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 to create a financially and artistically equitable future for women in music. The duo’s name was plucked from a quote by a male music critic who wrote in the New York Times in 1918, “women composers are at best whistling hens.”
With programming so engaging that “my daughter stopped reading Harry Potter to pay attention,” the Hens create performance experiences that integrate exceptional music, advocacy of women composers, and education on the history of each composer presented. Expect to laugh, cry, ponder, and enjoy when you’re in the hen house. Since its founding in 2018, Whistling Hens has commissioned 9 original works, 7 transcriptions, the Whistling Hens Women Composer Coloring Book, and inspired 4 dedicated works.
Whistling Hens has celebrated recent milestones such as being featured in Classical Singer magazine and releasing a debut album, Reacting to the Landscape. The Hens have 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 duo is founded on the knowledge that women have been historically excluded from composing, performing, publishing, and educational opportunities. Oppositionists have said women were intellectually incapable of composing good music and should focus on home life; discriminatory social norms discouraged or even banned women from composing (forcing some to write under male pseudonyms). Whistling Hens’ 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 landscape. The Hens combat centuries of gender inequity in classical music through the advocacy and financial support of women composers.
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, College Music Society Mid-Atlantic 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.
The ensemble has been warmly supported by many “coopies,” as well as by Maryland State Arts Council; the Women’s Giving Circle at Georgia College & State University; Awesome Without Borders/The Harnisch Foundation; the M-Cubator Grant for Entrepreneurial Projects; and faculty grants from University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Georgia College & State University.
When Whistling Hens isn’t busy dismantling the patriarchy in the arts, they are watching reruns of The Golden Girls and thinking of fun punchlines to “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Learn more at whistlinghens.com.