The F-List announces new President Professor Dr Shirley J Thompson OBE and celebration performances across UK conservatoires

The F-List for Music is delighted to announce that Professor Dr Shirley J Thompson, OBE will be its third President, taking up the office on 21st November and serving for a year. Thompson is a multi-award-winning composer, artistic director and cultural activist who has pushed the boundaries of classical music composition and performance over the last 30 years, with ground-breaking compositions for orchestra, the operatic stage and contemporary ballet. She is a visionary artist and the first woman in Europe to have composed and conducted a symphony within the last 40 years.  Her opera series Heroines of Opera, which includes The Woman who Refused to Dance, challenges the conventions of the characterisation of women in opera as well as extinguishing the femme fatale.

Shirley says….”I am thrilled and honoured to be the next F-List President. Since its beginnings, the organisation has offered valuable resources that are easily obtainable and make the difference to the development and progress of female musicians. I frequently refer my students to the List for information and ideas. Women have made huge strides in the music industry since I entered 30 years ago, however, there is still some way to go in obtaining equity, especially in the business of music. As president of The F-List, I will continue to assist in the facilitation and development of musical and artistic talent that exists in our professional and music-loving communities. These are the most challenging times for the creative industries globally and we at The F-List will bolster the clammer for access to music education, creativity and performance at all levels”.

The F-List for Music is the first directory of its kind to feature up-to-date information on UK-based female* musicians, songwriters, and composers across all genres of music. An unprecedented amount of awareness-raising within the music industry in the past few years has revealed a continuing lack of diversity and inclusion, with the announcements of many an event and festival line-up featuring a disproportionately low number of women. The F-List offers a tool to change that. It aims to help provide more professional opportunities for female musicians and raise their profiles by making promoters aware of their work and providing details of how they can be booked. * The F-List is proud to be trans and gender diverse inclusive

Award-winning artist Anoushka Shankar was the inaugural President of The F-List for Music, the not-for-profit Community Interest Company that supports the directory, in its first year, 2020-21, with rock guitarist Brix Smith following her for 2021-22.

Commenting on Shirley J. Thompson’s appointment to the role for 2022-23, Diana Roberts, F-List Director and Head of the Creative Careers Centre at the Royal College of Music said: “As an inspiring industry role-model, a bold, creative change-agent, and an original voice, Shirley represents everything the modern musician can be.  I am delighted by her appointment as our first president from the field of classical music.”

Mimi Harmer, Composer, F-List Director, Fellow of the European Music Council and council member if the Independent Society of Musicians said: “I’m thrilled to have such an esteemed composer and academic as our president this year, continuing to wave the flag for women in music. Shirley has paved the way for women across many aspects of the music industry: female composers, interdisciplinary collaborators, and female academics.”

Helen Sanderson, F-List Director, Head of Guitar at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Artistic Director National Youth Guitar Ensemble, said: “Shirley’s powerful musical voice has inspirational resonances for female musicians everywhere and we are honoured to welcome her as President of The F-List.

Shirley J. Thompson is also Professor of Composition and Performance at the University of Westminster and has served for over 30 years on several national arts institutions, including the London Arts Board, the Arts Council of Great Britain, the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors, The Ivors Academy, and the Newham Council Cultural Forum.  She has been named in the Evening Standard’s Power List of Britain’s Top 100 Most Influential People of African, Caribbean and African American Heritage a record number of 13 times from 2010 – 2023.

In celebration of the composer representing The F-List this year three performances of, or inspired by, Shirley J. Thompson’s work Breathe by student groups took place this week at the Royal College of Music, Royal Welsh School of Music and Drama, and Leeds Conservatoire. 

Shirley J. Thompson writes about Breathe: “When I was commissioned to compose an open score work for CoMA, I took the opportunity to create a tribute to George Floyd, the fatal victim of police brutality in May 2020, Minneapolis, USA. Breathe reflects on the moments of George Floyd’s life as he tries to ‘breathe’ with the ‘policeman’s’ knee pushing into his neck. At this point, breath becomes the focus. George Floyd’s late Mother, to whom he calls out, comes immediately to his side, urging her son to ‘breathe’, focus on the breath. These moments are intense. I also considered the last moments of Jesus on the cross at Golgotha. His Mother, Mary, also stayed by his side, willing her son to ‘breathe’. Breathe also reflects on the victims of COVID-19 in the many ICU units in hospitals around the world who struggle to ‘breathe’ with the parasitic virus trying to usurp their breath“.

Leeds Conservatoire Students’ Union Concert Band
Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trio from Students’ Union Ensemble
Vocal Ensemble from the Royal College of Music

Performing a ‘staged rehearsal’ of Shirley J Thompson’s Breathe, the Vocal Ensemble from the Royal College of Music consisting of:

Esme Loughlin Dickenson,
Hannah Limbrick,
Annie MacDonald,
Eyra Norman,
Ellen Pearson,
Tia Radix-Callixte,
Emily Rooke. 

Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Students’ Union Ensemble: a response to Shirley Thompson’s work titled Breathe. This piece is for live electronics (performed by Natalie Roe), clarinet (performed by Laura Wilson) and trombone (performed by Cat Eden).

Natalie writes “This piece focuses on the breath being such a vital function that people often take for granted until put in life-threatening situations. Without breathing, none of the sounds you hear would be created. Using reverb, delay and resonance, the sounds of breathing through instruments is manipulated to create a sound world filled with depth and layers”.

Leeds Conservatoire Students’ Union Concert Band. Leader: Megan Burridge (arr. Joshua Knight for Leeds Conservatoire SU Concert Band).