Women Composers

Women Composers

Learn more about Women's History Month and the influence of women in music as composers, conductors, performers and more!

Lera Auerbach

October 21, 1973 -

Modern Period

Born in Russia

Lera Auerbach is a Soviet-Russian born American pianist and composer whose works are frequently commissioned by a variety of artists and ensembles including Gidon Kremer, the NDR Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Danish Ballet.

 


Amy Beach

September 05, 1867 -

Late Romantic Period

Born in USA

Amy Beach was the first American woman to find success as a composer. She was born Amy Cheney in New Hampshire, and later moved to Boston, where she became well known as a pianist and composer. Amy could play by ear any music she heard, and at the age of four, she composed her first piano pieces in her head. Her mother actually taught her to play the piano when she was six, and at seven she gave her first public performance.

After her marriage to Dr. Henry Beach, she turned her focus to composing, and only gave recitals once a year. Beach was first known for her art songs, but then received national and international attention for her larger works, including a symphony, violin sonata and piano quintet. Many of her works have returned to the concert stage, and hundreds have been recorded.

 


Hildegard von Bingen

January 01, 1098 - September 17, 1179

Early Music Period

Born in Germany

Hildegard von Bingen (Hildegard of Bingen) was a German nun who established her own convent, and was famous for her prophecies and miracles. In addition to writing poetry, she wrote books about religion and medicine – and she composed music. Only 77 songs of hers remain after all these years.

 


Nadia Boulanger

September 16, 1887 - 1979

Modern Period

Born in France

Nadia Boulanger is most known as a teacher, although she also was a successful composer and conductor. She was one of the founding members of the American Conservatory of Fontainebleau and also taught at the Paris Conservatory. She had a heavy influence on twentieth-century music because she taught many of its leading composers including Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, and Astor Piazzolla.

 


Francesca Caccini

September 18, 1587 - 1640

Baroque Period

Born in Itlay

Singer, composer, and teacher, Francesca Caccini came from a musical family. She was  the daughter of famous composer Giulio Caccini and made her debut singing her father's music at the wedding of Marie de' Medici and Henry IV. Henry IV was so impressed by her talent that he requested she join his court as a musician. Her father claimed that she was not granted permission from her current family of service, the Grand Duke Ferdinando de' Medici of Tuscany. Some scholars, however, believe Giulio made a false claim, not wanting to lose control over his daughter.

In 1607, when Caccini was just 20, she was appointed to sing and compose for the court of the Grand-Duke of Tuscany by the Grand Duchess Christine de Lorraine, who controlled the court at the time. The fact that the court was controlled by a woman likely helped Caccini's career to blossom, giving her more opportunities than she may have experienced otherwise.

Caccini's talent was respected and she worked hard to establish her career—a difficult task for a woman in that era. That being said, she still held the status of a servant in the court. Sadly, many of her works were lost following her lifetime.

 


Cecile Chaminade

August 08, 1857 -

Late Romantic Period

Born in France

Cecile Chaminade received her first music lessons from her mother, who was a pianist and singer. When Cecile wanted to study at the Paris Conservatory, her father wouldn’t let her, so she wound up being taught privately by Conservatory professors. She especially focused on composing and her works were well received. She promoted sales of her music through concert tours and performed regularly in England, often as a guest of Queen Victoria.

She also became popular in the United States, where she 12 cities in 1908. Considering the difficulties she faced as a woman composer, the large number of her compositions - almost 200 piano works and 125 songs - is worthy of note.

 


Rebecca Clarke

August 27, 1886 - 1979

Modern Period

Born in England

Rebecca Clarke was an English composer and performer who lived during the early twentieth century. She began her music studies early, being forced along with her siblings to perform on demand for their father. She received her first formal education from the Royal Academy of Music, but her father forced her to withdraw after he received word that one of her teachers proposed marriage.

After withdrawing from the Royal Academy of Music, Rebecca went on to become Charles Stanford's first female student at the Royal College of Music. He encouraged her to switch her instrument from violin to viola, with which she would later tour internationally.

Though Rebecca was thrown out of her home in her twenties, she did not despair. Instead, she used the opportunity to focus more on her musical studies and performance schedule. Some of her notable accomplishments include becoming the first female to play with the Queen's Hall Orchestra as well as founding her own female ensemble – the English Ensemble piano quartet.

