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Featured Composers

Violet Archer

Violet Archer, 1913-2000, was a Canadian composer and teacher who wrote in a wide variety of genres. A student of Claude Champagne, Bartók and Hindemith, she received the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1978 for distinguished service to music. She was a long-time faculty member at the University of Alberta (source).

Image source: Violet Archer, 1948. University of Alberta Archives, UAA-2001-058. Public domain.

Portrait of Violet Archer

Grazyna Bacewicz

Grazyna Bacewicz, 1909-1969, was a Polish composer, violinist, and pianist born in Łódź. An accomplished performer, Bacewicz often incorporated folk elements into her works, and is best known for her symphonies, string quartets, and concertos for piano, violin, viola, and cello (source).

Image source: Grazyna Bacewicz, date unknown. Courtesy of Polish Music Centre. Public domain.

Portrait of Grazyna Bacewicz

Margaret Bonds

Margaret Bonds, 1913-1972, was a pioneering pianist and composer. She is best known for her vocal works, and collaborated frequently with other artists, notably Langston Hughes. As a performer, she was the first Black soloist to appear with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance of her teacher, Florence Price's piano concerto (source).

Image source: Margaret Bonds by Carl Van Vechten, 1956. Public domain.

Portrait of Margaret Bonds

Nadia Boulanger

Nadia Boulanger, 1887-1979, is widely considered one of the most influential composition teachers of the 20th Century. She was also one of the first women to conduct professionally. Though she stopped composing in 1920 after the death of her sister, Lili Boulanger, several of Nadia Boulanger's early works survive, and her many students are among the most influential composers of the last century (source).

Image source: Nadia Boulanger, 1925. By Edmond Joaillier. Public domain.

Portrait of Nadia Boulanger, 1925. By Edmond Joaillier.

Lori Freedman

Lori Freedman is a Canadian composer, improviser, and clarinettist. She has premiered many contemporary works for clarinet, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and was the winner of the Prix Opus in 2013. She is known for her daring and creative works (source).

Lori Freedman's papers are available in UBC Special Collections' Canadian Women Composers Collection.

Image source: Lori Freedman © Annamarie Ursula, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

Portrait of Lori Freedman

Sofia Gubaidulina

Sofia Gubaidulina is known for her distinctive style and use of rests. Her works are often inspired by philosophy, and blend traditional Western instruments with folk traditions from her birthplace in the Tatar region. She has written extensively for strings (source).

Image source: Sofia Gubaidulina July1981 Sortavala © Dmitri N. Smirnov, CC BY 2.5

Portrait of Sofia Gubaidulina

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, ca. 1665-1729, was a French harpsichordist and composer in the court of Louis XIV. She was the first French woman to compose an opera, and is known for her secular cantatas and sonatas for keyboard (source).

Image source: Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre by François de Troy. 18th Century. Public domain.

Portrait of Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre


Kassia, 810-ca. 867, was a Byzantine-Greek composer known during her life as a hymnographer and writer. She was closely associated with Emperor Theophilus of Constantinople. More than fifty works are attributed to Kassia, but many are of dubious authenticity (source).

Image source: Kassia. Unknown date. Public domain.

Portrait of Kassia

Libby Larsen

Libby Larsen is an American composer who has written over 400 works, including a staggering 15 operas. Larsen is known for her wide range of colours, vivacious rhythms, and use of amplification (source).

Image source: Libby Larsen at Book Release © Oninatortay, CC BY-SA 4.0

Portrait of Libby Larsen

Tania León

Tania León is a Cuban-American composer, conductor, and pianist. She frequently incorporates Cuban and African elements into her compositions, which often feature polyrhythms alongside rich, dissonant harmonies (source). León won the Pulitzer Prize in Music in 2021 for her work Stride (source).

Image source: Tania León © Michael Provost, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Portrait of Tania Leon

Lili'uokalani, Queen of Hawai'i

Lili'uokalani, Queen of Hawai'i, 1838-1917, was a Hawai'ian composer known best for her songs, including the famous Aloha 'oe. As monarch, she ruled from 1891 until her deposition in 1893, which also marked the political end of the Hawai'ian Kingdom.

Image source: Lili'uokalani by George Prince, ca. 1898. Public domain.

Portrait of Lili'uokalani

Marianne Martínez

Marianne Martínez, 1744-1812, was a Viennese composer of Spanish descent. A student of Porpora, Haydn, Metastasio, and Hasse, she was renowned during her lifetime as a singer, harpsichordist, and composer in the Italian style. She was an honorary member of the Bologna Accademia Filarmonica, and wrote both instrumental and vocal works (source).

