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Character Sketches
Solo Piano Works by 7 American Women

Victoria Bond (b.1945), conductor/composer, was the first woman appointed EXXON/Arts Endowment Conductor with a major orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony, where she worked with André Previn; the first woman to graduate with a Doctorate in orchestral conducting from the Juilliard School; and the first woman to receive a conducting grant from the National Institute for Music Theater to work at the New York City Opera and Artpark with Christopher Keene. Born in Los Angeles to a family of professional musicians, she began composing well before her formal training and studies at the University of Southern California and the Juilliard School.

Bond has received commissions from the American Ballet Theatre, Pennsylvania Ballet, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the Empire State Institute for the Performing Arts, and Louisville Stage One. Bond has been featured on the NBC Today Show, ABC Weekend Edition, and World Monitor News, and profiled in Musical America, The Wall Street Journal, and Southern Magazine. Now a full-time composer except for conducting guest appearances, Bond was Music Director of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of Opera Roanoke until recently. She was voted Woman of the Year in Virginia in 1990 and 1991.

Tania León (b.1943) earned degrees from the National Conservatory in Cuba and New York University. She became the first music director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 1969, a post she held until 1980. It was there that she was given her first opportunity to conduct. She went on to study conducting with Laszlo Halasz and took part in the conducting program at Tanglewood, coaching with Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa. Recent engagements include the Metropolitan Opera; Brooklyn Philharmonic; Bay Area Women's Philharmonic; and the Puerto Rican, Phoenix, Columbus, New World, and La Cross Symphonies. At the end of her tenure at the Dance Theatre, Ms. León worked extensively in musical theatre as a music director and as a composer. She has received commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts; American Composers Orchestra; Queens Symphony; Dance Theatre of Harlem; the Kennedy Center; Whitney Museum; Affiliate Artists; and National Public Radio, which commissioned her to write the theme music for its Latin File program. León is currently Composer-in-Residence with the New York Philharmonic.

Jane Brockman's (b.1949) music is informed by her extensive work in film, television, and dance, as well as the formal structure of academia. She was the first woman to earn a doctorate in Composition in the 150-year history of the University of Michigan. She has been awarded fellowships to study in Paris and Vienna (Fulbright/Alliance Française and Rackham Prize), as well as grants and honors from the MacDowell Colony, the State of Connecticut, Meet the Composer, and the Composers Conference. Her first orchestra piece won the Sigvald Thompson Prize, and mentors include Ross Lee Finney, Leslie Bassett, George Balch Wilson, Eugene Kurtz and Wallace Berry. She has taught at the University of Connecticut, the Hartt School of Music, the University of Rhode Island and the University of Michigan. After being awarded a Composers' fellowship from Robert Redford's Sundance Institute, she was inspired to leave her tenured professorship to score films in Los Angeles. Today, in Santa Monica, her focus is entirely on concert music. Her music, which is performed all over the world, is widely recorded, and published by Diaphanous Music (distributed by Theodore Front Musical Literature Inc.) and Arsis Press.

Ruth Schonthal (1924-2006), composer and pianist, was born in Hamburg, Germany, of Viennese parents. She was accepted as the youngest pupil ever at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin at age five. When she was 13, she entered the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, and after moving to Mexico City, studied composition with Manuel Ponce. In 1946, her talents came to the attention of Paul Hindemith, who invited her to study composition as a scholarship student at Yale University. Schonthal's works have been performed by the Orchestra Nacional de la Universidad de Mexico, the Israel Philharmonic, New Orchestra of Westchester, Baltimore Women's Symphony, Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, Ridgefield Symphony, and many other groups. A biography with analysis of works has been prepared for publication in Berlin by musicologist Martina Helmig. Schonthal was on the faculty of New York University and the Westchester Conservatory of Music. Her compositions display a unique blend of her deeply rooted European tradition, depth of feeling, and mastery of contemporary techniques.

Gwyneth Walker (b.1947) has been composing music all of her life. A native of Connecticut and graduate of Brown University and the Hartt School of Music, she studied primarily with Arnold Franchetti. Walker's earliest musical interests were in folk music and rock 'n' roll. Her aim has always been to write music that people can sing and play and understand. Calling herself a grass-roots person, she says, "I'm not aiming for a Pulitzer Prize or that kind of recognition in order to feel I've succeeded. The other day I figured out that every single day of the year, somebody, somewhere, is doing a piece of mine. That's reward enough, I think." Walker taught at Hartt, Oberlin, and the Hartford Conservatory for 14 years, then moved to a rented home on a 400-acre Vermont dairy farm to become a full-time composer. Her catalog contains over ninety works for ensembles and audiences of all ages. Walker is a founder of the Vermont Composers Guild.

Marga Richter (b.1926) was born in Reedsburg, Wisconsin and received her early musical training in Minneapolis. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at the Juilliard School, studying composition with William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti and piano with Rosalyn Tureck. Among the sources of her many grants, commissions and awards are the National Endowment for the Arts, Martha Baird Rockefeller Fund, Harkness Foundation, Meet the Composer, National Federation of Music Clubs and ASCAP. Richter's works, noted for their expressiveness and economy of means, have been performed by 50 orchestras, including the Buffalo Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, and the Milwaukee, Atlanta, Oakland, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Maracaibo Symphonies.

Judith Lang Zaimont (b.1945) has been on the Composition faculty at the University of Minnesota since 1992. She has served on the faculties of the Peabody Conservatory and Queens College and was Chair of Music at Adelphi University prior to her move to Minnesota. Raised in a musical family, she began her professional career as a member of a touring duo-piano team which appeared frequently in concert and on television. Although she continued to use her formidable talents as a pianist, gradually she turned her energies toward music composition, and in a few years, her accomplishments as a composer superseded her reputation as a performer.

Zaimont, who holds degrees from Queens College and Columbia University, is a recipient of Guggenheim and Woodrow Wilson fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Maryland State Arts Council, Presser Foundation, and Alliance Française. She was the First Prize winner in the international McCollin Competition, which resulted in performances by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Zaimont is editor-in-chief of The Musical Woman book series, for which she received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Recent commissions include works for the Connecticut Opera, Greenville (S.C.) Symphony, (Johns) Hopkins Symphony, and Baltimore Dance Theatre. Zaimont's music uses a chromatic, fully-evolved tonality, and is characterized by its lyricism, expressive strength, and rhythmic vitality.




Links to alphabetical list of composers
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