 


Elizabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre

March 17, 1665 - 1729

Baroque Period

Born in France

Elizabeth Claude de la Guerre was one of the earliest-known female composers who lived and worked during the Baroque era. She was born into a musical family of organists and even later married an organist! She herself was a prodigy, first performing for King Louis XIV at age five. She was known for writing works for the keyboard, chamber music, and vocal music. After the loss of both her husband and son, she retreated from the public eye and focused more on in-home concerts and composition.

 


Louise Farrenc

May 31, 1804 - 1875

Romantic Period

Born in France

Louise Farrenc was a pianist, teacher, and composer. She taught piano at the Paris Conservatory for 30 years and was also considered to be one of the greatest female composers of the nineteenth century. She wrote music for the piano as well as for chamber groups and orchestra. She was encouraged to pursue music studies by her husband, Aristide Farrenc, who owned a publishing house that published Louise's music.

 


Gabriela Lena Frank

September 26, 1972 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Gabriela Lena Frank is a concert pianist and award-winning composer who has written works for major artists including Yo-Yo Ma, as well as some of the world’s best chamber groups and orchestras. Her mother was from Peruvian/Chinese descent and her father from Lithuanian/Jewish descent. This multi-cultural heritage has influenced many of her compositions. She also finds inspiration in the works of Bela Bartok and Alberto Ginastera, as well as Latin-American folklore.

 


Jennifer Higdon

December 31, 1962 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Jennifer Higdon was born in Brooklyn, New York. She originally studied flute at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, but then went to the University of Pennsylvania for degrees in composition. She has studied composition with George Crumb and Ned Rorem, and conducting with Robert Spano. Now, she teaches composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her works have been recorded on over two-dozen CDs. In 2004, her CD Concerto for Orchestra / City Scape, recorded by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, won a Grammy Award. Her composition, blue cathedral is one of the most performed orchestra works by a living composer.

 


Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

October 10, 1666 - June 27, 1729

Baroque Period

Born in France

Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was the daughter of Claude Jacquet, an organist and harpsichordist who taught all his children – boys and girls – to play. Elizabeth played and sang so well that French King Louis XIV allowed her to perform in public at a time when women weren’t allowed to do that. She started performing in court when she was 5, and only left to get married to another keyboard player, organist Marin de La Guerre.

Like most harpsichordists of her day, Elizabeth was well known for her improvisations. She was the first woman in France to write an opera, and also wrote sonatas and cantatas, which were new forms at the time.

 


Libby Larsen

December 24, 1950 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

American composer Libby Larsen was born in Delaware, but now lives in Minnesota. She has written songs, chamber music, symphonies, and operas for both children and grown-ups. She is a strong advocate for music education and for women in music. In 1973, she founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now called the American Composers Forum, to link composers to communities and develop more opportunities for new music. She has received many awards for her work, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a 1994 Grammy Award for the recording that includes her song cycle Sonnets from the Portuguese.

 


Tania Leon

May 14, 1943 -

Modern Period

Born in Cuba

Cuban-born composer and conductor Tania Leon has won numerous awards for her work. She has received commissions from the world’s most prestigious ensembles including the LA Master Chorale, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. She is the founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the founder and artistic director of Composers Now, a non-profit in New York City that serves to empower living composers. She also has served as the U.S. Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain. She currently works as a professor at Brooklyn College and at the Graduate Center of CUNY.

 


Lili’uokalani

September 02, 1838 - 1917

Romantic Period

Born in USA

Lili’uokalani was the last monarch of Hawaii before the island became a territory, and later a state of the United States of America. She was known for writing songs in her spare time and composed 160 during her lifetime.

 


Marianna Martines

May 04, 1744 - 1812

Classical Period

Born in Austria

Marianna Martines began her studies in music at a young age, learning from several important names in music history including Franz Joseph Haydn. She studied voice, piano, and composition, and write her first piece of music when she was just twelve years old. Marianna was elected to the Musical Academy of Bologna and also founded a singing school. She was known for holding weekly musical soirees, or parties, in her home that attracted many well-known individuals in Vienna at the time.