Image source: Marianne Martines..., Anton von Maron, ca. 1780. Public domain.

Portrait of Marianne Martinez

Pauline Oliveros

Pauline Oliveros, 1932-2016, was an American composer known for her electroacoustic music. She founded the San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1962, and went on to work with assistive technologies for music and real-time collaborative performance over the internet (source).

Image source: Pauline Oliveros - Sonic Acts 2012 © Pinar Temiz, CC BY-SA 2.0

Portrait of Pauline Oliveros

Florence Price

Florence Price, 1887-1953, was the first African American woman composer to have a work performed by a major American orchestra (Symphony in E Minor premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933). Price is best known for her songs, which were popularized by singers such as Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price (source).

Image source: Florence Price, George Nelidoff, ca. 1940. Public domain.

Portrait of Florence B. Price

Barbara Strozzi

Barbara Strozzi, 1619-1677, was an Italian composer and singer. A student of Cavalli, she produced many songs and solo cantatas, primarily for soprano. Her work is rooted in the seconda prattica and demonstrates exceptional lyricism and generous vocal writing (source).

Image source: Barbara Strozzi by Bernardo Strozzi. Ca. 1630's. Public domain.

Portrait of Barbara Strozzi

Canadian Women Composers Collection / UBC Rare Books & Special Collections

The Canadian Women Composers Collection (CWCC) was introduced by UBC Library in 2015 for the purpose of documenting the compositional practices of Canadian women composers active at home or abroad. The collection is held by UBC Rare Books & Special Collections and consists of primary resources and related materials created and used by the following composers:

  • Deborah Carruthers
  • Dorothy Chang
  • Zosha Di Castri
  • Barbara Monk Feldman
  • Lori Freedman
  • Ana Sokolović
  • Chiyoko Szlavnics

UBC Rare Books and Special Collections holds other collections related to Canadian women composers including: the Jean Coulthard Fonds, compositions by Anita Sleeman, and facsimiles of scores by Barbara Pentland

Online Reference

  • Classical Music Reference Library
    Broad array of reference materials, including Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians and Women Composers: Music Through the Ages. Can browse composers by gender.
  • Hathi Trust Digital Library
    Digital repository with searchable catalogues from multiple institutions and full-text access to many scores and books.
  • Index to Printed Music
    Online index of sources for printed music published in standard editions.
  • Oxford Bibliographies Online (OBO)
    Annotated bibliography and high-level encyclopedia identifying the best scholarship across a wide variety of subjects including music.
    Includes topical bibliographies such as Women in Music, Gender & Sexuality in Music, and specific composers including Clara Schumann and Hildegard von Bingen.
  • Oxford Handbooks Online
    Specially commissioned essays from leading scholars and practitioners, providing critical examinations of issues and new perspectives. Merged with Oxford Academic.
  • Oxford Music Online (Grove Music Online)
    Foremost English-language scholarly encyclopedia of music and musicians. Holds extensive articles and bibliographies written by subject experts and comprehensive lists of works for select composers. Biographies of many women composers, articles on “Women in Music” and “Gender and Music,” and a list of women composers.
  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature with Full Text
    Comprehensive bibliography of publications about music, including citations, abstracts, indexes, and some full text sources. Alternate title: Répertoire internationale de littérature musicale.

Print and e-Reference



The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system does not distinguish works by gender. It is best to browse the scores by instrumentation or specific composer!

  • M1977.W64 - Secular vocal music–Women (secular songs about women)

General Literature on Music

  • ML82 - Women and music

Dictionaries, Encyclopedias

  • ML102.G46 - Gender in music


  • ML128.W7 - Women in music

  • ML156.4.G4 - Women’s music (discography)

  • ML156.4.W6 - Women musicians (discography)


Be sure to check out our guide to finding digital scores!

Be sure to check out our guide to finding digital scores!

Be sure to check out our guide to finding digital scores!

Be sure to check out our guide to finding digital scores!

Be sure to check out our guide to finding digital scores!

Be sure to check out our guide to finding digital scores!

Audio Recordings

UBC Library offers access to many streaming audio and video resources, including Naxos Music Library, Medici TV, and Berlin Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall. Highlighted below are music CDs from UBC Library's physical collections. These resources frequently contain booklets with important and hard-to-find information about composers and their works.

Open Access Resources