Musical Gals: Lil Hardin-Armstrong

Music Period: 20th Century & beyond Location: America Claim to Fame: One of the most prominent jazz pianists of the time, later building a reputation as a jazz composer, arranger, and bandleader. When one thinks of trumpeters and jazz, the name that instantly hits your lips is the great Louis Armstrong. Yet, many forget about his wife, Lil Hardin-Armstrong. She was a jazz pianist with an incredible reputation, arranged music for the hottest bands in the jazz business, and became a respected composer and bandleader in later years. Lil supported her husband during his early career, and...

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New Year, New Senior Staff

A new year often brings change: for many, new resolutions or re-commiting to past pledges come with the start of a new year. Here at Girl Museum, as we’re entering our 9th year (!), we realized the need to add to our senior staff. As we continue our resolution to provide girls a space that documents, preserves, and presents their history and culture, we realized the need to grow. So for 2018, we committed to expand our senior staff. Girl Museum continues to be run by volunteers, and the Junior Girl intern program is integral to what we do. But with our continued ambitious program of...

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Musical Gals: Melba Liston

Music Period: 20th Century & beyond Location: America Claim to Fame: the first women trombonist to play in big bands, and later became a prominent composer and arranger. Melba Liston was born on 13th January 1926 in Kansas City, Missouri. As a child, she often travelled from her home to Kansas City, Kansas to stay with grandparents. It was whilst staying with her grandparents that Melba received her first trombone when she was just seven years old. Abandoning the piano for the trombone, she started teaching herself how to play popular jazz classics and church songs of the day by picking...

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Musical Gals: Florence Price

Music Period: 20th Century and beyond Location: America Claim to Fame: Having her Symphony in E minor performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, an all-male orchestra. Florence Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, to an African-American middle class family in 1887. She grew up in a household that cherished classical music, art and literature. As a result, the family believed them to be a normal part of growing up. Florence’s mother, who had been a schoolteacher before her marriage, introduced her to music and gave Florence her first piano lessons. This led Florence to give her first...

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Musical Gals: Rebecca Clarke

Music Period: Romantic – 20th Century Location: UK & USA Claim to Fame: First female student of Charles Stanford, and the first woman to be employed by a fully professional ensemble. Rebecca Clarke was born in 1886 to a couple living in Harrow near London. Whilst growing up, her father encouraged all his family to learn to play instruments, and was himself an amateur cellist. He was particularly interested in his family learning those instruments that would enable them to play string quartets together. As a result of his enthusiasm, Rachel learnt to play the violin from the age of 8....

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Musical Gals: Alma Mahler

Music Period: Romantic, 1930 – 1900 Location: Vienna Claim to Fame: Composing Lieder earlier in her life and becoming a musical inspiration for Mahler in his final years. Few realise that Alma Mahler was a composer. However, she was composing in an artistic world dominated by men where the thought of a woman composing music was ludicrous. Alma married three famous men: composer Gustav Mahler, architect Walter Gropius, and German author Franz Werfel. All stifled her artistically, and instead, Alma had to settle for life as a high-class socialite. Alma was born in 1879 to painter Emil...

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Musical Gals: Amy Beach

Music Period: Romantic Location: New Hampshire, USA Claim to Fame: one of the few women to have found a place in mainstream histories of music. Amy Beach (neé Cheney) was an entirely self-taught composer born in New Hampshire in 1867. This incredible woman played music mainly by ear, and was composing short pieces of music by the age of four. Any’s mother encouraged her daughter to grow by giving her piano lessons three times a week. In 1875, at the age of seven, Amy made her first appearance in public performing one of her own pieces at a church concert. It was the first concerts of many...

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Musical Gals: Dame Ethel Smyth

Music Period: Romantic Location: London, United Kingdom Claim to Fame: composing the “The March of the Women” theme for the suffragette movement, and fighting for the right for women to play in orchestras. Dame Ethel Smyth was born in 1858 to an upper-class family who lived just outside of London. In 1867, the family decided to move near to Aldershot in Surrey, and it was here that Ethel became interested in music. It so happened that one of her governesses had studied music at the Conservatory in Leipzig and had captivated Ethel with her piano playing. She had entranced the little girl so...

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Musical Gals: Changing perceptions on women and music

After exploring the life of Clara Schumann, it seems appropriate to take a break, and consider for a moment how perceptions of women in music have changed throughout the ages. One nineteenth century contemporary stated that women “rarely attempt the more mature forms because such works assume a certain abstract strength that is overwhelmingly given to men.” Putting my disgust at the comment aside for a moment, it made me dig deeper, and think about how far society has come. Women were rarely seen within the music composition industry until more recently. In the 1100s, the only music composed...

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The BBC Gender Pay Gap: A shocking revelation for a modern age

You may (or may not) have been keeping a watchful eye on the BBC after the organisation published the salaries of its top talent. What we saw revealed a shocking gender pay gap. The figures exposed a huge disparity between the wages of women and men within the organisation. Only a third of the highest earners were female, the rest were male. The announcement on the 19th July 2017 comes at a time when pay equality makes the headlines on a regular occasion. We have recently seen headlines telling us that Financial Times journalists are threatening to strike over the 13% pay gap at the...

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