Thursday, November 9, 2023

Musicians' Club of New York


In 1911 instrumentalists from the New  York Philharmonic, singers from the Metropolitan Opera, composers and church musicians organized and formed The Musicians’ Club of New York.  It is one of the oldest such clubs in the United States. 

"The organization was formed to establish a higher standard of ethics in the various branches of the music profession and to bring a better understanding and closer fellowship among musicians."

Two of the club’s presidents were Walter Damrosch, one of Gena Branscombe’s conducting teachers, and Olga Koussevitzky,

wife of conductor Serge Koussevitzky.  The Musicians’ Club of New York funds the annual Young Artist Awards, a competition for living composers and an International Recording Award.  Quite impressive!

On December 12, 1954 at the prestigious Musicians’ Club of New York, the Branscombe Choral led by Gena Branscombe performed Christmas music on an afternoon concert. 

They were joined on that program by pianist Samuel Sorin.   

The Choral’s next concerts were on December 15th at the National Opera Club and at the Broadway Tabernacle Church on December 19th

December 1954 marked the final month that the Branscombe Choral would perform after which they disbanded having left a deep impression on New York City’s music scene.  Twenty years had passed since the Choral had set up their charter, elected a Board of Directors and began rehearsals with their conductor, composer, arts administrator and marketing genius, Gena Branscombe. 

During those twenty years Miss Branscombe organized concert programs that impressed the New York critics, programs that featured American composers and most important programs that included the music of American women composers.  The 60-75 members of the Choral sang yearly concerts at Town Hall and the Broadway Tabernacle Church. 

The Branscombe Choral sang at the first United Nations in Lake Success, NY and on radio stations that broadcast across the United States and Canada.  Now their musical journey would come to end with one of their final concerts at the Musicians’ Club of New York!



Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Storied Stuff

Today the website, Storied Stuff, published an article I wrote about Gena Branscombe's baton and her autographed music which were gifted to me.  Enjoy reading the article.



Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Scrapbooks, Part II


Back in 2005 I received an e-mail from Elsa Jean Davidson informing me she had in her possession the two Branscombe Choral scrapbooks that dated from 1934-1954.  Her grandmother and mother had been members of the Choral and were  keepers of the scrapbooks.  The scrapbooks were handed down to Elsa Jean to preserve.  

The Branscombe Choral scrapbooks reside with Gena Branscombe’s collection at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. 

Scrapbooks – books that hold mementos, pictures, documents, dried leaves or flowers, postcards, letters, announcements and more.  They help us reach back to precious memories of times gone by whether joy-filled, bittersweet or sad.  Scrapbooking is personal storytelling!

In 1872 Mark Twain, the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, patented a self-pasting scrapbook that had an adhesive grid pattern on each page.  Who knew this famous author was also an inventor? 

Gena Branscombe’s daughter, Gena Tenney Phenix, kept a scrapbook during her younger years including her years studying at the Royal Conservatory in London.  The scrapbook is in the possession of her son, Roger Phenix. 

Recently Roger shared pictures of his mother’s scrapbook that included an article written by poet and author Katherine Hale. Miss Hale writes of Gena Branscombe's life, studies and her compositional goals.  The article was published in a Canadian newspaper. 

There is a partial article, a recital program with her mother's Violin Sonata in A Minor as the last piece and a typed out commendation.  

What beautiful remembrances and a partial story of her mother’s life cherished by her daughter. 


Sunday, September 10, 2023

Four Years of The Gena Branscombe Project Scholarship Winners


Over the past four years through donations and the purchase of The Gena Branscombe Project merchandise, the money we have received has allowed us to award scholarships to an up-and-coming Arts Administrator, Conductor and Composer. The first year we awarded a Conducting Honorable Mention and the second year an Art Song Commission. 

These scholarships and awards have assisted our talented and gifted winners with furthering their education and careers.  As we get news of our winners’ achievements, we post that update on Facebook.  It has been an honor to see our winners follow in Miss Branscombe’s beliefs that education and hard work will open doors of opportunity. 

Our winners by the year:

For 2020:

For 2021:

For 2022:


For 2023:

Your donations to The Gena Branscombe Project or your purchase of our merchandise will help us grow our yearly scholarship fund. 
Thank you for your continued support.  


Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Gena Branscombe Project has MERCHANDISE!

The Gena Branscombe Project has merchandise!  For sale is promotional merchandise that supports our mission of #BringingBackBranscombe and increases our scholarship funds. 


Go to the hyperlink below and purchase t-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and stickers with our logo or pictures of Miss Branscombe conducting.  And, we suggest musical organizations program the music of women composers.

