Florence Beatrice Price
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Florence Beatrice Price (1887-1953) is the first African American woman to have an orchestral piece played by a major American orchestra. Her Symphony in E Minor was performed by Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933.
Price began her studies at the age of 16 with the New England Conservatory, where she earned two artist diplomas. Her early career was as an educator based in the South, first in Little Rock, AK, and then eventually as the head of the music department at Clark University in Atlanta until 1912. Following racial incidents in 1927, her family joined the Great Migration to the north and settled in Chicago.
This move led to a burst of compositional creativity and widespread recognition for Price’s compositions beginning in the 1930s. By the end of her life, Price’s works numbered over 300 (unfortunately, most remain unpublished). She is perhaps best known for her vocal works (including two songs that appear on baritone Thomas Hampson’s 2018 Cedille album, “Songs from Chicago”). Price’s Spiritual arrangements were frequently performed by singers such as Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price and remain important to the American vocal canon.
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