Friday, June 26, 2009

Gender Bias in the Theatre

I read this article in the NY Times called "Rethinking Gender Bias In The Theater," and I found it to be really surprising and provocative.

Quoting from the article (which was written by Patricia Cohen and ran in the paper on June 23, 2009):

"When more than 160 playwrights and producers, most of them female, filed into a Midtown Manhattan theater Monday night, they expected to hear some concrete evidence that women who are authors have a tougher time getting their work staged than men. And they did. But they also heard that women who are artistic directors and literary managers are the ones to blame."

Read the article for more details. And then, if you're really interested, read the comments, which are also fascinating.

I expected to feel haughty and defensive about the article, but that's not what happened. I now feel conflicted. The writer in me feels angry. The woman in me kind of understands. I think in many ways women are more critical of other women than men are. I'm just surprised it shows up so blatantly in this research. I'll admit, knowing I'm braving dangerous territory here, that I'm guilty, even as a female conductor, of being slightly disappointed to sit in the audience, open a program, and learn that a woman is conducting. And even if I'm ultimately impressed with her work, I definitely wait for her to prove herself.

There is a group of us female theater conductors and composers who all know each other, and I'm not talking about these women. I know their work and I am excited and proud when they are on the podium ... or at the piano... or writing the score or the orchestrations. But if I'm at a performance and I've never heard of the conductor, one of two things happens. If it's a man, I don't think twice about it. If it's a woman, I go, "Hmm. This will be interesting."

What is that?

We have a female pastor in my church and I know she has to jump through the same kinds of hoops. The first time I heard her preach I waited for her to wow me. She did. Harvard-educated, supremely intelligent, thoughtful, liberal, provocative. And yet, had she not been female, would I have been as hesitant to grant my approval, or would I have assumed he'd be great until he proved otherwise? I'm trying to imagine and I can't quite figure it out.

So the obvious next question is, how does this apply to my work? I recently applied for something and was encouraged to include the words "as a woman..." in the essay. I resisted, not because I have any problem with being a woman, obviously, but because I don't need to be the Gloria Steinem of musical theater writers. Like my work or don't, but none of it should be simply because I'm a woman.

Food for thought.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


From Tony Nominations and major Film & TV credits to critically acclaimed CDs and world concert tours, these two talented ladies are, today, ENORMOUS figures in the Entertainment Industry. Come join these gal pals for a raucous evening as they sing their own tunes and others amidst juicy gossip and the occasional pee break.

Susan's website:
Georgia's website:

Saturday, August 1st at 9:45 pm
Sunday, August 2nd at 9:30 pm
The Metropolitan Room, 34 West 22nd
New York, NY 10010
(212) 206-0440

Sunday, August 30th at 7:30 pm
Catalina Jazz Club
6725 Sunset Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 466-2210

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Music Geekdom: Absolute Pitch

One of the greatest things about being married to another musician is that we can go way deep into music geekdom in our conversations. I'm currently re-reading a very interesting book that Jason recommended to me years ago and I started but never finished. It's called Musicophilia and it's written by Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and author who writes about some of the most fascinating medical things. (Click here to read more about him and his subjects.) This book happens to be about music and the brain.

Most of the time as I'm reading along in the book, Dr. Sacks talks about crazy musical disorders (or heightened experiences, at least) that are fascinating but completely foreign -- people who hallucinate music, people who cannot differentiate pitches, people for whom musical tonality and color are inexorably linked. And I'm reading, thinking, wow, that's so cool or so strange, but it's just a curiosity. And then I came across the chapter on "absolute pitch," and suddenly I couldn't put the book down.

Most of us talk about "absolute pitch" as "perfect pitch." I don't have it. By definition, it's a condition (state of being? state of understanding? state of awareness?) whereby a person hears (or sees) a pitch and knows absolutely what it is. If you ask a person with perfect pitch to sing you an A, he can do it, pull it out of the air, unrelated to any other sound. He can even do it if there is currently music playing in the background in a different key. An A is just an A and is always an A.

As Dr. Sacks was writing about "absolute pitch," he made reference to "the essential F-sharpness of an F-sharp." In a silent room, I started to hear a note, which I guess was suggested by the reading of that sentence. Curiously, I went to the piano to check it out. Sure enough, it was an F-sharp.

I started thinking about absolute pitch and realized that while I don't have it, I do fall closer to it on the spectrum than other musicians might. When I was music directing "Avenue X," a fascinating a cappella musical written by John Jiler and Ray Leslee, I was called on to lead the cast through an entire evening of singing in eight-part harmony with no instrumental accompaniment. We did really cool things like build pitch pipes into the set and identify the musical tone of every piece of metal on the stage, but our ears got trained really quickly to listen to each other, and I found myself more sensitive than usual to pitch and tuning. During the run of that production, I could always pull a D out of the air, because there were several places in the show where the success of a number depended on the actors starting on a D chord. To this day, if I need to find a D, I sing Virginia Woodruff's solo in the second act that starts "... There are dreams that die...." They are all Ds, and I can always find them.

