Alma Ensemble Performance Features Female Composers

Instrumentalist trio from Roanoke performs Mahler, Tailleferre, and Coleman.

Posted on March 21, 2024

The Alma Ensemble, a trio of instrumentalists championing the work of female composers, held a residency at Sweet Briar College in honor of Women’s History Month.

Founded by flutist Sarah Wardle Jones, clarinetist Michelle Smith Johnson, and pianist Erica Sipes, Alma Ensemble is dedicated to championing women in music, connecting with audiences, and promoting music education. Born from a desire of the founding members to create music that is empowering and personally resonant, Alma Ensemble regularly performs chamber music by women composers while exploring performance practices outside the traditional classical paradigm. As part of their mission, Alma Ensemble also actively commissions and programs new works by women composers.

In addition to a concert on March 20th featuring works by Helen Stowasser, Germaine Tailleferre, and Valerie Coleman, including the entirety of her work “Portraits of Langston,” the ensemble also spoke with students during a program about equity and inclusion in arts management and with the class “Women and Gender in the World.”

The group’s appearance at Sweet Briar was part of the Janet Lowrey Gager Community Concert Series, which aims to celebrate the musical excellence of women and members of historically underrepresented groups. The Gager Series is made possible by the support of the late Forrest Gager, in memory of his wife Janet who served as Sweet Briar’s director of public relations. The Ensemble’s performance was also supported by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.