Nazareth University hosts third Women in Music Festival 

click to enlarge Lori Laitman is composer-in-residence for the Women in Music Festival 2024 at Nazareth University. - PHOTO BY BRITTANY FLORENZ
  • PHOTO BY BRITTANY FLORENZ
  • Lori Laitman is composer-in-residence for the Women in Music Festival 2024 at Nazareth University.
The Women in Music Festival, which celebrates the artistry of women composers,  will feature performances, discussions, and masterclasses at both the Nazareth University and Buffalo State University campuses from March 7 through 10; with two special screenings of "Maestra" at The Little Theatre on Thursday and Friday.

Eastman School of Music had previously hosted a similar series of events, but Nazareth is currently in its third year of picking up the baton.

“If they’re not doing it, Nazareth is going to do it,” said Dr. Bonnie Choi, the director and founder of the festival.

2024 marks the first year the school will receive outside grant money to make the festival happen; the additional funds helped bring in students from Webster Thomas High School and Eastridge High School to perform, as well as host Lori Laitman as the festival’s composer-in-residence.

It’s typical for such an arrangement to result in the premiere of the composer’s new work. But the March 10 concert is rare in that it features joint premieres by Laitman and her daughter, composer Diana Rosenblum, who is an Eastman alumnus and Nazareth University professor.

A movement from Rosenblum’s “Melodic Mazes” will be premiered alongside the first performances of the composer’s new orchestrations of Laitman’s previous works, “The Ballad Singer” from 1995 and “Echo” from 1996.

“I gave Diana permission to re-envision some of my works and orchestrate them with her own sensibility, so that’s really cool,” Laitman said. “One of those pieces is called “Echo.” And it’s really interesting because the age she orchestrated it was the age I wrote it, so it’s also echo of an echo.”

Laitman rejects the importance of labels like "woman composer," but emphasized the significance of events like the Women in Music Festival.

“I don't care if a composer is a woman or a man or a they or anything in between — is it a good composer, or is it a bad composer?" she said. "That being said, there is certainly a dearth of programming of music by women. I don't think it hurts to have spotlights put on women composers.”

While Choi hopes a festival like this will be obsolete in the next few years as music by women is more frequently performed, Laitman was less optimistic.

“I think it’s going to take more than a few years,” she said.

For now, Nazareth University’s Women in Music Festival exists to bring the role of women in music to the fore and to involve new people, including those from younger generations.

All Women in Music Festival events are free (except where noted) and open to the public. For a full schedule, visit naz.edu/school-music/concerts-events/women-music-festival.

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].
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