For another 20 hours today, September 6th, we have a discount sale.  It’s back –to-school-time, the holidays are a few short months away.  Buy The Gena Branscombe Project merchandise as special gifts for friends and family.  Someone in your circle of friends and family needs a new coffee mug with an image of Gena Branscombe!

By purchasing any of our items you are helping us fund our yearly scholarships granted to an up-and-coming arts administrator, composer and conductor! 


Tuesday, August 22, 2023

To my darling, Vivian

 At the University of Toronto is held a collection of Gena Branscombe's music, some in manuscript, some original published works.  And, this photograph is in the collection.  

Signed to her darling daughter, Vivian, the picture is dated May 17, 1938, Vivian's birthday.  A beautiful photograph of an elegant, talented, dedicated mother and professional musician.  


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

#BringingBackBranscombe - 2023


Today marks 46 years since Gena Branscombe left this world leaving behind two daughters, two grandsons, nieces and nephews, friends, colleagues, beloved members of her Branscombe Choral and a collection of music that resides at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. 

Luckily before Gena died Laurine Elkins Marlow met her, interviewed her over 18 months and wrote her dissertation about her life and music.  Even with the gift of the dissertation, Miss Branscombe slipped into a “woman composer forgotten” category.  In the ensuing 46 years there were occasional performances of her songs and choral works then came a burst of interest in the past 25 years.

In 1998 Kathleen happened upon the name of Gena Branscombe and her 150 art songs.  The rest is history as told in my many blog postings.  What a 25 year journey it has been #BringingBackBranscombe to the 20th and now 21st century.  The homage we pay to her life and her music is deserved for a woman who was a composer, conductor, leader of women, and arts administrator.  Her exemplary life and music must be recognized today.

Here is a timeline for #BringingBackBranscombe

1980 – Dr. Laurine Elkins Marlow’s dissertation – “Gena Branscombe: American Composer and Conductor: A Study of Her Life and Works

1998 – Kathleen discovers Gena Branscombe’s music at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.  She meets Gena’s eldest daughter, Gena Tenney Phenix and Dr. Laurine Elkins Marlow.

2000 – Kathleen performs several of Miss Branscombe’s songs on recitals in New York City, Minnesota and Florida

2003 – Kathleen’s CD, “Ah! Love, I Shall Thee: Songs of Gena Branscombe” is released on the Albany Records label.

2004 – Premiere in New York City of “Life! Love! Song! A Visit with Gena Branscombe” – one woman show.  Additional performances at the Festival of Women in the Arts -  Elmira, NY, Women in the Arts Conference - St. Louis, MO, Washington, DC, Long Island, NY, Hofstra University, Stoughton Music Society – Quincy, MA, Texas A&M University – College Station, TX, Middle Georgia State University – Macon, GA, Festival of Women Composers – Hartford, CT  and more.

2005- 2020 – Articles about Gena Branscombe published in various music journals. 


CDs released with music of Gena Branscombe:

1996 – “Le Souvenir” – Art Songs

1999 – “By a Canadian Lady” – Piano Music 1841-1997

2005 – “Wishing You and I Were Young Maggie” – Art Songs

2008 -  “Remembered Voices” – Violin Sonata in A Minor

2017 – “Nasty Women” – Piano pieces

2018 - “American Romantics III” – Orchestral work


Lecture Recitals given in Asbury Park, NJ, Library of Congress - Washington, DC, Indiana University, Indiana, PA, Guildford, VT, St. Louis, MO, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, and more.

2018 - Copying Gena Branscombe’s “Pilgrims of Destiny” original conductor’s at the Library of Congress.  Entering the score note by note into FINALE to create a usable conductor’s score for performance..

2019- Dan Ryan conducts the first performance of “Pilgrims of Destiny” in the 21st century at Clark University in Worcester, MA.  First performance of the work in 79 years.

2019 – Dan Ryan and Kathleen inaugurate The Gena Branscombe Project and a Board is formed with Dan, Kathleen, Sydney Pepper and Regan Russell. Website and Facebook pages created.  YouTube channel started.  Fund raising begins to make possible the awarding of scholarships.

2020 – 2023 – The Gena Branscombe Project awards scholarships to up and coming student composers, conductors and arts administrators.  An art song commission is awarded.

2022 – Gena Branscombe Scholarship winner Damali Willingham arranges Gena’s orchestral work, “Festival Prelude” for wind ensemble and conducts the work at the Berklee College of Music. 

