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Performance Today®

with host Fred Child

Classical Woman of the Year 2020

Valerie Coleman, 2020 Performance Today Classical Woman of the Year Courtesy of artist

Performance Today celebrates Women's History Month by honoring the women who have made a lasting impact on classical music and those who love music. We invited listeners to nominate a living woman who has inspired you. The PT staff reviewed your nominations and made a unanimous decision about the honoree. And the winner is...

Valerie Coleman

Her work as an instrumentalist alone would be enough to win. She's an extraordinary flutist with wide-ranging interests and talents. Coleman is the founder and was a 20-year member of the groundbreaking Imani Winds ensemble. Her unflagging devotion to teaching and mentorship might be enough, as hundreds of up-and-coming musicians are fueled by her generous perspective and inspiration. To add to that, she is now channeling her immense creativity into composition, with works that speak in her own compelling voice. That would be enough. Our choice was clear. We are proud to name Valerie Coleman the Performance Today 2020 Classical Woman of the Year.


Notable Nominees


Rachel Barton Pine


"Rachel Barton Pine should be the Woman of the Year. Her range of musical talent is unsurpassed today from Bach to rock. Her foundation for musical education is unparalleled in its impact on young musicians. No venue is too large or too small for her to perform. I've heard her with large symphonies and in very small venues with perhaps only 50 people in attendance."-Charles Wilt

Aimee Beckmann-Collier


"Dr. Beckmann-Collier, or Dr. ABC, as she's affectionately known, is one of the most intelligent, inspiring, and gracious musicians I have ever met. As the former Professor of Conducting and Director of Choral Music at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, she continues to be the most significant teacher I've ever had. I, myself, am a music teacher, and I take every single day in my classroom as a opportunity to be more like her. Aimee is the most inspiring musician, man or woman, I know." - Elizabeth White

Nicola Benedetti


"Nicola Benedetti is not just a captivating musician, but is also an outstanding advocate for classical music across all generations. She has contributed in many ways to music education through lessons, workshops, and YouTube videos. She has also helped many children to become involved in and engage in music. She is incredibly inspiring as a musician, and as a classical music advocate. She sparked my interest as a child, and I'm sure many other musicians have been inspired by her passion too." - Beth McLean

Jennifer Higdon


"I nominate composer Jennifer Higdon. Love everything I have heard from her, in fact when I was first introduced to her by Fred Child, I had to stop what I was doing, get in a prone position on the floor & listen with my whole body." - Dianne Berman

Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr


"American virtuoso clarinetist Elsa Ludewig-Verdehr feverishly helped create a phenomenally immense new repertoire for a previously ignored chamber group combination: violin, clarinet, and piano for the last 4 decades. She commissioned hundreds of composers and trained most of today's leading clarinetists during her 4 decades as Professor of Clarinet at Michigan State University. In fact, MSU became a famous clarinet destination because of her brilliant pedagogy and mentorship genius."- Michele Gringas

Gail Williams


"Gail Williams is a force to be reckoned with both in the musical platform and in the classroom. As a former colleague of hers at Bienen School of Music, I've seen her students really shine and grow tremendously. Gail is humble yet strong - she voices her opinion when someone needs to speak up especially defending beliefs and/or students. She is the ideal classical woman - strong and caring, outspoken and an amazing teacher/coach, talented with high expectations of all." - Donna Su


Classical Woman of the Year 2019


Read more about previous winner JoAnn Falletta

Before you go...

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