In October 2017 I read an article in The Guardian about the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, an African American women’s rights and voting rights activist. The article described how she tried to register to vote in Mississippi in 1962, and was instead arrested, thrown in jail and brutally beaten by police. She was told that women of color could not vote in Mississippi. This was after women were granted the constitutional right to vote in 1919! Fannie Lou then testified on live national television in 1964 and named her accusers. I became obsessed with her story and watched her testimony repeatedly on YouTube. I was mesmerized by her dignity, pride, strength and incredible courage. The Me Too movement had just begun and the testimony struck me not only as a Me Too moment, but also a Black Lives Matter moment as well as human and civil rights moment. I felt Ms. Hamer’s testimony was as relevant as ever.
I put Fannie Lou Hamer’s photo on my computer desktop and looked at her beautiful, strong face every day for inspiration. It was then that I promised her that she would never be forgotten. I promised her I would make history come alive again so that her voice could lead and teach us. Thus, the vision of Women Warriors: The Voices of Change was born. I decided that the phrase “We Stand On the Shoulders of Those Who Come Before Us” would guide me in unearthing the women upon whose shoulders Fannie Lou Hamer was standing on. I really felt that Fannie Lou Hamer’s spirit guided me on the entire project.
I spent two long years at my dining room table diligently researching female activists from as far back as medieval thirteenth century Europe. As I devoured centuries of women’s history, I discovered the lives of hundreds of unrecognized women that played a crucial role in the evolution of human and civil rights for women and girls. The difficulty was then in deciding whom I would choose, what was the historical relationship between these women, and how could I construct the narrative in a way that was historically correct, gripping and relevant to young people who may not know women’s history?
What resulted was the construction of the historical lineage of 800 years of feminist activists which could potentially fill the content of an 80 minute live to picture symphony concert. Armed with this historical perspective and the promise I made to Fannie Lou Hamer, I was determine to remain a humble, artistic servant devoted to honoring the lives of these women, as I brought their voices to life during a live symphony concert.
After I had chosen which women to feature, I then began the painstaking construction of a silent documentary using moving and still images, laboring intensely frame by frame to construct a wordless visual story. It was like composing music for me. I focused on the line, the arrival points, forward momentum, breath, tension, release, buildup, structure, anticipation, resolution, and so on. My goal ultimately was to compose an intricate visual dance that could be eventually paired with breathing and free flowing music, creating empathetic and emotional content, which would connect the viewer to the authentic lives of these women. The documentary was divided into 12 separate chapters. I had to consider carefully the timing between chapters, the text cards, the names of chapters, and even the words I used. Because I was starting to hear music in my head as I built the film, I began searching for composers whose musical style would work in tandem for this new genre I now called the “DocuSymphony.”
My offer to the composers was the opportunity to be able to unleash their musical talents without restraint. It was absolutely paramount for me that the music hold equal billing with the picture and not just be relegated to underscore. I was determined not to subjugate the music to serve the needs and the ego of the film. I gave free rein to the composers to create either completely original music, use existing material as is, or to rework existing material to fit the timing of the picture. My goal was the unbridled passionate union of music and visuals, which would create an ecstatic and profound emotional experience for the concert audience as they connected to the lives of these remarkable women.
This project, in partnership with these incredible composers, was a result of collective team spirit and joined recognition of the deep value in creating a concert that could both educate and uplift humanity. When we finally got to Alice Tully Hall for the dress rehearsal on the day of the premiere, it was apparent what we had accomplished. Upon hearing conversations from the orchestra musicians and in-house listeners, we were able to grasp the astonishment and disbelief of people in the hall. We created a dynamic, emotionally powerful narrative of 800 years of female activists fighting for human rights, while delivering that message through the medium of a symphony concert. It was indeed a tremendous musical achievement.
As a conductor, I am passionate about creating orchestra programs and productions that are culturally and socially relevant. I believe young people will fill orchestra halls and sell out ticket sales if we offer them content which is relevant and deeply connected to our ever-changing world. Cultural relevancy is the core issue. Young people are passionate about our planet, climate change, equality, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and for the right of each girl to an education. These issues, and many other issues, were core to the Women Warriors:The Voices of Change production. The result was a sold out Alice Tully Hall world premiere on September 20th, 2019!
Conductor Amy Andersson is known most recently as founder and music director of Orchestra Moderne NYC, a game-changing new ensemble in New York City that recently made their successful debut at Carnegie Hall on October 7, 2017. Appearances on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, CBS Morning News, CBS Evening News and press coverage in the Wall Street Journal have led music critic Norman Lebrecht to call her “America’s most watched Symphony Orchestra Conductor.”
Ms. Andersson has toured to over twenty-two countries as a conductor of operatic, symphonic, Broadway musical, and video game repertoire. She has made appearances with the St. Louis Symphony, Houston Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Florida Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Utah Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, Honolulu Symphony, Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, Stockholm Concert Orchestra, Spanish Philharmonic, National Orchestra of Mexico, Monte Carlo Philharmonic,Video Game Orchestra of Boston, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony (Toronto), Orchestra Massacarra (Milan), Spanish National Youth Orchestra (JONDE), Classic FM Radio Orchestra of Bulgaria, Plastic Acid Orchestra (Vancouver), Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, Bundes Jugend Orchestra, Niederrheinische Symphoniker, LOH Orchestra Sonderhausen, Berliner Symphoniker, Giessen Philharmonic, Aalborg Symphony Orchestra, (Denmark), Macedonian Philharmonic, Jeunesses Musicales Deutschland, Colorado Music Festival. She has lead opera productions in Germany at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, National Theater of Mannheim, Stadttheatre Aachen, Weikersheim Opera Festival, Rheinsberg Chamber Opera, Schlosstheater Schwetzinger, and the Colorado Light Opera.
In Season 2018, Ms. Andersson became music director of the new American opera project “A Most Dangerous Man” by composer/lyricist Greg Pliska and librettist/director Charles Morey. She also premiered the new live-to-picture video game concert The World of Video Game Music in Sofia, Bulgaria, and began creation of Women Warriors:The Voices of Change concert program.
In season 2015-2017 Ms. Andersson was music director of the world tour of the video game concert The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, conducting sixty-two orchestras in twenty-one countries and in 2014 she was conductor with the symphony tour Replay:Symphony of Heroes.
Ms. Andersson is dedicated to working with young musicians and composers, and recently has held conducting masterclasses for the Alliance of Women Film Composers in both New York and Los Angeles, and for Brooklyn College and the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. She is currently Adjunct Lecturer at Brooklyn College/Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, where she teaches conducting.