Virtual Concert: Featuring Women Composers

Thumbnail Women Composers
Katherine Hanlon/Unsplash

Age Range: Elementary, Middle School

Learning Objective: Students will listen to and learn about some notable women composers who have contributed to classical music over the past 100+ years.

At a Glance: Virtual Concerts give your students the opportunity to practice their audience skills and experience a wide variety of music. As the teacher, you or one of your students can play the role of Concert Host narrating between each piece of music.

Teaching Tips: This concert is designed to be a simple, no prep lesson. It’s a great activity for a sub, lost-voice day, or to practice being an audience. Our Concert Guide provides ideas on how to customize the lesson for older and younger audiences.

Free Downloads:


SAY. “Welcome to our virtual concert. Today we will focus on women composers. These four women are just the beginning of a long list of talented female composers.”

Show students a picture of Ruth Crawford Seeger.

WATCH. “Ruth Crawford Seeger was a composer, a pianist, and an expert in American folk music. This piece of music is called Piano Study in Mixed Accents, and it is performed by Jenny Lin.” (1 min.)

Show students a picture of Jessie Montgomery.

SAY. “Our next piece of music is composed by Jessie Montgomery. She is a composer, violinist, and teacher. She lives and works in her hometown, New York City. She grew up listening to many different kinds of music, which influenced her composition style. She is still an active string player and often performs her own works.”

WATCH. “The piece we will listen to is called Starburst, performed by the Minnesota Orchestra. As you listen, think about the title. What do you think Starburst means? How does the music communicate that meaning?” (3 min.)

Show students a picture of Angélica Negrón.

SAY. “Angélica Negrón (ann-HEH-lee-kah neh-GROWN) was born in Puerto Rico and now lives in New York. She takes a creative approach to instruments, sometimes using sounds from robots, toys, and even vegetables in her musical compositions. Yes, you heard that correct – vegetables!”

WATCH. “Today we will watch and listen to her piece Sembrar and Pasajero. The composer is performing her own work here. It is the longest piece of the concert by far, and there is so much to watch!” (14 min.)

Show students a picture of Caroline Shaw.

SAY. “Our final composer, Caroline Shaw, is a composer, violinist, and a singer. She was born in North Carolina and now lives in New York City. She composes for many different types of ensembles and won a very important prize for one of her compositions.”

WATCH. “Today we will hear a movement from one of Caroline Shaw’s string quartets, called Plan & Elevation. The string players begin by playing pizzicato, or plucking their strings.” (3 min.)

SAY. “Thank you for attending today’s virtual concert. We hope you enjoyed learning about a few notable women composers, and we hope you’ll share what you learned with someone else today.”

EXTEND learning

Choose one or more of the following activities to extend learning.

  • REFLECT. “Let’s look at the pictures of our four women composers. Can you share with our neighbor which piece of music was your favorite and why?”

  • COMPARE. Pick a composer from this list of 10 women composers to compare to the four composers in this Virtual Concert.

  • LISTEN. Choose from this collection of podcasts and curated streams to continue learning about famous women composers.

  • LEARN. Check out our listening lesson all about Jessi Montgomery and her Musical Influences.

Composer and violinist Jesse Montgomery.
Jessie Montgomery
Jiyang Chen
Contemporary woman composers
Angélica Negrón
Quique Cabanillas
Ruth Crawford Seeger
Ruth Crawford Seeger
Peggy Seeger
Caroline Shaw
Caroline Shaw
Courtesy of the artist

Related Lesson Plans

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

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