Home page
Back to this CD
CD index

American Composers (page 2)

Women's Voices
Five Centuries of Song

Margaret Bonds (1913-1972) was born in Chicago. She studied composition with Florence Price and William Dawson and became the first black pianist to perform with the Chicago Symphony (1933). She attended Northwestern University, completing her bachelor's and master's degrees in music (1933, 1934). Bonds moved to New York City in 1939, continuing studies at Juilliard with Roy Harris, Robert Starer, and Walter Gossett. She moved to Los Angeles in 1967, where she worked at the Inner City Institute and Repertory Theater. Bonds' compositions include orchestral and choral works, musical theater, art songs, popular songs, chamber music, and solo piano pieces. She collaborated frequently with poet Langston Hughes in some of her best-known works, including the musical Shakespeare in Harlem and the cantata Ballad of the Brown King.

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979), who was born in England, began composing at the age of sixteen and was the first woman composer to win the prestigious Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy. She switched from violin to viola and supported herself as a supply player around London. A superb musician, she played chamber music with Myra Hess, Casals, Heifetz, Thibaud, Szell, Rubinstein, Schnabel, Pierre Monteux and Percy Grainger, among others. As a soloist, Clarke played throughout Great Britain, made several tours in Europe and America, and in 1923, toured around the world.

In 1919, her Sonata for Viola and Piano tied with Bloch's Suite for Viola and Piano for the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge prize, but since there couldn't be a tie, Mrs. Coolidge cast a vote - for Bloch. Clarke was in the U.S. when Britain entered World War II, and was not allowed to return for the duration of the war, since she had an American parent and Britain had too many mouths to feed. She remained in America for the remainder of her life, where she continued to teach. She lectured for many years at the Chautauqua Institute and had a weekly radio program about chamber music. Most of Clarke's works were written in the first half of her life. Her oeuvre consists of 58 vocal works and 24 instrumental chamber works.

Miriam Gideon (1906-1996) was born in Greeley, Colorado and grew up in Boston. She began composing in her early teens and studied piano and theory in New York. Gideon earned a BA at Boston University, a Masters in Musicology from Columbia University, and a DSM in Composition from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Her teachers included Lazare Saminsky and Roger Sessions. Gideon taught at Brooklyn College, City College of CUNY in New York, the Manhattan School of Music and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She was named to the American Academy-Institute of Arts and Letters. Vocal music constitutes over half of her total output. Like all of her vocal music, the piece heard here is concerned first with text declamation.

Jean Eichelberger Ivey (1923-2010) studied piano at Trinity College and Peabody prior to earning a Masters degree in composition from Eastman and a Doctorate from the University of Toronto. Several major orchestras have performed her music, which has been recorded on CRI, Folkways, and Grenadilla. She has written orchestral, piano, vocal, theater, and electronic music, and was the subject of the NBC documentary "A Woman Is".

Marion Bauer (1882-1955) was born Walla Walla, Washington where her first music teacher was her oldest sister. (Incorrect birth date is often listed as 1887; she started lying about the date in her twenties.) She reportedly became Nadia Boulanger's first American pupil in exchange for English lessons. In addition to teaching at New York University from 1930-1951, Bauer had a long career as a music critic, author and composer.

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.

Ann Silsbee (1930-2003), composer and poet, received musical degrees from Radcliffe and Syracuse and a DMA at Cornell University where she studied with Karel Husa. Her music has been performed throughout the USA, in Canada, Europe, China, Japan and South America, and recorded on Leonarda, Northeastern, Vienna Modern Masters, Finnadar, and Spectrum. Silsbee was an accomplished pianist whose music, although carefully notated, gives the impression of improvisation, exemplified in the virtuosity and spontaneity of the song recorded here.

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.

Libby Larsen (b.1950) earned her doctorate in Composition from the University of Minnesota where she studied with Dominick Argento, Paul Fetler, and Eric Stokes. She has received commissions from many prestigious organizations for orchestral works; operas; musical theater works for children's chorus, Orff ensemble and symphony; and many other genres. Her music has been performed by most of the leading orchestras in the USA. Her song cycles, published by Oxford, have already become staples of both student and professional vocal recitals. A co-founder and active board member of the Minnesota Composers Forum, Larsen has also served on the National Endowment for the Arts Music Panel, Meet the Composer National Advisory Committee, American Music Center Board of Directors, and the ASCAP Board of Review. She was Composer-in-Residence with the Minnesota Orchestra from 1983-1987.

Elizabeth Vercoe (b.1941), a native of Washington, D.C., has spent most of her adult life in Concord, Massachusetts. She graduated from Wellesley College, earned a MM degree at the University of Michigan and a DMA at Boston University, where she studied with Gardner Read. She has won composition awards from both Wellesley and Boston University, and was commissioned to write a fanfare for the inauguration of the 11th president of Wellesley College. Many other commissions and awards have followed. Vercoe has written a series of "Herstory" works for voice and various instruments which have been widely performed and recorded.

ack to European women composers



Links to alphabetical list of composers
Bios and links to their recordings at this site

 A   B  C-E F-G H-I J-K  L   M  N-Q  R   S  T-V W-Z