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We need more female and ethnic minority composers in British classical music rather than ‘White male titans’

Lucy Noble, the venue’s artistic and commercial director, says young people should have the chance to learn about female and ethnic minority composers as well as the “white male titans” of the classical music canon. A survey by the Royal Albert Hall found that while around two thirds of people were aware of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach, female composers had less than half this level of recognition.


While Mozart, Beethoven and Bach are all household names, female composers and those from ethnic minority backgrounds are much less celebrated, according to a new survey.

Young people are also suffering from a lack of access to the genre because of the poor levels of music education in the UK, says Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director at the Royal Albert Hall.

Ms Noble said: gender and ethnic minority issues surrounding arts education need to be addressed if gender parity in the industry is to be achieved.

New data released by the Royal Albert Hall indicates the top 10 classical composers most recognised by Brits are male. Mozart (recognised by 70 per cent), Beethoven (70 per cent) and Bach (60 per cent), topped the list, in a survey of 1,000 adults.

In comparison, female composers had significantly lower recognition, with Fanny Mendelsshon, Clara Schumann and Hildegard von Bingen known to just 30 per cent, 17 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively.

The Hall says the relative lack of awareness around Fanny Mendelsshon’s work may be explained by the fact that much of her music was published under her more famous brother Felix’s name.

“But we must make sure that young people are exposed to not just these white, male titans, but women, and that those from minority backgrounds are recognised too.”

She also pointed to a lack of education as the reason Britons are more likely to recognise a male composer than a female one.

“And if people aren’t getting into music and having the music education that they require in the first place, then that in a way comes before the gender equality part.

“So what is happening is this divide being created between people with the knowledge, and who can afford it, being able to give their children access to music.

“But for people who don’t have the know-how or can’t afford to pay for private lessons, and the schools aren’t delivering that really important music education, then what hope have they actually got? The opportunities just aren’t there for them at all.”

Asked whether this was widening the gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged, she said “absolutely” and that diversity is a difficult topic.


Its education and outreach programme reached more than 215,000 participants last year, working with schools, young people and the community, as well as other charities such as Music for Youth.

Lucy Noble with her favourite instrument. “It is a really beautiful instrument and it is so flexible” she said. 

While she has played at some of London’s finest classical venues – Royal Festival Hall, Barbican, Royal Albert Hall – Lucy has been keen to take her flute playing down more contemporary avenues.

She said: “It is a really beautiful instrument and it is so flexible – I can play the serious classical music but I can improvise, and go into a pub and jam with people and play jazz or latino music. Lucy took that flexibility to a new level when she started playing the flute with an indie band.

Obviously, the classically-trained flautist has really given the instrument a new contemporary edge.

On BBCnews Lucy explains that it was her headmaster at Nosewood Comprehensive in Dibden Perlieu, who “made me” start playing the flute having been impressed with her recorder playing. She insists: “It’s quite an easy instrument to learn – once you’ve got a note out of it, its easy to make it sound quite nice.”



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