When I hear something played on the piano, I can usually tell you what key it's in. I've been playing the piano for thirty years (THIRTY YEARS? OH MY GOD.) and I think the timbre of one note sounds different from the timbre of the next one. But if you played the same piece of music on string quartet or in a vocal ensemble I might not be able to tell. And my ear is not foolproof. I've just got a really good track record for guessing.

In church, sometimes they print the hymns in one key and our organist will play them in another key. It totally freaks me out, because I can tell that what I'm seeing and what I'm hearing are not the same. And yet, if you just put the piece of music in front of me and asked me to sing it, I'd get the intervals right but I'd probably be in the wrong key.

And as far as keys having colors attached to them, I've never had anything as clear as "D-major is blue" or "D-major is yellow," as Dr. Sacks explains on his website. (Watch "Bright Blue Music" here.) But to me, sharp keys are bright and flat keys are moody and C-major sounds like a blank piece of paper. In our music geek conversations, I have come to discover that my husband doesn't think of music this way at all. I choose keys because of how they sound and what they evoke. He chooses keys based on what instruments will be playing them. (Some keys are better for strings, better for guitars, better for brass, better for saxes. It just depends.) We're both right.

I'm pretty sure that I have a strong and evolved sense of relative pitch, not absolute pitch, but now I'm fascinated to hear what you think, what you experience, and how you think about pitch. I know that when I forget to put my seatbelt on in the car, it beeps thirty Gs at me. (Annoying, because I hear them in 4/4 time and it always stops mid-measure.)

How much of a music geek are you?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Highlights from Birdland

I thought it would be fun to post some of the media from the Birdland concert I did back on March 30th. Just for fun.

Here's Kate Baldwin singing from "Alphabet City Cycle" with the dreamy Christian Hebel accompanying her on violin.

Tituss Burgess sings notes that are higher than the piano can play. Okay, not really, but he's ferocious.

And here's the goddess Julia Murney who can do just about anything.

My student and friend Ashley Marks from LA made her New York City debut at Birdland that night. She just found out she's going to Boston Conservatory next year. YAY ASHLEY!

And here's Graham Rowat, singing one of the more comic songs of the evening, from my revue "Sing Me A Happy Song."

Finally, presenting the opening number ("Connect") from "Sing Me A Happy Song," we have my friends Kathleen Monteleone, Jamison Stern, Laura Osnes, Kevin Greene, and Ashley Marks. I promise they were happier than they look in this picture. I think they were ACTING.

You can watch video performances from that night (as well as a bunch of other stuff) by checking out the GeorgiaStittMusic page on YouTube. Feel free to leave comments!

Thanks to Steve Sorokoff for the official photos from Jim Caruso's BROADWAY AT BIRDLAND series!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

New Sheet Music available at!

I've been looking for a while now for a safe and efficient way to make my sheet music available to those friends and fans who want to own it. In years past, when people wrote to me asking for sheet music, I'd usually send them a .pdf of the song, which they would then be able to print out on their own computers. In light of all the piracy issues I've been fighting, it has been suggested to me that perhaps sending out .pdfs of my copyrighted material and trusting that everyone would play by my rules has not been as effective as I'd hoped.

There are a lot of my colleagues who have on-line sheet music stores based from their websites. I toyed with setting up something like this, but I realized even if you manage to set up an effective system for selling your music directly from your website, you still have to maintain the store. I don't have the time, the inclination, or the technical savvy to do that. I'd much rather be writing lyrics. What I love about having my songbook available through Hal Leonard is that it's out in the world and I never have to think about it.

My hero arrived in the form of It's a completely above-board, legal sheet music downloading website with a keen interest in being a part of the Broadway scene. You find the song you want, you purchase it, you print it out instantly in your own home, using your own computer and printer. In addition to my songs, they've got lots of material from my friends and colleagues Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, Jeremy Schonfeld, and tons of songs from your favorite Broadway shows and movie musicals. (Also, they sell pop songs, Christmas songs, country, folk, jazz... you name it.) I am happy to be in such great company.

You can find it all by clicking HERE. This week launched the release of sheet music for my song cycle ALPHABET CITY CYCLE (piano/vocal parts and violin parts sold separately). As early as next week I will have three more titles available, including "My Lifelong Love," "Sing Me A Happy Song" and "At Christmas." It is my goal to add at least one new piece of sheet music every month, and I'll always announce here when something new is available.

So please, take a look, and if you're shopping for sheet music, make the effort to get it the proper (translation = LEGAL) way. Thanks so much.

(If you can't find what you're looking for at, you may want to try these other legal sites, as well.)
Hal Leonard

Here are some other musical theater songwriters you should know. Check out their fabulous online music stores!

Deborah Abramson
Scott Alan
Jeff Blumenkrantz
Bobby Cronin
Jonathan Reid Gealt
Amanda Green
Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk
Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond
Dan Lipton
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

(Who else should I be including on this list?)