Maestra by the Numbers

with research by Carrie Caffrey

Georgia Stitt by Bronwen Sharp
Photo: Bronwen Sharp

In 2016 I was on deck to music direct the off-Broadway revival of Sweet Charity (starring Sutton Foster) when the show’s director, Leigh Silverman, asked orchestrator Mary-Mitchell Campbell and me if we would hire an all-female band. This revival was leaning into issues of gender; Leigh proposed that when Charity was out in the all-gendered world, she behaved differently than when she was safely in the dressing room with only her fellow female dance hall hostesses. Since Charity sang a lot of her big songs in that all-female dressing room, and since the band would be visible on stage, there was a dramaturgical reason for us to hire only women. 

Mary-Mitchell and I were looking to hire five players, mostly rhythm-section musicians. (I was conducting from the piano, so there was one sixth of the band already secured.) It took us months to find them. Our drummer moved to NYC for the gig. Our guitar player told us she’d been trying to break into theatre for ages and couldn’t get the contractors to hire her. By the time the show ended, I had a big spreadsheet with contact info for 50+ women musicians including our players, their subs, and others who were interested but not available. 

I turned that spreadsheet into an online directory which became the spine of Maestra Music, now a four-year-old 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We currently have over 2,100 profiles in the Maestra Directory, all women and nonbinary composers, lyricists, and bookwriters as well as pit musicians, conductors, orchestrators, sound designers, copyists, and so on. The reach of the organization is global, and our work provides “support, visibility, and community for the women and nonbinary people who make the music in the musical theatre.”

One of Maestra’s most successful efforts is our mentorship program, which pairs newish-to-the-industry folks with well-established-regularly-working folks for a six-month term. Co-helmed by Meg Zervoulis and Sonya Hayden, the program has grown from five teams in 2019 to 65 teams this year. We’ve had mentees who got agents because of mentor recommendations, mentees who sub for their mentors in orchestra pits, and even a mentor-mentee team who wrote a musical together! Over 130 people applied this season, and though it’s disappointing that we can’t serve them all, we recommend people apply for other mentorship programs offered by MUSE, Women in Jazz Org, The Recording Academy, and Billboard’s She Is The Music. We’re big fans over here of John F. Kennedy’s aphorism, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

In 2021 Maestra collaborated with the NYC chapter of the American Federation of Musicians (Local 802) and surveyed their membership. The publication of the results revealed that only 29% of the chapter’s membership is female and that the number of female-identifying musicians who work specifically on Broadway is 22%. (Only 1% of the membership stated they were genderqueer, genderfluid, or nonbinary.) In that same year, three out of four Broadway orchestras were entirely male. 

Between 2010 and 2020, only 8% of new Broadway scores were composed by women, and out of 98 available Broadway drum chairs, 96 were held by men. Looking at these statistics for working musical theatre writers and players, I keep asking: where are the women? 

Several years ago, a voice teacher friend of mine told me that she had a college sophomore who came into a lesson seeking advice about declaring a major. The young woman said she wanted to major in music composition, but it was a real boys club over there. She thought it might be easier just to major in voice and write songs on the side. Frustrated, I wrote to the head of that program, who I knew professionally, and let him know what I had heard. He admitted that there were neither any women on faculty in his department nor any other female composition majors. Since then, he has made great changes in his program, and now every time he graduates a young woman who is moving to NYC to give theatre composing a try, he lets the Maestra community know to look out for her.

Carrie Caffrey, Maestra’s Director of Operations and Events, and her team of volunteers have been collecting Broadway musician data from publicly available sources and cross-referencing the findings with personal verifications from shows’ music departments and the musicians themselves. Based on Maestra’s study of the 2022-2023 Broadway season, female and nonbinary (F&NB) representation averaged 37% in pits and 25% on music teams (including Composers, Lyricists, Music Supervisors and MDs, Conductors, Orchestrators, and Contractors). Twenty percent of this season’s scores were written by F&NB composers. Two new drum chairs went to women during this season alone, and NONE of the orchestras was entirely male. 

What does this mean? Since Maestra was founded, the number of all-male orchestra pits on Broadway has dropped from 75% to 0%. Last season showed a 12% increase in F&NB composer representation over the last decade. And the same number of female drummers were hired as chairholders this year as in the entire previous decade.

That said, we still have a lot of work to do. There is almost no representation of F&NB orchestrators at the Broadway level, and out of 105 available leadership positions on music teams last season, fifteen went to F&NB musicians, 85 went to men, and five were shared by a man and a woman. That’s 14% F&NB, 81% M, and 5% shared. Interestingly, gender parity in the pit was met by only two shows, KPOP and & Juliet, both of which had far fewer than the season’s fourteen-musician average.

In a time that sees DEIA (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access) work challenged in companies, schools, and courtrooms, Maestra insists that you can be pro one group of people without being anti everyone else. We keep bumping into this idea that in order to promote women and nonbinary people we have to put men out of work. It’s just not true. Some of the organization’s greatest allies are the male composers and music directors who have gone out of their way to hire a Maestra conductor, orchestrator, sound designer, or music contractor and the male producers who are now using our newest tool, the RISE Directory, to diversify their teams in all hireable areas including directors, designers, front of house staff, marketing and social media teams, ASL interpreters, gender consultants, and so much more. 

At the center of our mission, Maestra is attacking the idea that there can be any job in this industry that is only populated by one kind of person. The world is full of so many diverse stories. Our theatre is richer when its community of artisans and craftspeople is, too.

More information about Maestra Music’s mentorship program and advocacy work can be found at and at

Georgia Stitt
Georgia Stitt

wrote the scores for the musicals Snow ChildBig Red SunSamantha Spade, Ace DetectiveMosaic; and The Water, and she is currently working on an oratorio called The Circling Universe. She has released four albums of her music, teaches at Princeton, and is the Founder of Maestra.

Carrie Caffrey
Carrie Caffrey

is a Chicago-native lyricist, composer, and performer now rooted in the Big Apple. Her songs have been featured in the Lincoln Center Broadway Future Songbook Series, at 54 Below, the New Studio on Broadway, York Theatre, NYMTF, and in cabarets internationally.