UMKC Libraries “Shining a Light” on underrepresented composers

Adeta Chareunsab

You’re probably aware of who Mozart, Beethoven and Bach are, but did you know there are many more composers who aren’t just old, white men?

With UMKC Libraries’ new online exhibit, “Shining a Light,” you can now discover many 21st century composers from historically underrepresented groups.

Nara Newcomer, head of UMKC’s Music and Media Library, is a part of the project’s grant team along with UMKC Conservatory graduate students Bryanna Beasley and Andrew Stadler.

“Our ultimate goal is for people to perform, hear and study this music,” Newcomer said. “We want to create a more diverse and interesting repertoire of music at UMKC and around the world.”

“Shining a Light” allows people to listen to a variety of scores and learn more about the composers who come from marginalized communities.

Funding for the exhibit came, in part, from an Inclusive Excellence grant through the University of Missouri System.

The initiative, which funds projects that focus on diversity, inclusivity and underrepresented groups, awarded $50,000 to UMKC in spring 2019. The funding supports faculty and graduate students whose research and/or teachings focus on such issues.

The UMKC Libraries received nearly $2,000 to purchase scores for the collection. They also provided funds to purchase additional scores plus staff time to process the collection and create “Shining a Light.”

Scores have been coming in since last fall, most of them suggestions of students and faculty of the Conservatory.

“UMKC Conservatory students borrow many music scores from the library to study and perform, so we wanted to expand our collection to include more works of 21st century composers from underrepresented groups,” Beasley said.

According to a study by the Institute for Composer Diversity, in the 2019-20 “mainstage” season of 120 American orchestras, only 8% of programmed works are by women, and only 6% are by composers from underrepresented racial, ethnic and cultural heritages.

The grant team hopes to continue adding more works representing composers from a variety of cultures and different backgrounds. This will lead to more diverse performances from the Conservatory and expose students to different perspectives.

“I hope UMKC students and faculty are as excited as we are about this new resource to help promote diverse programming,” Stadler said. “Hopefully this exhibit inspires other performers here to do the same and explore new music from these phenomenal composers.”

You can access the online exhibit at For those interested, there will be a physical display of the collection on the ground floor of the Miller Nichols Library in March. More details yet to come.

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