You’re Just a Woman

Missy Mazzoli is a thirty-eight year old female composer/activist who is working hard to mesmerize composers and listeners with new “classical” music. However, exposing people to new sounds is not her only objective. The composer is also a heavily involved female activist. Not only does she convey her feelings about issues towards women through music, but she also contributes to increasing the education of younger female composers in female-only environments. Mazzoli is a persistent activist/ composer who sees the issues that women are faced with in the world of music business and believes it should be dealt with.

Missy Mazzoli once stated that she was “drawn to women in impossible situations because all women are in impossible situations.” It is apparent that Mazzoli is passionate about her views on how women are treated in society. That is why the composer works these views in her music, most prominently in her operas. For instance, her opera Breaking the Waves tells a story of a women named Bess who lives in an isolated town on the small island of Skye. She later becomes involved with an outsider, who she eventually marries, against the collective opinion of her town church, and family. After a tragic accident, he is paralyzed. Unfortunately, she is faced with an ultimatum to continue to be sexually active with her partner. To add to the tragedy, she is later raped and killed by two sailors. This opera was a dramatization of how women are frequently put in a situation of no power. This opera adds credibility to her earlier quote about women in impossible situations.

Mazzoli contributes her help to this issue by supporting young female-identifying women in composition. The composer founded the Luna Composition Lab, which is a program that mentors female-identifying composers between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. Mazzoli extends her help by mentoring her students via Skype for women from around the county. The composer feels that there are many young women who are discouraged from becoming composers because of the lack of role models. Mazzoli’s goal is to change the gender balance in the music world by exposing young women to great mentors and/or role models.

Despite the many odds against Missy Mazzoli, she has achieved success for herself. Her operas convey important messages for many women who have felt they have been suppressed by men in society bringing the ugly truth to the light. Mazzoli is also a woman of actions and contributes to helping solve the issue by starting her program the Luna Composition Lab. All in all, not only does Mazzoli walk the walk, but she also talks the talk.

Leroy Medina

Madonna, Zoë. “Missy Mazzoli Is The 21st Century’s Gatecrasher Of New Classical Music.” NPR. November 16, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.

Zeilinger, Julie. “An Interview with Groundbreaking Composer Missy Mazzoli.” Women’s Media Center. Accessed March 28, 2019.

Cusick, Suzanne G. 2018. “‘Women in Impossible Situations’: Missy Mazzoli and Kamala Sankaram on Sexual Violence in Opera.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 71 (1): 243–48.

Oterion, Frank J. “Missy Mazzoli: Communication, Intimacy, and Vulnerability.” NewMusicBox. March 01, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2019.

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