championing the musical artistry of women
Whistling Hens was founded by soprano Jennifer Piazza-Pick and clarinetist Natalie Groom to perform and commission music by women composers and create a financially and artistically equitable future for women in music. The duo hatched at the centennial of a quote by a male music critic who said of Lili Boulanger in 1918, "women composers are at best whistling hens.” From 2018 to 2022, Whistling Hens has commissioned twelve works, seven transcriptions, and a women composer coloring book, as well as given fifteen premieres.
Whistling Hens’ work is essential, relevant, and timely because women 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 focus 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.
The Hens have noticed even among classical musicians that it is rare that anyone can think of more than a handful of women composers, and they 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 and question the status quo of gender inequality in the classical music community.
Whistling Hens has been awarded Chamber Music America's esteemed Classical Commissioning Grant (2022) with composer Kate Soper, as well as CMA's Residency Partnership Program Grant (2020), which brought a series of interactive, collaborative, and socially conscious programs to seniors at Collington Retirement Community during the pandemic. The Hens have also been awarded grants from the Maryland State Arts Council, the Women’s Giving Circle at Georgia College & State University, Awesome Without Borders/The Harnisch Foundation, and the M-Cubator Grant for Entrepreneurial Projects, as well as faculty grants from University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Georgia College & State University.
A decorated and in-demand ensemble, Whistling Hens has performed and presented at Mississippi Music by Women Festival, Women Composers Festival of Hartford, Darkwater Womxn in Music Festival, Boulanger Initiative’s WoCo Fest, National Women’s Theatre Festival, the International Clarinet Assocation’s ClarinetFest, Sam Houston State University Art Song Festival, the American Library Association Conference, and District New Music Coalition Conference. In 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.
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?” Learn more at whistlinghens.com.