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Classical Music
If you look at the listings of the major orchestras in America you will see two things in common; very few of them are programming major pieces by women composers, and almost none have a woman on the podium. Despite the abundance of wonderful compositions by women, the world of classical music has been, for centuries, a man’s world.

Valerie Coleman, Founder of Imani Winds

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Matthew Murphy

American composer and flutist Valerie Coleman was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She displayed a strong interest in music as a toddler, picking up sticks in the backyard and pretending they were flutes. She started formal music training in the fourth grade, and by age fourteen she had written three symphonies.

Coleman earned degrees in composition and flute performance from Boston University and graduated with a Masters Degree in flute performance from Mannes College of Music. While she was still a student, Coleman began planning a chamber music ensemble. She chose the name Imani Winds, Imani being the Swahili word for faith. The group focuses on music by underrepresented composers from the non-European side of contemporary music, and their repertoire includes music that is inspired by influences from the music of Africa, Latin America and North America.

In 2019, Coleman composed Umoja, Anthem for Unity for the Philadelphia Orchestra, which was the first work commissioned by the orchestra from a living African-American woman. And Valerie Coleman was named Performance Today's 2020 Classical Woman of the year.