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Music by African-American Women

Irene Britton Smith (1907-1999), a Chicago native, earned a bachelor's degree in composition from the American Conservatory, where she was a student of Leo Sowerby and Stella Roberts, and a master's degree from DePaul University, where she studied with Leon Stein. She also attended The Juilliard School during 1946-47, studying with Vittorio Giannini. In summers, she studied at the Eastman School of Music, the Berkshire Music Center with Irving Fine, and at the Conservatory in Fontainebleau with Nadia Boulanger. Smith's works include a Sinfonietta for orchestra, chamber music, piano works, anthems, and songs. Now retired, Smith taught elementary school in Chicago for more than 40 years while continuing to compose. Sonata for violin and piano was written while she was a student at Juilliard.

Dorothy Rudd Moore (b.1940) was born in New Castle, Delaware. She graduated magna cum laude from Howard University, where she earned a B.A. in music theory and composition, studying with Mark Fax. She was the recipient of a Lucy Moten Fellowship for study with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in France in 1963, and continued composition studies with Chou Wen-Chung in New York in 1965. She taught at the Harlem School of the Arts, New York University, and Bronx Community College, and and was one of the founders of the Society of Black Composers. Her opera, Frederick Douglass, was performed in 1985 by Opera Ebony at the City College of New York. Rudd Moore has received commissions from Meet the Composer, the American Music Center, and the New York State Council on the Arts. Three Pieces for Violin and Piano displays a spare and dissonant harmonic language featuring quartal and tritone harmonies.

Julia Perry (1924-1979) grew up in Akron, Ohio and studied piano, violin, and voice. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Westminster Choir College and also studied at The Juilliard School and the Berkshire Music Center in Massachusetts. Perry received two Guggenheim Fellowships and spent the 1950s in Europe, studying at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy; with Luigi Dallapicolla in Florence; and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. While in Europe, she organized and conducted a series of concerts for the United States Information Service. After her return to the U.S.A. in 1959, she taught briefly at Florida A & M College and Atlanta University. In 1971 she suffered a paralytic stroke and was hospitalized for several years, but taught herself to write with her left hand and returned to composing before her death in 1979. She composed 12 symphonies, a violin concerto, two piano concertos, four operas, cantatas, choral pieces, songs, and numerous instrumental chamber and solo works. Prelude for Piano is the only one of her solo piano works to be located to date. Perry had plans to arrange it for string orchestra.

Betty Jackson King (1928-1994) began music training in Chicago with her mother, Gertrude Jackson Taylor, and sang in the Jacksonian Trio with her mother and sister. She completed her bachelor's and master's degrees at Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University and also studied at the Peabody Conservatory and Westminster Choir College. King taught at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, Dillard University (New Orleans) and in the public schools in Wildwood, New Jersey. She was active as a choir director in Chicago and at Riverside Church in New York City. From 1979 to 1984, King was President of the National Association of Negro Musicians. Her oratorio, Saul of Tarsus, was widely performed after its premiere in 1952 by Chicago's Imperial Opera Company. She wrote many choral works, art songs, and arrangements of spirituals. King's style is marked by an extended harmonic language, thick massive chord clusters, and simultaneous layers of sound. King's style is marked by an extended harmonic language, thick massive chord clusters, and simultaneous layers of sound. Her more delicate Spring Intermezzo is from Four Seasonal Sketches.

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. Troubled Water is a concert piece based on the spiritual Wade in the Water. Like many of her other works, it incorporates jazz idioms.

Lettie Beckon Alston (b.1953), composer/pianist, was one of four finalists in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's Unisys African-American Composers Forum competition in 1993. She received her D.M.A. degree in composition at the University of Michigan, where her teachers included Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, Eugene Kurzt, and George Wilson. Alston is associate professor at Oakland University (Michigan) and a former faculty member of Eastern Michigan University. She composes in a variety of styles, and her works include The Eleventh Hour for orchestra, Moods for solo piano, and Three Spiritual Settings for men's chorus. Pulsations is unified by a two-note motive symbolizing a heart beat.

Undine Smith Moore (1904-1989), a Virginia native, received the first scholarship given by The Juilliard School for music study at Fisk University. In 1931, she completed the M.A. degree and professional diploma at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, studying theory and composition with Howard Murphy. She taught at Virginia State College from 1927 to 1971, and her former students include many celebrated musicians. Moore composed in a variety of forms, and her compositional techniques range from conventional and tonal to atonal and twelve-tone. Before I'd Be a Slave was composed for choreographer Barbara Hollis and the Modern Dance Group. The score includes the following sections, depicted in strong musical gestures: "The frustration and chaos of slaves who wish to be free - in the depths - being bound - attempts to flee - tug of war with the oppressors - continued aspiration - determination - affirmation."

Rachel Eubanks (b. San Jose, California) received a B.A. degree from the University of California in 1945, an M.A. from Columbia University in 1947, and a D.M.A. from Pacific Western University in California in 1980. She also attended the Eastman School of Music, University of Southern California, and Westminster Choir College, and studied with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in France in the summer of 1977. Eubanks is the founder and director of the Eubanks Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. Her compositions include Cantata for Chorus and Orchestra, Symphonic Requiem for orchestra and four solo voices, Our God for seven instruments and solo voice on a text by Kahlil Gibran, chamber works, and many songs. Interludes for Piano, two of which are featured here, consist of five concentrated, introverted pieces in an atonal, contrapuntal idiom.

