Composers have a tough life: their art doesn’t live unless other people play their music. One could argue that art is irrelevant unless someone sees it; that books are irrelevant unless people read them; but composers are completely at the mercy of the performers. That’s if performers deign to play the music at all.

When we began our Composer Development Programin 2016, the purpose was to find the most promising Australian emerging composers, regardless of gender, age or ethnicity. There was no other agenda other than to ensure our most promising composers were writing for string quartet and representing this time in Australia’s history in chamber music. In the five years since beginning the program, we have become aware of some alarming statistics. Until now, our submissions from female and non-binary (NB) composers sat at an average of around 21 percent. As a consequence, we were selecting around that same percentage of female and NB applicants to take part in the program.

Flinders Quartet Flinders Quartet. Photo © Pia Johnson

The problem was clear. We had to increase...