Who are the women in music who inspire you?

NEC faculty, staff, and students share women who inspire them — from the past, present, and future of music!

This year's Women's History Month reflections are complete with a Spotify playlist, words of inspiration from Erica Washburn and Christina Davis, and a very special item from the NEC archives.

Who's a woman in music who inspires you?

In honor of Women's History Month and International Women's Day, the NEC community shared their answers to this question via social media. Their answers included NEC faculty members like HaeSun PaikKim Kashkashian, and Karen Holvik, great artists from history from to contemporary artists ranging from Cardi B to Esperanza Spalding to Maria Schneider to Dolly Parton.

Dean of Campus Life Christina Davis expanded further:  

“A woman in music I'd like to have a conversation with is Miss Dolly Parton,”

said Davis.

"First we'd have to cover the looks — the wigs, the fashion, the makeup; all things that go into being Dolly Parton."

But Davis would also want to know about the creative process that went into Parton's famous feat of writing “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You” in one day.

“Lastly, I'd love to talk to her about her social justice and activist work. She's done some amazing things,”

said Davis, noting Parton's extensive work with children's literacy and her contribution to the funding of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, as well as her investment in the Black community of Nashville.

Director of Choral Activities Erica Washburn took the opportunity to acknowledge inspirational women in the past, present, and future.

“I am indebted to  women [conductors] like Lorna Cooke deVaron and Nadia Boulanger and Margaret Hillis, just to name a few,”

said Washburn.

“Women who were fearless to step up on podiums well before my time, laying the brickwork that allowed me to do the work that I do today.”

Washburn also celebrated the contributions of women from the earliest days of NEC history. As NEC archivist Maryalice Perrin-Mohr confirms,

“in NEC's first year, out of 719 students, 588 were women. At NEC's first Commencement, there were 13 graduates and 12 of them were women.

Washburn concluded with a celebration of the future:

“I am equal parts inspired, humbled, proud, and excited, to witness and celebrate the successes of all of the women I have had the honor and privilege to teach over the years.”

“Women, this might be our month, but each and every 24 hours is our day...keep your head up, make all the eye contact, and stand tall, knowing not only that you have things to offer this world, but you have a right to be heard in it.”

From the Archives: NEC's First Commencement Program

The program from New England Conservatory's first Commencement, courtesy of NEC Archives.
NEC's first Commencement included a concert in which all 13 graduates performed. Of the first 13 graduates, 12 are women.

Happy International Women's Day and Women's History Month — now and every day!