Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Women's History Month - Women Composers

Women’s History Month officially came to a close yesterday.  As many of you may have seen, I posted on my Facebook page, Life! Love! Song!  A Visit with Gena Branscombe, a short biography and photo of thirty different women composers of Gena’s era (1881-1977).  On International Women’s Day I posted a photo and biographical information on Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana who in 1916 voted for equal voting rights for women in all states.  To honor all thirty-one women during March was a learning experience and an eye-opener for their accomplishments.

What struck me as I did my research was that 23 of these women attended college including Juilliard, New England Conservatory, Leipzig Conservatory, Paris Conservatory, Royal Academy of Music, Royal Conservatory of Music, Peabody, Columbia, New York University and other schools.  These same women studied with the great composition teachers of the time whether here in the United States or in Europe: George Chadwick, Nadia Boulanger, Dallapiccola, Leo Sowerby, Irving Fine, Carl Renecki and Theodor Leschetizky. 

Undine Smith, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Louise Talma, Marion Bauer, Miriam Gideon, Mary Carr Moore, Mabel Daniels, Julia Amanda Perry, Helen Hopekirk, Eva Jessye, and Clara Kathleen Rogers taught at some of our most prestigious music schools mentioned above.  

Major symphony orchestras played the works of Margaret Ruthven Lang, Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Gena Branscombe and Amy Beach.

Mary Howe and Liza Lehmann openly admitted that women composers were not given their just recognition or performance opportunities.  Miriam Gideon said she liked the English word "composer" as it had no gender identification.  Eight of the women featured in March were published by the premiere music publisher of the day, Arthur P. Schmidt of Boston.  Carrie Jacobs Bond was not only a composer but also a business woman who created her own publishing firm!

Despite the naysayers of women composers and their compositions, the featured composers for Women's History Month all forged a path for themselves, their colleagues and today's women composers.  They were highly educated, industrious women.  Creativity, rich harmonic music, melody and beautiful poetry combined to pour forth in their choral works, piano concerti, art songs, solo piano pieces, chamber music, operas, oratorios and symphonies.

Ladies, you are my inspiration for you set your goals, struggled, worked hard, lived your life through pain, rejection, highs and lows, and most of all you gifted the world your music for ages to come.  Thank you.  

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