The Sinfonietta Is Amplifying Women In Orchestral Music

by Tara Finley

Representation matters. Having experienced the challenges of navigating an industry where diversity is not only lacking, but met with hostility, New York-based orchestrator, music director, and producer Macy Schmidt has made it her mission to help marginalized voices be heard. From this indomitable spirit, The Sinfonietta was born. An all-women and majority women-of-color orchestra and production company founded in 2020, The Sinfonietta has quickly become internationally renowned, not only for its innovative creative direction but also for its unwavering dedication to spotlighting the musical excellence of women-identifying artists. 

“In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the entertainment industry erupted in conversations around racial and gender equity,” Schmidt, 27, says of the inspiration behind The Sinfonietta’s creation. “I wanted to find a way to provide tangible paid employment to women—especially women of color—during a time when artists were not able to do their work. I fundraised privately to create paying jobs where they wouldn’t have otherwise existed—a practice I continue to this day.”

The early days of The Sinfonietta’s inaugural N.Y.C.-based orchestra, The Broadway Sinfonietta, focused on providing relief from the industry’s frustrating lack of opportunity for women of color. “As a woman of color in music and entertainment, I couldn’t help but notice that when women achieved advancement in gender equity, it was predominantly white women making strides. When people of color achieved advancement in racial equity, it was predominantly men of color making strides,” explains Schmidt, who is Egyptian American. “Where in the industry could women of color be heralded for creative and professional excellence? My conclusion, ultimately, was to create the space that I wished existed.”

The group has since accompanied pop stars including Brandy and Jordin Sparks, made an appearance as featured soloists at the 2023 Tony Awards, and signed with Sony Masterworks. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t been met with resistance. “The most unexpected roadblock,” shares Schmidt, “was the surprising lack of support from within the industry. I’ve learned that there’s a certain way that industry leaders want things to be done, and it’s been disheartening to realize that these rules and policies often benefit only a select privileged few.” Schmidt does, however, feel optimistic for the future. “It is my hope that someday, the different generations can find a way to start using their collective powers to work together in support of job creation and advocacy for the livelihoods of marginalized artists.” 

Meanwhile, the talent and enthusiasm of The Sinfonietta has been changing the way audiences experience orchestral concerts on its first national tour. “All of those stiff Western European etiquettes we learned attending classical symphonies—you won’t find them at a Sinfonietta performance,” says Schmidt. “On this tour, there is cheering, excited hollering, standing ovations, crowd participation. Orchestras are not just for performing the scores of dead composers—The Sinfonietta is an example of what it means to combine large orchestra music with ‘mainstream’ audiences.”

The Sinfonietta is currently performing the live-to-picture score to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse alongside the full movie. “It means so much to me for this orchestra to be performing in parts of the country where this level of representation in music is even more rare than it is in New York or L.A.,” says Schmidt. “It’s about representation. You can’t be it if you can’t see it.’” 

–Tara Finley

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.