Florence B Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. Growing up in a place and time of deep racism, it was her mother who taught her music from a young age after she was denied music education from the city.
She attended New England Conservatory in 1903 to study piano, organ, and composition, and planned to return to bring music education back to her hometown. However, after a series of violent, racially-charged events, Price relocated to Chicago in 1927, where her music career greatly accelerated. Trained in the European classical tradition, she infuses her work with and the haunting melodies of African American spirituals, folk tunes and vernacular dances.
She went on to have a prolific career, writing dozens of orchestral, vocal, instrumental, and chamber works. In the 1890s, American musicians hotly debated whether African-American vernacular music like spirituals or dances from before the Civil War could form the basis of a national musical style; her Symphony No. 1 in E Minor proves that they could.
Florence Beatrice Price was the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition performed by a major orchestra when The Chicago Symphony premiered it in 1933.
Her vocal compositions gained great recognition as well, notably with the Easter Sunday performance of her song I am Bound for the Kingdom in 1939 by Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Price's friendship with writers such as Langston Hughes and others from the Harlem Renaissance led to notable collaborations.
The Piano Concerto in One Movement premiered in 1934 with Price performing as soloist.
Sometimes we tend to shrug off such platforms as Black History Month. It is indeed sad that in our society there is still so much forgotten or suppressed great art that we even need such a showcase. I hope you are enjoy encountering some of those great minds and talents. Let me know if there are any particular musicians or composers you would like to learn more about and to share with us.
The Dranoff 2 Piano Foundation