Friday, December 3, 2021

2021 Scholarship Winners - The Gena Branscombe Project


The Gena Branscombe Project proudly announces their 2021 scholarships winners.

Congratulations are given to Michaela (Micah) Gleason, Conductor; Cameron Smith, Composer; Melissa Yanchak, Arts Administrator.  In addition, Jane Kozhevnikova was the recipient of our Art Song Commission award.  

These scholarship recipients will carry forth Miss Branscombe’s values throughout their careers.  They demonstrate the best of musical creativity which embraces humanity’s diversity and a resolve to hold high the tenets of artistic expression.  


Thursday, December 2, 2021

Arthur P Schmidt - Publisher of American Women Composers



German born Arthur Schmidt (1846-1921) was a trailblazer for American composers and in particular American women composers.  In my mind and opinion he broke down barriers, sought out potential that could be developed into the brightest and best.  He proved that the word composer had no gender bias to it….a composer is a composer whether man or woman!”  This quote is from my January 2011 blog posting.


The “Elusive Mr. Schmidt” blog posting in April 2013 explained that in all of his business papers at the Library of Congress there was not one picture of him.  Schmidt’s great granddaughter contacted me and sent me her great grandfather’s picture.  He was no longer elusive. 


This will be my third blog I have written about Mr. Schmidt.  He was a publisher extraordinaire who in the late 19th and early 20th centuries promoted and published American composers.   That era was about publishing German and Italian romantic music.  


Was his company profitable?  By publishing the newest and talented American composers, was he a renegade in the music business?  Was he a good PR person?  How did he treat his composers and business associates?  Some of those questions will go unanswered for now. 


There were frequent letters between Gena Branscombe and her publisher.  Sometimes there were two letters a day.  They covered such topics as what songs Gena was sending him, books they were reading, royalty checks, who was performing her songs, vacations, music publications, other composers and family news.  Theirs was more than a business contract, they were friends as well. 


Recently I transcribed a March 9, 1918 letter from Gena Branscombe to Arthur Schmidt.  In the final paragraph of the letter, Miss Branscombe expresses her candid beliefs and admiration for her publisher.  Read on……..


“There has been something on my mind for some time – and I hope you won’t think me a very – meddlesome – sort of person – to be thinking about it even.  But it’s this – you published American compositions long before other people.  You’ve published more big things – with no hope of financial return – you’ve published more American women’s things than anyone else - and all this in the days when it wasn’t fashionable and patriotic – and all that to boost American music!  I feel that that thing should be recognized and known and advertised in a strong way.  You’ll probably just think I’m – very fresh – but I know I’m right.  I think it would be most interesting to know – to have a complete record – of all the American compositions of your catalogue published long before the tide began to turn in favor of giving the American composer a chance.  Forgive me if I rush in.”


For over 20 years of working on the life and music of Gena Branscombe, I have read a great deal about Mr. Schmidt and came to my own conclusion that he was indeed a renegade, a business man with a passionate mission for our American composers and their music.  Then, reading Gena’s letter, she clearly expressed the high esteem in which she held her publisher.



Here is an incomplete list of American composers the Arthur P. Schmidt Company of Boston published:


Florence Newell Barbour (1866-1946), Marion Bauer (1887-1955),
Mabel Daniels (1878-1971), Helen Hopekirk (1856-1945), Lucinda Jewell (1874-?), Margaret Ruthven Lang (1867-1972), Frances McCollin (1892-1960), Edna Rosalind Park, Olga von Radecki (fl. 1882), Anna Priscilla Risher (1875-1946), Clara Kathleen Rogers (1844-1931), Mildred Weston, Floy Little Bartlett, Mrs. C. F. Chickering, Mary Bradford Crowninshield, and Mary Turner Salter.


Mr. Schmidt sought out and published the music of Edward MacDowell, John Knowles Paine, Arthur Foote, James Rogers, Carl Bohm and Horatio Parker along with others.


He was a true publisher, patron, business man and promoter of American music. Thank you Mr. Schmidt.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

BBC Philharmonic Honors Gena Branscombe on her Birthday


November 4, 2021 marked what would have been Gena Branscombe’s 140th birthday.  Well, it was her 140th birthday.  This landmark was posted on my Facebook page along with a picture of Gena smiling into the camera.  Friends and colleagues responded with encouraging remarks which touched me deeply.

 That same day the BBC Philharmonic, on their Facebook page, posted a short bio and beautiful sketch of Miss Branscombe acknowledging her birthday and her career.  What a surprise and honor for her and her family.


 Composer, pianist and educator Gena Branscombe was #BornOnThisDay in 1881.

 During her lifetime, the talented composer had 74 of her choral compositions published by 22 different music companies, along with 150 art songs, 13 piano pieces and 8 instrumental works

 She followed composer Amy Beach to be elected President of the Society of American Women Composers in the late 1920s

 At age 40, she began conducting lessons. She was the much loved director of her own chorus, the Branscombe Choral which, from 1934-54 was a huge part of New York's musical landscape 

Two postings on Instagram gave tribute to Miss Branscombe’s birthday as well.  Recognizing this spirited, prolific composer 44 years after her death proves the esteem with which she is held.

