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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Mythological Girls: Bachué

Bachué is the mother goddess and master of the Muisca or Chibcha culture, an ancient Colombian civilisation. They were native to the area now known as Bogotá, and gained fame as the origin of the El Dorado legend. Bachué was believed to have emerged from the waters of the Iguaque Lake surrounded by light, holding a three-year-old baby in her arms. They walked to the plains surrounding the lake and built a hut, which was then considered to be the first Chibcha dwelling. Following this, her centre of worship became a temple in the San Pedro de Iguaque area. In the years that followed, her baby...

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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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Musical Gals: Clara Schumann (Part 2)

Music Period: Romantic era (1830 – 1900) Location: Leipzig, Germany Claim to Fame: One of the foremost pianists and greatest performers of the nineteenth century. With audiences in raptures over her music, Clara toured extensively towards the end of the decade. She produced many new works for her programmes and several published works appeared in 1833. These included Romance variée, which she dedicated to Robert Schumann – a young student now living with the Wieck family. All her performances received thunderous applause and Clara would boast that she beat her record of thirteen...

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Harriet Tubman: Abolitionist, Humanitarian, Spy

In third grade, I picked up a biography of Harriet Tubman, and ever since I’ve been fascinated by her life. In school I learned Tubman was a famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. She escaped slavery in Maryland by entering the free state of Pennsylvania. It was dangerous, but she risked her life to save herself from the perils of slavery. She could have simply enjoyed her newfound freedom, but instead she fearlessly attempted to save her friends and family. She saved hundreds of people and is said to have never lost a passenger. Though many of these stories are tales of bravery...

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Musical Gals: Clara Schumann (Part 1)

Music Period: Romantic era (1830 – 1900) Location: Leipzig, Germany Claim to Fame: One of the foremost pianists and greatest performers of the nineteenth century. Clara Schumann was part of what has been described as the “greatest musical love story of the nineteenth century”. The musical partnership that developed with her husband would last twenty-six years. They shared musical ideas and sometimes quoted one another in their works. Yet, Clara faced many obstacles throughout her career and constantly battled against social ideals about women. It is perhaps because of these...

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