championing the musical artistry of women composers
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.”
A duo with “finesse and creative brilliance” (International Alliance for Women in Music Journal) and programming so engaging that “my daughter stopped reading Harry Potter to pay attention,” Whistling Hens creates performance experiences that integrate exceptional music, advocacy of women composers, and music history and education. Expect to laugh, cry, ponder, and enjoy when you’re in the hen house. Since its founding in 2018, Whistling Hens has commissioned 10 original works, 10 transcriptions, the Whistling Hens Women Composer Coloring Book, and inspired 7 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. In August 2023, they performed at the Washington National Opera Institute at The Kennedy Center, where they also led a session on arts activism for the 21st century musician and building music business skills. The Hens were awarded Chamber Music America's esteemed Classical Commissioning Grant in 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.
Whistling Hens was the Darkwater Womxn in Music Festival's Ensemble in Residence in 2021, recording the premieres of the three finalist pieces from the call for scores competition. In 2023, they were in residence at Smith College in Northampton, MA, and in 2024 the duo will be in residence at Metropolitan State University of Denver to perform pieces by student composers, showcase the music of Cherise Leiter, and work with composition, voice, and woodwind students in masterclasses and workshops.
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, International Clarinet Assocation’s ClarinetFest, Sam Houston State University Art Song Festival, American Library Association Conference, College Music Society Mid-Atlantic Conference, and District New Music Coalition Conference.
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 Queens University of Charlotte, 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?” Subscribe to the coopie newsletter to stay in the coop.
Hear the Hens
Whistling Hens and Composer Kate Soper Awarded Chamber Music America's Classical Commissioning Grant
This commission has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by the Mellon Foundation.
Whistling Hens in Classical Singer magazine
Many thanks to Tish Oney for this beautiful writeup of Whistling Hens' work in the 2023 Spring edition of Classical Singer magazine!