Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Basca research reveals lack of gender and BME diversity in composition

11:38, 20th July 2016

New Basca research has revealed the extent of the under-representation of female and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) composers in the classical music sector.

Natalie Bleicher, Basca’s classical coordinator, analysed data on commissioned works that were submitted to the 2015 British Composer Awards, collecting further data from seven universities and conservatoires and from Sound and Music on participants at their Summer School and applicants to their professional development schemes.

Bleicher found that 6% of commissioned composers are BAME, compared to 14% among the UK population. Just over half of the commissioned composers are based in London, which has a BMAE population of 30%.

Applicants to Sound and Music’s professional development schemes were 16% BAME, similar to the profile of the UK population; however, in the 50-plus group (which accounts for 38% of all commissioned works), less than 3% were BAME.

The report also stated that 21% of commissioned composers are female, compared to 51% of the UK population and 36% of all composition students. This gender imbalance becomes increasingly marked over time: the proportion of work commissioned from female composers in the 20-29 age group was actually higher than in the 50-59 and 60-69 age groups.

Basca stated that its overall aim was to help and encourage the sector ‘to better reflect the diversity of a modern Britain and of the mix of people who either are studying or want to study classical music and/or train to be a composer.’

In order to address these issues, the organisation has adjusted the demographics of the judging panel for its British Composer Awards: in 2015, 50% were female and a significant percentage were from BME backgrounds. It also introduced an online entry system through which demographic data on the entrants could be gathered.

From 2016, composers will be able to nominate themselves for the first time, and many categories will be judged anonymously.

Basca is also planning a Diversity and Inclusion in Composition day with BBC Radio 3 in October and there will be more work with the Association of British Orchestras next year.

Identifying the need to gather more data, particularly relating to social class, Basca CEO Vick Bain said: ‘The conversation is really just starting.’

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