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UNDINE SMITH MOORE
● Renowned musician, composer and teacher who grew up in Petersburg, Virginia during the height of racial segregation.
● Moore recounts one of her earliest childhood memories as being banned from attending the theatre. Nevertheless, Moore claimed that, “The lives of black people in Petersburg were saturated with music of one kind or another… There was never a lack of places to perform on whatever level one was able- the Sunday school, the church, the church socials and suppers.”
● Moore’s music was heavily impacted by the Civil Rights Movement and even though she composed over one hundred works in her lifetime, only twenty-six were published while Moore was still living.
● Her compositions range from instrumental pieces and choral works to spirituals and chamber music.
● Scenes from the Life of a Martyr - Oratorio nominated for a Pulitzer Prize debuted at Carnegie Hall. This oratorio was composed of 16 parts for orchestra, narration, chorus, and vocal solos and was based around Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. This prolific work is said to have taken Moore over five years to compose.
● Often referred to as the “Dean of Black Women Composers” as she always used her voice to uplift and “advocate for the promotion of black music and art: in her opinion, art could be used as a powerful agent for social change.”
● However, despite Moore’s wide advances in composition, she always had a profound love and respect for teaching and was quoted saying “It is a great thing to be a musician…the only thing that matches it is perhaps the opportunity to be a teacher.”
1887 - 1953
● Florence Beatrice Price was a trailblazer of her time not only gaining recognition for African American composers, but also female composers.
● Price can be noted as the “first African American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra.”
● Born in Arkansas, she demonstrated her musical gift as a young child, playing her first piano recital at age four and completing her first composition at just age eleven!
● Attended the prestigious New England Conservatory at the age of sixteen, later graduating with not one but two diplomas at only nineteen.
● Price returned to Arkansas to teach after graduating from New England Conservatory and soon after lost contact with most of her immediate family following her father’s untimely passing when Price was only twenty-three.
● Several years later Price married and began to build her family, having two daughters. However, racial tensions were beginning to escalate during this time in the South and Jim Crow laws were in full effect. Due to these laws Price was unable to get a teaching position at the local university even though she was more than qualified. This paired with local lynchings and a threat on Price’s daughters life led the family to flee to Chicago, Illinois.
● Price and her husband divorced and she raised their two daughters.
● “To make ends meet, she worked as an organist for silent film screenings and composed songs for radio ads under a pen name."
● "During this time, Price lived with friends and eventually moved in with her student and friend, Margaret Bonds also a black pianist and composer.” Her connection with Bonds would later lead to her close workings with the famous writer Langston Hughes who created the text to “Songs to the Dark Virgin.” Additionally, through Bonds, Price was able to meet and work closely with world renowned contralto Marian Anderson, who premiered many of Price’s vocal works including “Songs to the Dark Virgin.” In fact, it is said that “Songs to the Dark Virgin” was made an “immediate success” mostly to Anderson’s performance of it.
● Price composed over three hundred works during her lifetime, but didn’t received the recognition she deserved due not only to her race but also her gender.
● After passing away in Chicago, most of Price’s compositions remained lost until almost fifty years later in 2009 when they were discovered during renovations in an attic of a home that had once belonged to Price’s daughter.
● Florence Price faced a never-ending uphill battle in life due to ongoing issues with segregation, but her determination and breathtaking compositions have successfully left their mark on history and helped pave the way for future women and African-American composers.
FEDERICO MORENO TORROBA
1891 - 1982
● Born in Madrid, Spain and spent his life devoted to composing and promoting the performance of Zarzuela. Zarzuela is a comic genre of opera that showcases the Spanish language and includes dance and sometimes popular song. Although originating in Spain, zarzuela rose to popularity in other countries in Latin America like Mexico and Cuba and are still widely performed.
● Composed operas even in the last years of his life publishing “El Poeta” in 1980 at the age of ninety.
● Composed over eighty zarzuelas
● Composed over one hundred classical guitar works that were influenced heavily by “Spanish folk music.”
● Torroba was not only one of the most successful composers of his time in Spain, but also conducted, and even managed multiple opera companies simultaneously.
● His continued advocacy for works embodying Spanish culture and language helped pioneer an additional form of opera that is still loved and respected today.
One of Torroba’s most successful works that is continuously performed internationally is his zarzuela “Luisa Fernanda” which has illustrious, distinct melodies that stay with the listener.