Valerie Capers (b.1935) was trained as a classical pianist, but was encouraged to play jazz by her late brother, saxophonist Bobby Capers, and her father, jazz pianist Alvin Capers. She has appeared at the Newport and Kool Jazz Festivals and on radio and television. Blind since the age of six, Capers earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at The Juilliard School and has taught at the Manhattan School of Music and Hunter College. She is chairperson of the Bronx Community College's Department of Music and Art in New York City. Her works include a Christmas cantata; a choral and instrumental work, In Praise of Freedom, based on the March on Washington speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; and an "operatorio" on the life of Sojourner Truth. These two pieces are from Portraits in Jazz, which consists of 12 teaching pieces, each dedicated to a particular musician. Cool-Trane has a melodic line similar to that played on the saxophone, closing with a quote from John Coltrane's Cousin Mary. Billie's Song is a ballad dedicated to Billie Holiday. (solo piano)

Lena Johnson McLin (b.1929) was born in Atlanta and completed her bachelor's degree in piano at Spelman College. She won a scholarship to continue studies at the American Conservatory in Chicago. McLin did extensive graduate work at Roosevelt University and taught music for many years in the Chicago public secondary schools, where she organized and directed the pilot music program at Kenwood Academy High School (1970-1991). She is founder and pastor of the Holy Vessel Christian Center in Chicago. Her religious and secular choral works are published and widely performed, and her cantata Free at Last, in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., was performed in Carnegie Hall and in Italy. McLin's works also include songs, operas, and instrumental works. A Summer Day illustrates her improvisatory piano style.

Regina A. Harris Baiocchi (b. Chicago, 1956) has a career in public relations and is an author of short stories and poetry (under her pen name, Ginann), as well as a composer of works for orchestra, chorus, voice, chamber groups, and solo instruments. Her Orchestral Suite was one of four finalist compositions in the 1992 Detroit Symphony Orchestra Unisys African-American Composers Forum competition. Baiocchi attended Roosevelt University (B.A. composition), the Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute of Design, and New York University (Public Relations Certificate). Etude No. 2, subtitled "Equipoise by Intersection," is the second of Two Piano Etudes which combine serial techniques with tonal references and layers of poly-rhythms.

Dolores White (b. Chicago) earned a bachelor's degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and continued studies at Teacher's College, Columbia University. She also studied piano privately with James Friskin in New York. In 1975, she completed her master's degree at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied composition and orchestration with Donald Erb, Eugene O'Brien, and Marcel Dick. She did post-graduate work with Thomas Wells at Ohio State University. White is assistant professor of music at Cuyahoga Community College and performs frequently in the Cleveland area. Her works include many songs, piano compositions, choral works, instrumental arrangements of Negro spirituals, and pieces in the jazz idiom. Blues Dialogues combines the blues idiom with 20th-century compositional techniques.

Nora Douglas Holt (1885-1974) was born in Kansas City, Kansas and graduated from Western University at Quindaro, Kansas. She continued her studies at Chicago Musical College. In 1918 she became the first Negro in the U.S. to receive a master's degree in music. Her thesis composition was an orchestral work, Rhapsody on Negro Themes. The following year she co-founded the National Association of Negro Musicians. She went abroad for 12 years, singing at exclusive night clubs and private parties in Paris, Monte Carlo, London, Rome, Tokyo, and Shanghai. On her return to the United States, she finally settled in New York City, where she was music critic for the Amsterdam News from 1943 to 1956 and producer/director of WLIB radio's Concert Showcase from 1953-1964. She composed some 200 works, including orchestral music, chamber music, and songs. When she departed for Europe, she placed all the manuscripts in storage, and on her return, discovered that they had been stolen. Negro Dance is the one piece that survived because it was published in her short-lived journal Music and Poetry (1921). Its style is reminiscent of ragtime, with a generally steady left hand accompaniment and syncopated right hand melody.

Florence Smith Price (1887-1953) began her studies in her hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, and was performing in public by the age of four. By age 11 had published one of her own compositions. She entered Boston's New England Conservatory of Music in 1903, and in 1906 completed her degree in organ performance and piano pedagogy, returning to Little Rock to teach at the Cotton Plant Arkadelphia Academy. After further teaching at Shorter College and Clark University, she settled in Little Rock, where she taught and composed. In 1926 the Prices moved to Chicago due to increasing racial violence in Little Rock.

Price's Symphony in E Minor won the Rodman Wanamaker Contest in 1932, attracting the attention of Frederick Stock, conductor of the Chicago Symphony, who conducted it at the Chicago World's Fair of 1933. Her orchestral works were subsequently performed in Manchester, England (a commission from conductor Sir John Barbirolli); Detroit; Pittsburgh; and Brooklyn. Price ranks as one of the pioneer black symphonists, along with William Grant Still and William Dawson. Her works reflect the influence of Dvorák, the Bohemian nationalist composer who urged American composers to make use of their own native music, particularly Negro folk songs and spirituals. Price's works reflect the influence of Dvorák, the Bohemian nationalist composer who urged American composers to make use of their own native music, particularly Negro folk songs and spirituals. Fantasie Negre is dedicated "To my talented little friend, Margaret A. Bonds." Composed in 1929, it is her first ambitious work for piano, and combines Negro melodic and rhythmic idioms with classical European forms and techniques, presenting ternary and variation forms in florid fantasia-style. The theme is the spiritual, Sinner, Please Don't Let This Harvest Pass.




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