On the cusp of turning 30, emerging local composer Angelique Poteat has already had work commissioned and performed by the Seattle Symphony. And this month she presents the world premiere of Listen to the Girls, a new choral piece she wrote to convey the issues young women struggle with every day. Poteat spoke with Brangien Davis, former arts and culture editor at Seattle magazine, about how the piece came about.
Brangien Davis: Why create a choral composition for tween and teen girls?
Angelique Poteat: There’s so much buzz around young women today and this mixed bag of societal expectations, freedom to pursue dreams, peer pressure and the role of social media in so many young lives… it’s the perfect inspiration for a piece of music.
BD: What was your approach?
AP: I created a questionnaire for girls, aged 11-18, including the girls from the Northwest Girlchoir who will be singing the piece in November. It addressed issues like female role models, positive and negative criticism, the fear of failure and where that fear might come from, the good and bad of social media, and a general question asking the girls to list issues that they felt added to the difficulty of being a teenage girl in today’s world and how they might overcome these.
BD: What were the responses like?
AP: I received an incredible array of answers! For some of the questions, the answers were similar: If they had female role models, the girls admired women who are strong, persistent, and unique. For other questions, like those regarding social media, some girls only had positive things to say about connecting with people, while others stressed the added pressure of comparing themselves to idealized presentations that peers put online. The added peer pressure was even more of an issue to the older girls.
BD: How did you translate all these answers into music?
AP: I had to go through the process of finding the most frequently expressed opinions, many of them opposing, and present them in a way that was succinct—but conveyed the energy, confusion, and determination of these young women. The resulting piece is set up to introduce the girls and their interests on a basic level, discuss the women they aspire to be, address their concerns with pressure from many sources, and relay their desire to overcome objectification and to essentially “be themselves.”
BD: So what does that sound like?
AP: Musically, the piece has a driving energy that is, at times, loosely reminiscent of popular music. There are unifying elements that are transformed to reflect the different moods of the subject matter throughout the course of the 20-25 minute work. It will be an immersive experience, for sure!
BD: What do you think the girl choir will get out of this new work?
AP: First, the genre of girl choir with orchestra is almost nonexistent. It’s exciting enough to sing with an orchestra, but to sing text that is so relevant to one’s life should create a particularly rewarding and memorable experience. And combining the Northwest Girls Choir with Seattle Collaborative Orchestra will be extra special, as there are many talented teenagers, male and female, who will be performing the work on the instrumental side. I hope the work inspires thought-provoking dialogue among them.
Hear the Northwest Girls Choir perform Listen to the Girls with Seattle Collaborative Orchestra on Wednesday, November 18th at 7 p.m. $10–$20 (under 18, free). University Christian Church, 4731 15th Ave. NE; seattlecollaborativeorchestra.org
Learn more about Angelique Poteat in our Spotlight story here.