Experience a groundbreaking film spotlighting diverse women composers spanning twelve centuries

Film Premiere and Live Performance
Thursday, November 4, 2021 7:30 PM

Film also streaming on the FirstWorks Virtual Stage • Friday, November 5, 2021, 8 PM EST

“Women Trailblazers in Music” takes us on a journey with tunes and tales by — and about — pioneering women composers who were all but expunged from history. The quarantine film, featuring twenty-five celebrated performers, was created remotely by Stillman in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioned by FirstWorks and Artists & Activists Productions, and premiering at Rhode Island College, the film features stories rarely heard, and music not often played.

Award-winning pianist and composer, Judith Lynn Stillman, serves as pianist, filmmaker, writer, and artistic director. Actor Becky Bass appears as Florence Price, the first Black woman composer to have her music played by a major symphony orchestra. Other notable cast members include Jeanine Kane of the Gamm Theatre, Emmy award-winning actor Kate Burton, cellist Aristides Rivas, sopranos Michelle Esposito and Mia Douglas and Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra Concertmaster Charles Dimmick.

“These extraordinary women composers have been marginalized, repressed, and shamefully neglected, but should be household names,” said Stillman.

The film premiere will take place at Rhode Island College’s Sapinsley Hall in the Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, November 4th at 7:30 PM (with a preview for invited schools at 12:30 PM). A live concert showcasing additional music composed by women and including performers from the film will follow the screening.

“Women Trailblazers in Music” will also stream on FirstWorks Virtual Stage on Friday, November 5 at 8 PM. Judith Lynn Stillman will join viewers on our live chat feature during the stream to answer questions.

Tickets are free* and reservations are required for access to both the Live and Streaming performances.


Judith Lynn Stillman, Rhode Island College’s Artist-in-Residence, was named Honored Artist of The American Prize as both pianist and composer, and her iconic duet recording with Wynton Marsalis was on the Top Ten of the Billboard charts. Stillman holds Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Juilliard, and netted top prizes for her work created during the COVID-19 lockdown. The quarantine opera she composed starred renowned Metropolitan Opera baritone Will Liverman and won first prize in the OperaVision International Competition. Stillman also won a Humanitarian Award from the World Peace and Tolerance Institute, Cannes.
FirstWorks Local Artist Commissions
The commissioning of works is FirstWorks’ latest initiative to support Rhode Island’s arts community, and speaks to the organization’s commitment to local artists as essential partners and to supporting “firsts” in the arts. Offering platforms for local artists to create and present their work is a part of FirstWorks’ “Raise Your Voice” programming, a thematic initiative that amplifies diverse voices and celebrates difference through the arts.
New England Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the ArtsThis project is supported by the New England Foundation for the Arts through the New England Arts Resilience Fund, part of the United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund, an initiative of the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with major funding from the federal CARES Act from the National Endowment for the Arts. This project is also supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit http://www.arts.gov.
Judith Lynn Stillman sitting at a grand piano wearing a formal black dress
*Reservations for the November 4 premiere event are processed by Rhode Island College Box Office. Limit 2 tickets per order. Online tickets through the RIC Box Office are subject to handling fees.
Health & Safety
Masks and advance reservations are required for all attendees and vaccination is recommended for all eligible patrons. View RIC Health & Safety Protocols