championing the musical artistry of women
Whistling Hens was founded by soprano Jennifer Piazza-Pick and clarinetist Natalie Groom to celebrate and advance the musical artistry of women by performing and commissioning music by women composers. Inspired by a quote from a male music critic who said of Lili Boulanger, "women composers are at best whistling hens,” the Whistling Hens duo was hatched. Since its founding in 2018, Whistling Hens has commissioned eight works, six transcriptions, a women composer coloring book, and given fifteen premieres.
Whistling Hens’ work is essential, relevant, and timely because women composers have been historically excluded from composing, performing, publishing, and educational opportunities. Even into the 20th century, bigots have said women were intellectually incapable of composing good music and should be more focused on home life; women were discouraged or even banned from composing, and they weren’t afforded the same educational privileges as men. A complex and multi-faceted history, these discriminatory social norms forced some women to write under pseudonyms or not write at all. To course correct against this exclusionary history, everyone must radically shift their thinking and methods of support to give women in the arts a chance at equal footing in our performing, publishing, and curricular spaces.
Whistling Hens has noticed that in society, and even among classical musicians, it is rare that anyone can think of more than a handful of women composers; the Hens seek to change this through targeted programming, educational outreach, and commissions. This work invites listeners to reflect on the impact male privilege has had on traditional music programming, question the status quo of gender inequality in the classical music community, and create a financially and artistically equitable future for women in music.
A decorated and in-demand ensemble, Whistling Hens has performed at Mississippi Music by Women Festival, Women Composers Festival of Hartford, Darkwater Womxn in Music Festival, International Clarinet Assocation’s ClarinetFest, Sam Houston State University Art Song Festival, the American Library Association Conference, and District New Music Coalition Conference. In September 2021, Whistling Hens was the Darkwater Womxn in Music Festival's Ensemble in Residence, recording the premieres of the three finalist pieces from the call for scores competition. In 2020, the Hens were awarded Chamber Music America’s esteemed Residency Partnership Program grant and a grant from Awesome Without Borders/The Harnisch Foundation to bring a series of interactive, collaborative, and socially conscious programs to seniors at Collington Retirement Community during the pandemic, as well as the M-Cubator Grant for Entrepreneurial Projects.
On October 1, 2022, Whistling Hens is releasing their debut album, Reacting to the Landscape, a collection of nine world premiere recordings, five of which are commissions. This recording project is funded by Georgia College & State University’s Faculty Research Award and Women’s Giving Circle, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County Dresher Center, and Maryland State Arts Council.
When Whistling Hens isn’t busy dismantling the patriarchy in the arts, they are watching reruns of The Golden Girls, infusing a love for diversity in their students’ curricular tracts, and thinking of fun punchlines to “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
Contact Whistling Hens if you are interested in collaborating, volunteering to promote the debut album release, or supporting a commission, project, conference, or recital!