MusicIC 2023: Anonymous was a Woman: Centering Women’s Perspectives

MusicIC returns June 21-24, 2023, for its 13th season. Titled after the line “for most of history, Anonymous was a woman,” from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, the festival will center Women’s perspectives through conversation, pre-concert lectures, and inventive musical programming. Bringing back beloved performers as well as welcoming new faces, MusicIC is excited to have the following performers join us for the 2023 season – Tricia Park, violin; Miki-Sophia Cloud, violin; Halam Kim, viola; Laura Usiskin, cello; Lara Saldanha, piano; and Caitlin McKechney, mezzo-soprano.

On Wednesday, June 21, at 7 p.m., MusicIC will present a pre-recorded conversation between Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and essayist, Marilynne Robinson and Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy Award–winning composer Caroline Shaw, moderated by MusicIC’s Founding Artist Director Tricia Park. The women will discuss Shaw’s string quartet Three Essays, the first movement of which was written to mimic Robinson’s writing. Segments of the string quartet will be performed live, in tandem with the conversation. Three Essays was a 2023 Grammy Award-winner, as part of the Attacca Quartet’s album Evergreen, which won Best Chamber Music / Small Ensemble Performance. The conversation will be free and open to the public and will be presented in Meeting Room A at the Iowa City Public Library (123 S. Linn St.).

Thursday’s concert, Centering Women’s Perspectives, will feature myriad contemporary female composers, incorporating perspectives from a collection of Western and non-Western musical traditions. The program aims to re-examine musical and literary hierarchies by presenting string quartets of oral-based storytelling songs from Mali, Indian Ragas, and melodies based on Iranian poetry. Composers represented on this concert include Caroline Shaw, Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté, Jessie Montgomery, Aftab Darvishi, Reena Esmail, and MusicIC’s own Tricia Park. This concert will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, at Trinity Episcopal Church (320 E College St.), and is free and open to the public.

Friday, June 23, will see MusicIC present Anonymous Was a Woman, an intimate, ticketed concert at 7:30 p.m. at Riverside Theatre (119 E College St.), drawing connections between two powerhouse women: Prominent English author and feminist icon, Virginia Woolf, and composer Dame Ethel Smyth – the first female composer to be granted a damehood. The program will begin with Smyth’s Violin Sonata in A minor (Op. 7), written in 1887. Though the classical music canon has historically relegated her to a footnote, Smyth is enjoying some long overdue recognition, both for her distinctive musical voice and larger than life personality. Ahead of her time, Smyth was a suffragette and defiantly out about her sexuality and relationships with women.

Following Smyth’s Sonata, audiences will be treated to a semi-staged version of Dominick Argento’s song cycle From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, which won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Music, the same year it premiered in Minneapolis. Smyth and Woolf would meet near the end of their lives and continue a fruitful intellectual and artistic relationship, lasting until Woolf’s suicide in 1941. By pairing Smyth’s music and Woolf’s private words, we can begin to allow the deeply personal etchings of these two women to fully come to the forefront, in a way they were unable to during their lives.

Before the concert, music scholar, author, and University of Iowa Professor Marian Wilson Kimber will give a talk exploring the development of works by women artists and the barriers they faced. General admission tickets to the Friday, June 23, concert are $20; $10 for students. They are available at the Riverside Theatre box office at or by calling (319) 259-7099.

To round out the season, MusicIC will return to the Iowa City Public Library to perform its beloved family concert at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 24, featuring a program of musical storytelling for kids of all ages, in partnership with the Iowa City Public Library children’s department.

All events are recorded and will be broadcast on City Channel 4 and made available online after the festival, making the programming available statewide. Please note that masks are now optional at all MusicIC 2023 venues during the course of the festival. If you are experiencing symptoms or receive a positive COVID test result, we encourage you to enjoy our programs when they are rebroadcast at a later date.

Music and literature festival, MusicIC, was created out of a deep love for Iowa City, further inspired by Iowa City’s 2008 designation as the first City of Literature in the United States. The festival is presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization in collaboration with Founding Artistic Director Tricia Park and Managing Director, Meagan Brus. It reflects the creative interests of the community through inventive musical concerts, in-depth lectures & discussions, and free community events, open to the public. Further strengthening the festival’s musical and literary ties to the community, MusicIC enjoys a fruitful relationship with Amy Margolis and Iowa Summer Writing Festival, often collaborating with contemporary writers and artists. A secondary mission of the festival, since its beginnings in 2010, is to bring “Iowa-grown” and Midwestern musicians and artists back to Iowa City.