2022 – The Gena Branscombe Project sponsors its first concert – “Bringing Back Branscombe” at Colleges of the Fenway in Boston.  Art song premiered composed by our art song commission winner.

2022 – Dr. Regan Russell defends her doctoral dissertation, “Love in a Life: The Art Songs of Gena Branscombe” at Boston University.

2022-2023 – Speeches presented – “Bringing Back Branscombe to the National League of American Pen Women.”

2023 – The Ladies Speak podcast features composer Gena Branscombe with Kathleen Shimeta as narrator. 

2023 – The Gena Branscombe Project sponsors the concert, “Bringing Back Branscombe to the Upper West Side” in New York City at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Gena’s French Horn pieces, Violin Sonata, songs, piano works and choral works are performed.

2023 – Scholarship winners are performing at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Glimmerglass Opera, 54 Below in New York City, conducting the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, and more.

2023 – Gena accepted into the Canadian Music Centre.

2023 – Gena’s Violin Sonata in A Minor is performed in Latvia. 

The future holds more good news….TBA!


You may be gone from this earth, Miss Branscombe, but The Gena Branscombe Project is indeed #BringingBackBranscombe!  We know you are smiling down on all that is happening in your name…..”MARVELOUS!”






Thursday, July 20, 2023

The Gena Branscombe Project's 2023 Scholarship Winners


Today The Gena Branscombe Project announced its 2023 Scholarship Winners.  Congratulations to Conductor Hannah Nacheman, Composer Brittney Benton and Arts Administrator Roslinde Rivera!


These three women exemplify Miss Branscombe’s belief in the importance of education to further one’s career and life.  They are dedicated to professionalism, integrity, being leaders and promoting inclusivity for composers, conductors and arts administrators with whom they will have contact. 

 It is an honor to keep Gena Branscombe’s legacy alive awarding these yearly scholarships.  Applications for the 2024 scholarships will be accepted  in March 2024.  Keep watching for the official announcement.

 Go to to read more about The Project and this year’s scholarship winners. 



Monday, July 17, 2023

Sonata in One Movement for Violin and Pianoforte - Violin Sonata in A Minor


For Gena Branscombe the years 1919-1920 were ones of deep sorrow, depression and a time for her compositional creativity to be a healing agent following the deep loss of her 3 year old daughter Betty.  As I have written in the past, her largest work ever, Pilgrims of Destiny, was composed during these years. 

Though Miss Branscombe’s 150 art songs lead the number of compositions she wrote, there were also piano and choral works, chamber music and instrumental pieces including her Sonata in One Movement for Violin and Pianoforte.  This is a tour-de-force piece that was denied publication because it was deemed too difficult by publishers.  The one movement sonata opens restless seeming to seek out its development then settles into three contrasting thematic groups.  It is florid and extroverted based in the late German romantic style. 

Making its way to the concert stage, the sonata’s first performers used the original manuscript loaned to them by Miss Branscombe with directions to immediately return it to her post performance. 

The first known performance of the Sonata in A Minor for Violin and Pianoforte was in 1920 at a concert of works presented by the Women’s Arts Association of Canada in Toronto.

Following the Toronto concert, violinist Elena de Sayn, played the sonata on a concert in Washington, DC.  In a letter exchange with Elena de Sayn, Branscombe wrote, “I’ll gladly go over [the sonata] with you (fighting passionately for my own ideas as to tempi!!!) … but you’re safe with your own pianist.” (Letter held in the Library of Congress, De Sayn collection - Box 1, folder 16).

Miss Branscombe was a detailed composer who painstakingly marked every dynamic and variation of dynamic, tempo changes and more in every measure of a piece.  The sheer number of these markings drives a performer crazy as they learn and practice her works, thus her remarks to Elena that she would “fight passionately for my own ideas as to tempi!”

By 1934 Gena Tenney, Gena Branscombe’s oldest daughter, was a composition and conducting student at the Royal College of Music in London.  No doubt daughter Gena encouraged the performance of her mother’s violin sonata on a “Concert of Works by American Women,” on December 8, 1934.  The soloists were the acclaimed violinist Olga Rudge and pianist Jessie Hall. Other composer friends of Gena Branscombe’s included on that program were Marion Bauer and Ethel Glenn Hier. 

Time passes, music and composer are forgotten until in 2008 Ralitsa Tcholakova and Dr. Elaine Keillor release a CD, “Remembered Voices” on which they performed Gena Branscombe’s violin sonata.  

November 2022, the sonata is again performed at The Gena Branscombe Project inaugural concert performed by Aija Reke and Dr. Regan Russell.   

