Lebenbom composers, and hear the inspiration behind current awardee Veronika's work Caryatidspremiering on DSO Digital Concerts May 8thin the video below.

Image:© James Jacobson

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...when I went into music I decided that I would just ignore the fact that I was a woman. ”

Veronika Krausas, Composer
DSO Digital Concert Conversations: Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Awardees

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Veronika Krausas: Composer’s Note on Caryatids

"Once as a boy I asked someone if a statue I stared at was alive. They said no, but they were wrong. It was." — Excerpt from My Father “The T.E. Lawrence Poems” collection ~ Gwendolyn MacEwan (1941-87)

I’ve always been fascinated with rocks and stones and sculpture—their strength, their beauty, and their magic. In Detroit, there are twelve caryatids on the baroque Book Tower. A caryatid is a sculpted female figure that also serves as a column or a supportive architectural element. A traditional caryatid is holding the roof with her head or her arms. As support and sculpture, the caryatids’ function intersects both art and architecture.

The name caryatid is derived from the Greek word, karyatides, referring to the maidens of Karyai. Karyai was an ancient Peloponnesian town with a temple devoted to Artemis Karyatis. In Greek mythology, Artemis was the goddess of wild animals, the hunt, vegetation, of chastity, childbirth, and a patron of girls and young women. To honor Artemis Peloponnesian women would often perform folk dances with baskets of plants on their heads.

The piece follows the architecture of a building with eight sections representing the four corners and four walls. Architecturally the piece has four structural (or column) sections (I’ve called Fanfare, Midfares, and Postfare). They represent the strength and columnar nature of caryatids. Each of the twelve caryatids is represented by a chord. The series of chords finally appears in order at the end of the work but each chord is spread between the orchestral instruments, much like light at different times of the day is refracted and creates different shadows. Between these chordal (fanfare-like) sections, are a series of Baroque-like dances, or my interpretation of a bourrée, a gigue, and a sarabande.

There have been so many strong, influential, and powerful women from Detroit who have helped shape and support not only the local but also the national and international fabrics of our society (cultural, political, and scientific) that writing a work inspired by them felt very appropriate. I’ve dedicated this work to the strongest and most wonderful woman in my life, my mother Elvyra Krausas.

Commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the 10th Annual Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award for Female Composers.

About The Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award

The Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award was inspired by composer, teacher, poet, artist, and lecturer Elaine Lebenbom, a resident of Bloomfield Hills, MI, who died in 2002. Despite her talent as a composer, making a career was diffi­cult for Lebenbom: she faced overt sexism and discrimination in the musical field, often having pieces rejected or rescinded upon orchestras learning she was a woman. But she persisted, ultimately earning praise as both a composer and tireless advocate for women’s representation in the arts.

The Lebenbom Award was created in 2006 to honor Lebenbom’s memory, talent, and activism and is the only award of its type among major orchestras. The Award includes the commission of a new orchestral piece to be premiered by the DSO; a $10,000 cash prize; and a one-month residency at the Ucross Foundation, an acclaimed arts retreat in northern Wyoming.

Previous winners of the award include, from first to most recent:

Stacy Garrop

Margaret Brouwer

Cindy McTee

Du Yun

Missy Mazzoli

Wang Jie

Sarah Kirkland Snider

Britta Byström

Juliet Palmer