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Songs by Women

Joyce Hope Suskind began her musical studies as a pianist. She attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City and was first oboist with the American Youth Orchestra under Dean Dixon. Entering the Juilliard School on an oboe scholarship, she later transferred her major to voice and went on to become a specialist in 20th Century music. As a pianist, she played for the Martha Graham School and the Jose Limon wing at Juilliard. It was in this capacity that she discovered her talent for composing. She composed a score for a Balinese dance using gamelans and other instruments, commissioned by Lehman College; a revue presented in Oxford, England; and a musical based on Moliere's "The Doctor in Spite of Himself." Suskind has dedicated most of her composing life to setting poems of William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), with two scored for orchestra. In addition to Yeats, she has set Aiken, Stevenson, Auden, Hopkins and others. Ms. Suskind resides in New York City, where she teaches singing and the Alexander Technique.

Ruth Schonthal (1924-2006), composer and pianist, taught at New York University and the Westchester Conservatory of Music. She was a finalist in the Kennedy Center Friedheim competition and the New York City Opera competition. A German biography by Dr. Martina Helmig, Ruth Schonthal, "Ein Werdegang im Exil" will be published in English. Furore Verlag in Kassel, Germany, is publishing her complete output and will act as distributor for her works published by seven other publishers.

"The song cycle Frühe Lieder (Early Songs) was written between 1940-1944. I wrote the first one when I was fifteen while living in Stockholm, where I took private composition lessons from Ingemar Liljefors in addition to my studies at the Royal Academy of Music. The other songs were written in Mexico, where our family settled in 1941 and where I studied with the eminent composer Manuel M. Ponce. The Rilke poems were among the few German books our family could save during our flight from the Nazis and subsequent travels from our erstwhile Berlin home. I composed the piano part and the melodic setting of the poems simultaneously, playing and singing, hearing the vocal line and the piano part as an entity. The text inspired me and gave the settings their form and emotional content.

The Early Songs received many performances by some of the most prominent singers in Mexico. In the Spring of 1946, wanting desperately to come to the U.S., I showed the songs, together with my first Piano Concerto, which had just been premiered with myself as soloist, to Paul Hindemith, who was then on a conducting tour in Mexico. Hindemith opined that these songs were very beautiful, 'but one does not write like this anymore.' He obtained a full scholarship for me to study with him at Yale, however. I regarded the songs as a 'youthful sin,' and they lay dormant in the my closet for over 40 years until some inquiries and requests made me pull them out of oblivion."

Elisenda Fábregas, composer, pianist and teacher, was born in Terrasa, Barcelona. She earned a doctor of musical arts degree from the Barcelona Conservatory and has been living in the U.S. since 1978, when a postdoctoral Fulbright grant brought her to the Juilliard School. She earned another doctorate in music at Columbia University, and began composing in 1985, working with several dance companies and choreographers in New York City, including Jerome Robbins, Hector Zaraspe, Janet Soares, Anna Sokolow and the Maria the Benitez Spanish Dance Company. 

Her works have been commissioned and performed by numerous groups and soloists, including the Dale Warland Singers, Orchestra of Santa Fe and the Texas Music Teachers Association. Fábregas received the Shepherd distinguished Composer of the Year Award for 2001 from the Music Teachers National Association in Washington, D.C. Her music has been heard throughout the U.S. and in Mexico, Canada, Spain, Germany, The Czech Republic, Taiwan, Japan and China.

Elizabeth R. Austin  received her early musical training at the Peabody Conservatory Preparatory Department in Baltimore. She was an undergraduate music student when Nadia Boulanger visited Goucher College and awarded her a scholarship to study at the Conservatoire Americaine in Fontainebleau, France. Elizabeth Austin has taught composition and theory at various music institutions in Hartford, Connecticut. Her association with the Hartt School of Music, where she earned a Master's in Music while on the faculty, included the establishment of a faculty/student exchange with the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Heidelberg-Mannheim. While studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, she won First Prize in the David Lipscomb Electronic Music Competition. 

Other awards include a Rockfeller Foundation grant for a month-long residency in Italy, a Connecticut Commission on the Arts grant, selection by GEDOK (Society of Women Artists in German-speaking countries) to represent the Mannheim-Ludwigshafen region in the 70th-year anniversary exhibition, and First Prize in the International Alliance for Women in Music's 1998 Miriam Gideon Competition. Austin's music has been performed in Prague, Rome, Finland, Germany, the Caribbean and America. She divides her time between Germany and the U.S., promoting an exchange of people and ideas through internationally sponsored projects, including composer exchanges. She is President of Connecticut Composers, Inc. and is a church organist.




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