Music for First African-American Woman Recognized as Symphonic Composer to Be Performed | Way of life



On March 4 at 7 p.m., the Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra will present a live concert on Facebook featuring the music of Florence Beatrice (Smith) Price.

Price was an American classical composer, pianist, organist, music teacher, and the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition performed by a large American orchestra.

She was born in Little Rock, Ark. On April 9, 1887, the youngest of three. She performed her first piano recital at the age of 4 and her first composition was published at the age of 11 under the direction of her mother. At the age of 14, Florence Price graduated as a valedictorian in 1904 and left Little Rock to attend the New England Conservatory of Music (after presenting herself as being of Mexican descent, on her mother’s advice. ). She obtained a Bachelor of Music in 1906 with a double major in organ and piano performance.

After graduation, she taught at Cotton Plant-Arkadelphia Presbyterian Academy, then Shorter College in Little Rock, then became head of the music department at Clark University in Atlanta. She then returned to Little Rock, taught privately, and engaged in composition. She founded the Little Rock Club of Musicians after being denied admission to the all-white Arkansas Music Teachers Association due to segregation at the time. She taught music in separate black schools, but after racial issues escalated, she moved with her husband and two daughters to Chicago in 1927.

In Chicago, Price joined the R. Nathaniel Dett Club of Music and the Allied Arts and studied at five different universities, graduating in 1934 as a student in composition and orchestration. Around 1928, the publishing houses G. Schirmer and McKinley began to distribute his music. Financial difficulties lead to Price’s divorce in 1931. Florence gives lessons at home and composes more than three hundred works. These included chamber works, art songs, spiritual arrangements, violin works, organ works, piano concertos and symphonies.

Price presented compositions for the Wanamaker Competition of 1932, winning first prize for his Symphony in E minor and second prize for his Piano Sonata. Price’s works have been performed in churches, cultural clubs, the Chicago Women’s Symphony and the WPA Symphony in Detroit. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed the world premiere of its Symphony No. 1 in E minor on June 15, 1933 at the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago, bringing instant recognition and fame, but due to segregation, of racism, sexism and Jim Crow laws, succeeding as a songwriter would be a struggle.

Price continued to compose throughout the 1940s and early 1950s and was recognized from as far away as England. The conductor Sir John Barbirolli asked him to compose a suite for stringed instruments. Price continued to write art songs, choral music, arrange spirituals for solo voice, and compose organ pieces until her death in 1953. Most of Florence Price’s works were lost during this period. many years, but many manuscripts have recently been rediscovered and are currently in progress. to be published.

Steps to find the live broadcast:

If you have Facebook, once there, search for Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra.

If you don’t have a Facebook account, log into your computer and search the Internet for Tehachapi Symphony. You will find Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra – Home with a address. Choose this and if you don’t want to create an account, click Not now. Click Live Video.

Karen Budai is the Advertising Director of the Tehachapi Symphony Orchestra.


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