🎈 Happy Birthday to Canadian composer, pianist, conductor and teacher, Gena Branscombe, born #onthisday in 1881.

Branscombe worked predominantly in the US after studying at Chicago Musical College, where she also worked on the faculty after graduation. She composed more than 150 art songs, piano and chamber music, orchestral works, and music for chorus. She also started writing an opera, called The Bells of Circumstance, which she never finished.

The Gena Branscombe Project began with performing two of her art songs on a recital then morphing into a CD recording and a one-woman show, which then became the non-profit The Gena Branscombe Project that awards scholarships and promotes performances of her music.  The future holds republishing her music and especially her thrilling dramatic oratorio, Pilgrims of Destiny. 

#BringingBackBranscombe is happening each and every day for this remarkable woman who richly deserves to be known once again in the music world at large.


In the blink of an eye, twenty years of work has taught me about a woman composer whose life and career inspires me daily to keep moving forward with my passion.  Hard work does pay off.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Katey J. Halbert and Pacific Sketches


The Gena Branscombe postings on my blog have centered on her vocal music, singers who performed her songs as well as her life and career.  Little has been written about the instrumental music she composed.  That’s my fault. 

 Gena’s instrumental works were not published as her songs and piano pieces were.  Her orchestral and instrumental compositions are in manuscript held at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

  Several weeks ago I was searching YouTube for Gena Branscombe recordings that may have been posted.  What a wonderful surprise to come upon Katey J. Halbert’s recordings of Miss Branscombe’s Pacific Sketches for French horn and piano. 


A trip to Hawaii in 1955 was the inspiration for these works.  Flying to San Francisco from New York, then boarding an ocean liner, on board Gena attended Hawaiian cultural lectures and took hula lessons.  She was 74 years old!  Way to go, Gena!


The sound of bells playing gospel hymns intrigued her.  She included that musical memory into her piece “Kona Beach” which is a movement in Pacific Sketches.  Later she composed “Homeport” and “Night in the Islands” to round out the work. 

 The pieces were played live on WNYC in February 1956 for the Annual American Music Festival and again in April 1956 at the New York Federation of Music Clubs Biennial Convention.  Katey Halbert’s recordings are the first in 65 years! 

 Katey Halbert’s recording came about as part of her doctoral project.  Searching for French horn pieces composed by women, she found Miss Branscombe’s “Pacific Sketches.” Thanks to Katey’s beautiful playing and to her great pianist, Casey Dierlam Tse, for bringing these pieces alive in the 21st century.

More of Miss Branscombe’s instrumental music will be uncovered in the near future 

Enjoy listening to Pacific Sketches and Gena’s scenic musical descriptions. 


#Katey J Halbert

#Casey Dierlam Tse

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Nevada Van der Veer - Contralto


“Am enclosing a programme of Nevada Van der Veer’s concert” …. ““Happiness” was well received in spite of the fact that the accompanist composed as she went along.”  (from a letter to Arthur P. Schmidt, publisher, dated February 11, 1916)


Today as I was transcribing a few of Gena Branscombe’s letters to her publisher, Arthur P. Schmidt, I came across this quote and it made me laugh out loud.  There is no mention of where the concert was held or the accompanist’s name, which is good.  We all have bad performance days.


Nevada Van der Veer (1884-1958) was a New York City born contralto.  Her first name was derived from the admired American opera singer Emma Nevada (1859-1940).  


Miss Van der Veer was a contralto soloist at several New York City churches including Fifth Avenue Presbyterian.  Her singing voice was said to be powerful, even and velvety.  Known for her recital work, she toured frequently.  She recorded with the Victor Light Opera Company and recorded duets with her husband, Reed Miller.  During a meeting given by the National Woman’s Party, she sang at the grave of Susan B. Anthony.  In later years, Nevada became Head of the Voice Department at Cleveland Institute of Music from 1934-1949.


Gena Branscombe gave no indication if she personally knew Nevada Van der Veer or how the singer came to perform her song “Happiness”.  As an accomplished pianist, Miss Branscombe’s accompaniments are difficult and require a great deal of personal preparation and rehearsals with the singer.  Still….the quote made me laugh. 


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Kathleen Shimeta - New Website

 A new website has been created with current information and pictures.  Thanks to my web designer, Jeff Williams, for all of his creative and hard work plus his patience through delays.

What a wonderful journey,


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

The Gena Branscombe Project - Scholarships

For over 20 years, it has been an honor to work on the music and life of composer Gena Branscombe.  The Gena Branscombe Project is announcing their second annual scholarships for an emerging student conductor, composer and arts administrator.  See details below!

The Gena Branscombe Project is proud to announce that applications for the 2021 scholarships will open March 8, 2021, International Women's Day! A scholarship will be awarded to an emerging student composer, conductor, and arts administrator. In addition, this year we will offer a Composer Commission Prize.

Details can be found on our website:

Please pass on this information to your colleagues, friends and students.