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A year ago, I received an email from a young woman who was going through a very distressing time trying to receive proper support from her university to deal with a professor who had shown explicit gender-motivated harassment towards herself and other female-identifying students. Despite many efforts, the university had closed her case. Frustrated and not wanting to leave the institution knowing that nothing had changed, she felt very alone in her battle, carrying the weight of self-advocacy while still being a full-time student. Could I help her?

A few months ago, I had a very promising Zoom call with a man introduced by a dear friend. She assured me, “He has a great position in the industry and will certainly help you get support for Donne, Women in Music, and your new ambitious campaign”.

She was referring to Let Her Music Play, a 24-hour non-stop live streaming concert featuring music only by women and non-binary composers. We were aiming for a Guinness World Record and desperately needed financial support. He had the connections; my heart was full of hope as I clicked the familiar blue start button.

“Lovely to meet you”, he said. “I'm not sure how I can help you, but it's great to see how women are receiving all the attention now, isn't it? It's actually very difficult for me to try and promote a male artist. I can't even suggest their names in meetings... So, you have all the support out there. I'm sure you'll be alright”.

I kept my frozen smile until the end of the call and literally screamed into a pillow as loud as I could as I pressed end call. He was just the personification of why things are still the way they are.

Founding Donne, Women in Music

Six years ago, on March 8 2018, I pressed publish on a website called Donne, Women in Music.

Many assume I meticulously crafted this foundation with a strategic plan. The truth is, my life is singing. It's my career, my deepest passion, the dream that carried me from Brazil to the UK. Every moment on stage is precious; it's the power of sharing music that drives me.

But little did I know that a stroll under Southbank's bridge, amid the scent of aged books on a sunny afternoon, would add a parallel avenue to my musical life. That was the day I found the International Encyclopedia of Women Composers by Aaron Cohen. The famous publication from 1984 listed 6000 women composers.

I returned home, addressed my own ignorance, and expanded my repertoire. Puzzled that these women composers weren't celebrated, I began advocating for their recognition. My soprano passion project turned into a charitable foundation dedicated to achieving gender equality in the music industry.

It's still shocking to me that top orchestras and radio stations still overlook this music. In 2022, the Donne Foundation reported that 92.3% of the works performed by over 100 orchestras around the world were written by men - while record labels repeatedly produce familiar Beethoven rather than these undiscovered wonderful works.

How the Foundation has grown

The past six years have taught me a lot, most of all how much we all can do if we simply do our part. The Donne Foundation has grown to be an internationally respected organisation offering free multimedia resources and expanding its Big List of women composers to over 5000 names. We are curators for Apple Music, partners with the Royal Albert Hall, and recommended by the Oscars ® for music resources.

I've premiered over ten works by women, the Donne Foundation has commissioned new pieces by women, recorded five albums, published ground-breaking research and organised events focused on diversity in music—yet we operate without funding, and I continue to work pro bono alongside my singing career.

People often ask me: where do you find the energy to keep going? The young woman from that email and the man on the Zoom call are good examples of the reasons I strive to continue. I want to contribute to change in everything I do, and I want those who think they know everything to understand that they, more than anyone else, should be listening and taking action.

Gabriella Di Lacci sat smiling in an empty theatre.
We need to shift from individual initiatives to collective action. This is not just a classical music issue. This is a music industry issue. Image credit: Sharon Eve Smith.

Let HER MUSIC Play: A record breaking movement

Let HER MUSIC Play was created because I wanted to break a record to influence change and start a movement. I have yet to see a commitment from the entire music industry, especially from organisations with significant financial power and reach, to commit to change. We need to shift from individual initiatives to collective action. This is not just a classical music issue. This is a music industry issue.

My vision was to create a campaign to inspire the breaking of the circle of inequality that has persisted for too long. Awareness has been raised, but the response is very slow. Supportive trends come and go: Women’s Month, Black History Month… but how can we make the trends stick?

At 2:23 pm on Friday, February 23, Let HER MUSIC Play came to an end as we concluded an over 26-hours live streamed concert, featuring incredibly talented artists playing music exclusively written by women and non-binary composers. It had been one of the most special experiences of my life. I didn’t sleep for almost 40 hours, but to be honest, I didn’t really want to.

To witness the commitment from all the artists who performed, who kept coming throughout the day and night to show their immense dedication to the cause, was truly inspiring. The sense of being a big family, who had never met each other before, coming together to create impact and make a difference, was transformational. I wish I could do it all over again. I take this opportunity to thank the Musicians Union for their support. Without their help, we probably wouldn’t have been able to proceed with this incredible event.

Read Vulva Voce’s experience of performing for Let HER MUSIC Play

Vulva Voce, the all-female genre-defying string quartet, participated in the Donne Foundation’s world record for the longest acoustic music live-streamed concert. Here they also share their experience, as well as the powerful reminder that music written and performed by women and non-binary people is abundant and limitless.

Read the blog

In addition, I must extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Brazilian Embassy for hosting the event, WildKat PR, Abbey Road Institute, the Independent Society of Musicians, Slide Records, the tireless crew behind the scenes, and most of all, all the artists who joined me and performed at the event. Each played an indispensable role, forming the backbone of this monumental event. This achievement is not just ours but a shared victory for every individual and organisation that believed in our cause.

This is just a hint of what could be achieved with proper support

Although I had no idea how I could assist the young woman who contacted me by email a year ago, I did reply, suggesting that she mention she was in contact with me and the Donne Foundation if she thought it could help her case.

As a result, the university reopened her case, provided her with a proper hearing, she received an official apology letter from the professor, over ten other students had the courage to come forward with similar complaints about him, and the institution decided to implement a new training module for all music faculty and staff on gender equity and inclusivity in music.

The man from the Zoom call probably still thinks the same, and to be honest, I don’t have the energy to spend on people like that. But it certainly gives me fuel to continue advocating for change.

The Donne Foundation's success so far is just a hint of what could be achieved with proper support.

If a one-woman operation can do what we did, can you imagine what we can do with proper help? Yes, this is a call for action and if you want to join us in making faster change, please contact

Photo ofGabriella Di Laccio
Thanks to

Gabriella Di Laccio

Gabriella Di Laccio is an award-winning soprano, recording artist, public speaker, curator, and activist, who has become one of the leading voices on the fight for gender equality in music. Listed as one of the BBC’s 100 most inspirational and influential women in the world, Gabriella is also the founder and curator of Donne, Women in Music, a charitable foundation dedicated to achieving gender equality in the music industry. Gabriella is the winner of Air Europa 'Classical Act of the Year', Peter Pears Prize, Richard III Prize, Acquisition International - Most Inspirational Female Musician 2021, and was also included on the latest edition of The Female Book: 67 women changing the world today. Find out more at:

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