'The Women Who Score' Concert Draws Big Crowds, Big Name Composers to L.A.

Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Humane Society Of The United States
Diane Warren performs at Paramount Studios on May 7, 2016 in Hollywood.

“Women composers are no longer invisible, they are no longer silent.” With those words,  KUSC executive producer Gail Eichenthal helped kick off “The Women Who Score: Soundtracks Live,” Friday (Aug. 19) night’s concert featuring the music of more than 20 female composers as part of Downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Performances series.

The evening highlighted music written by women from film, television, video games and interactive media, including pieces by Diane Warren, Rachel Portman, Starr Parodi, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, and Laura Karpman, performed by a 55-piece orchestra and 30-person choir.

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Presented by Alliance for Women Film Composers, in association with The Film Music Society and White Bear Public Relations, the concert comes at a time when The Alliance and other organizations, such as Women in Film and the Guild of Music Supervisors, are working toward greater participation by women in music: in 2015 women scored fewer than two percent of the top 250 films.

The evening was dedicated to the late Shirley Walker, a pioneering Emmy Award-winning composer, and opened with her main title from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.

Creatively and smartly curated by Karpman, the musical selections were presented in six themed sections — The Protectors, The Seekers,  The Heroes, The Icons, The Rebels, and The Dreamers — each introduced by a leading female entertainment executive or artist, including Dawn Hudson, CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. 

Many of the composers, including Nan Schwartz, Lolita Ritmanis, Germaine Franco, Parodi, Sharon Farber, Penka Kouneva and Karpman, conducted their own works (Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum conducted the rest), while others, among them Kathryn Bostic, Lili Haydn, and Warren, sang and/or played their selections. Music from a wide swath of projects was performed, including The Cider House Rules, In The Heat Of The Night, Kung Fu Panda 3, Bones, The Hunting Ground, and Nurse Jackie. 

The free evening, which took place at the Water Court Stage at California Plaza, was filled to capacity, with a good portion of the audience composed of agents, performing rights organization members, music supervisors and studio executives.

Karpman told Billboard that she hopes the success of “Women Who Score” will lead some film music festivals to conduct a similar program, while the overall mission is to lead to a greater awareness of the wealth of female composers available. “We want to show the world that this evening of music by 20 women composers is only a drop in the bucket of the kind of talent and achievement we have in our community,” she said. “We exist, we are spirited, talented, and motivated…and there are more of us than you can imagine.”