Sunday, 12 January 2014

Amy's attic

Amy Beach was a very talented young woman. From a very early age she demonstrated a great gift for music and it was very clear that her potential as a composer was immense.

The only problem was that Amy was born in 1867. Men dominated the serious work of musical composition and the writing of anything of significance was considered far too taxing for the female mind.

It was clear that Amy would need support in her quest to become a composer, but where could this support come from? The networks and support groups that existed were effectively ‘old boys’ networks’, founded, run and entirely populated by men. There would be no help or support coming from these.

The answer was found in an attic. A local poet offered an attic where young women could meet, discuss areas of mutual interest and offer each other support.

The safe, supportive and exclusive space of this ‘attic club’ provided invaluable encouragement to Amy in her quest to become a composer, and throughout her life she would continue to seek out safe and exclusive spaces within which to discuss her work and gain valuable feedback and support.

As Amy’s success as a composer grew so did the size of her support network. An idea that had begun as a small attic club for a few curious and ambitious young women grew out of the attic and flowered into the open and public spaces of the musical establishment. Its prize blossom was the creation of the Society of American Women Composers, of which Amy was the first president.

Doing anything that is new and different requires support, and the more unique the endeavour the less likely it is that any support will be available. Sometimes we need to plant the seeds of our own support networks, to start our own safe and exclusive attic clubs. Then as the support and encouragement they offer helps feed our success our success can in turn feed back into them, until eventually they are strong enough to branch out into the world and provide support to those who need it.

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