A vibrant children’s book featuring 26 women in music will soon hit bookstore shelves, and it was created by two Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) alumni. Anneli Loepp Thiessen first wrote The ABCs of Women in Music in the fall of 2020 as a creative project for a feminist theories class at the University of Ottawa, where she is a doctoral student in interdisciplinary music research.
Citing consistently low numbers of women in music, Loepp Thiessen hopes this project can be a helpful music education resource that inspires a new generation of girls. The book features a different woman in the music industry for each letter of the alphabet; spanning more than a thousand years of music history; and representing a diversity of ethnicities, abilities, genres and professions.
Loepp Thiessen instantly knew that she wanted Haeon Grace Kang to illustrate the book, whose colourful pictures make the stories come alive.
“I think diverse visibility is really important to kids,” says Kang. “If I had different models when growing up for what it meant to be a successful person, it would’ve been easier to accept myself as who I am and pursue things with more confidence.”
The support Kang received at CMU was influential in her artistic development, she says: “So many of my profs provided creative project options for assignments that helped me grow as an artist and learn what it means to make meaningful work. The encouragement and mentorship from CMU instructors really formed me as a person and as an artist.”
Loepp Thiessen says CMU faculty also shaped her work on the book. “I think of the influence of faculty like Janet Brenneman, who has done her own research on gender issues in music,” she says. “I was really honoured to study under her during my time at CMU.”
Loepp Thiessen completed her master of music degree in piano performance after graduating from CMU with a bachelor of music degree. Meanwhile, she was also a part of the new Mennonite hymnal, Voices Together.
Kang graduated from CMU with a bachelor of arts in biblical and theological studies and was quickly back in the university’s halls, completing a master of arts in theological studies at CMU in 2021.
The ABCs of Women in Music is available for pre-order now and will be released on May 1. It has already reached Amazon’s Top-20 list in children’s music biographies.