On May 6, 2023 at the “Bringing Back Branscombe to the Upper West Side” concert Deborah Nixon, violin and Nelson Ojeda Valdes, piano, performed the sonata….just blocks from where Gena composed the piece in 1920. 

Thanks to Deborah Nixon, the sonata has made its way to London once again and is being considered for study and performance…..only 89 years later. 

And, today, May 17, 2023, Aija Reke is performing Gena’s sonata in her home country of Latvia. 

Back to 1925, Gena wanted to change the title from Violin Sonata in A minor to “The Crusader.” When you listen to the sonata you will understand why!

We continue our work of #BringingBackBranscombe.  With the help of recent performers who have performed a tour-de-force violin sonata by an American woman composer….a composer whose music was forgotten but is now in the 21st century, these violinists and pianists are telling her story, telling of her beautiful music. 


photo of Deborah Nixon and Nelson Ojeda Valdes courtesy of Gary Schoichet

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Canadian Music Centre honors Gena Branscombe


Recently the Canadian Music Centre honored Miss Branscombe by naming her an Associate Composer.

Miss Branscombe lived most of her life in the United States, but, she was first and always a Canadian.  She was born in Picton, Ontario in 1881 where she began her musical training. During her adult life  she returned to her beloved home frequently performing concerts and visiting with friends and family.  

The Bay of Quinte was her place of inspiration for water calmed her and allowed her musical creativity to bring forth her beautiful music.

Canada was in her heart.  Gena composed works that honored the country of her birth; its history, culture, nature's beauty and military. 

Congratulations, Miss Branscombe…..a well-deserved honor.



Monday, June 19, 2023

It Only Took Three Years

 It only took me three years to complete this particular Gena project.  Three years, yet, I kept at it even though I did take extended breaks at times to work on other Gena projects that needed attention.  Three years……

 Yes, for three years I transcribed Gena Branscombe’s letters to her publisher, The Arthur P. Schmidt Co. of Boston.  Held at the Library of Congress, the Schmidt business books, letters to/from all composers they published, photos and more are in the stacks available for research.  Five years ago I photographed every letter Gena Branscombe wrote to Mr. Schmidt, Miss Emery, Miss Allen, Mr. Austin and others at the company.  

From December 1910 to December 1951 Gena wrote hundreds of letters to these people.  Forty-one years of handwritten letters almost impossible to decipher at times because of her terrible penmanship and she always wrote in haste….even she admitted that. 


In two different letters she expressed the thrill of receiving Mr. Schmidt’s gift of a Richard Wagner letter and later a Clara Schumann letter.  Her excitement jumps off the pages.  She wrote of her deep admiration for Richard Wagner and his place in music history.  

Her narrative of being invited to join, as one of the first women composers, the National League of American Pen Women….an honor that she describes as being “thrilled as a child at Christmas.” 

 Her frustrations of not having time to write a piano sonata or a piano concerto or a major symphony nearly broke my heart.  Her children’sillnesses, the deaths of family members, her daughters’ school triumphs and their careers appear with an emotional honesty that is at times shocking considering the era. 

 Gena moved headlong into balancing her career, marriage and family life.  I read as she described days of nervous illness, needing rest, financial woes, worry that her husband would enlist during WWI leaving her with two daughters to care for on her own. 

 Countless letters requested copies of her music be sent to singers, coaches and conductors many of whom were famous in their day.  Gena wrote of her meetings with these musicians – networking in hopes that performances of her music would happen!

 In a 1941 letter Gena requested a copy of one of her songs be sent to her two small friends, Pierre and Peggy Biscaye.  I had the pleasure of meeting Pierre and Peggy a few years ago when they gifted me that autographed song and one of Miss Branscombe’s batons.  

 Self-promotion was one of her great strengths.  This was her day-to-day life – her entire life.  An admirable women -  a woman composer in an age where women were thought to be second class music citizens!

What did I learn most of all about Miss Branscombe ? – perseverance, determination, generosity, self-promotion, graciousness, strength of character for no matter the ups and downs and frustration.  All these attributes she maintained as a professional  inspiring optimistic influence on herself then sharing these with her family, friends, colleagues and anyone who walked into her path of life. 

 In the final paragraph of Gena’s March 9, 1918 letter to Mr. Arthur Schmidt, she expresses  her thoughts and admiration for his dedication to American composers …..

 “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.”


Ever thankful for having a publisher who understood the importance of our country’s musical talent, Gena wrote hundreds of letters to Mr. Schmidt and his employees grateful for their support, appreciative of their hard work promoting her music and always sending those all-important royalty checques!