Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble Honor Female Composers with “Limitless” Concert


When Dr. Kaitlin Bove received the DVC Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble’s concert date of March 2, she quickly set on a theme.

Aware that March is Women’s History Month, the director of the bands decided to feature female composers with every song performed.

“I think it’s important to highlight women’s contributions,” said Bove, “because when a lot of people think about band, they think about this old-timey marching music, show tunes or stuff from the classical era that would have all been written by men in Europe or white men in the United States.” 

Female composers and their works remain largely overlooked in today’s music landscape. Among the top 100 orchestras in the world in 2020-2021, just 5 percent of the works they performed were composed by women—and only 1.1 percent by Black and Asian women, according to a study by the Donne Foundation. 

“I just wanted to break down that expectation and show that actually, there’s lots of women writing for band, [and] there’s lots of women of color writing for band,” said Bove.

The concert, entitled “Limitless,” featured 12 songs written by female composers from the medieval era up to the modern age. 

The Wind Ensemble’s performance of Allison Loggins-Hull’s “The Loop” in particular defied expectations. The performance included a projected video above the band showing the L train in Chicago making its loop while an electronic track played sound effects from that setting. In front of the band, two vocalists, Keila Barrientos and Ashley Riddick, sang and rapped original verses.

“Honestly, I haven’t seen anything like that at a band concert,” said DVC student Mara Thomas.

Another attendee, Matthew Nguyen, echoed her surprise.

“It was so different, you kind of have to appreciate it,” said Nguyen.

Bove said “The Loop” was her favorite piece from the Wind Ensemble “because it had all the extra elements.” It highlighted that group’s four-song performance before the Symphonic Band replaced them onstage.

From the second ensemble, Bove said she considered the band’s favorite song to be “Mary Shelley Meets Frankenstein,” by Erika Svanoe.

“I think they liked it because it was fun but also challenging, and it conveyed really well this idea of the author meeting the monster and them engaging in this little tango dance,” Bove said.

However, it was the band’s 14-minute performance of  “Anahita,” by Roshanne Etezady, that seemed to garner the greatest audience applause.

“The powerful parts of ‘Anahita’ were the best [that] either band sounded all night,” Nguyen said. “They were so strong and together.”

The ensembles combined for a two-song finale, which included student Marcanthony Ponce conducting the last song, “Albanian Dance,” by Shelley Hanson.

Other student conductors like Raheen Mirza and Anna-Lei Jones featured in the show—part of Bove’s strategy to further boost the musicians’ enthusiasm.

“I was trying to engage the students and help them get more buy-in, ownership and leadership of the program by participating as conductors,” said Bove, who herself played in the trumpet section while those students held the wand.

Bove’s style offers a change in pace from more traditional band directors. She said her focus on the chronically underrepresented group of women composers stemmed from her doctoral research at the University of Kentucky. 

“There are many more women composers nowadays than there were in the past,” she said. “Band music doesn’t have to sound a certain way, and that’s what I was trying to highlight.”

To end the season, DVC’s Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble will host two Star Wars-themed concerts on May 4 at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

“We’re playing a transcription of Star Wars music, which is literally what the musicians would have played for the soundtrack of the movie,” said Bove. “It’s quite challenging but it’s going to be very realistic and very authentic.”

In addition to the concert, there will be a Star Wars costume contest for band members and audience, as well as trivia and a raffle.

“I think there’s something there for everybody,” she added. “It’s going to be more of a party than a concert.”