 


Missy Mazzoli

October 27, 1980 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Missy Mazzoli is a successful composer whose music has been performed by many major artists including the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, Emanuel Ax, the New York City Opera, the LA Philharmonic, and many more. She recently founded Luna Lab, a mentorship program for young female composers. Missy is also a performer. She plays piano and often performs with Victoire, a band she founded in 2008 that focuses on performing her works.

 


Fanny Mendelssohn

November 14, 1805 -

Romantic Period

Born in Germany

Fanny Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. As a kid, Fanny took music lessons and performed with her younger brother Felix, who also grew up to be a famous musician. They both played the piano and composed. They also liked to put on plays. Their father had no problem with his son being a professional musician, but he told Fanny that there was only one suitable thing for her to become: a housewife. Fanny did get married, to an artist named Wilhelm Hensel, after which she was known as Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. He encouraged her to compose.

When Fanny and Felix were children, the Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts in their home. Much of the music Fanny composed was for those performances. Even though she never had the career her brother Felix did, Fanny wrote over 400 pieces of music. She is especially known for her songs and her "Songs Without Words" small pieces for solo piano.

Listen to a special show about women composers including Fanny Mendelssohn.

 


Thea Musgrave

May 27, 1928 -

Modern Period

Born in Scotland

Thea Musgrave was born in Scotland but now lives in the United States. Her music includes everything from huge operas to very small choral pieces. Just like Aaron Copland, she studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger – and later, she studied with Copland as well.

Musgrave is highly regarded as an opera composer and has achieved much success with her works for the stage. She has been also recognized for her work developing and promoting opera in Norfolk, Virginia.

Naomi recently created this profile of Thea Musgrave for NPR's Here & Now progam.

 


Florence Price

April 09, 1887 - 1953

Modern Period

Born in USA

Florence Price is most known as the first African American woman to have her work performed by a major American orchestra. She studied with George Chadwick at the New England Conservatory and later wrote radio jingles and popular songs in addition to her more serious compositions.

 


Kaija Saariaho

October 14, 1952 -

Modern Period

Born in Finland

Award-winning Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is known for combining live music with electronics. Her work at the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music in Paris has influenced her compositions. Though she is mostly known for her chamber music, she has also written several larger-scale works including opera.

 


Clara Schumann

September 13, 1819 -

Romantic Period

Born in Germany

Before she was even born, Clara Schumann's father had determined that she would be a star at the keyboard. Her father, Fredrich Wieck, was a piano teacher, and he saw to it that she studied music, performed and composed - all at an early age. Clara toured all over Europe, wowing audiences with her playing, and her compositions.

When Clara fell in love with Robert Schumann, who was studying with her father, Friedrich Wieck tried hard to stop them from getting married. It took years -- and a court battle -- before Robert and Clara could finally get married. But Clara and Robert Schumann became one of the greatest musical partnerships of all time. She gave the first performance of many of his pieces, including his piano concerto and was a tremendous influence on his music. She also premiered works by Chopin and Brahms. Even though she gave birth to eight children, and had great family responsibilities, Robert encouraged her compose. When Robert got sick, and after his early death, Clara supported her family by giving concerts and teaching. She continued to perform into her 70's.

Listen to a special show about Clara Schumann.

 


Caroline Shaw

1982 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Caroline Shaw is a vocalist, violinist, composer, and producer who is known for being the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music. She frequently receives commissions from the world’s greatest musicians and ensembles including the Dover Quartet, Anne Sofie von Otter, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

 


Ethel Smyth

April 23, 1858 - 1944

Romantic Period

Born in England

Ethel Smyth was a respected English composer of her time and known for her chamber music, orchestral works, vocal scores, and opera.

Ethel was born into a successful family who didn't understand why she sought to follow her ambitions to become a composer. At that time, it was uncommon for women to pursue a career in this way. She studied for a period at the Leipzig Conservatory and then left to study privately. Her work met the approval of big-name composers of her time including Brahms, Clara Schumann, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky. An advocate for women's rights, Ethel sometimes would allow her political views to seep into her work. She lost her hearing later in life, and at that point devoted herself to writing prose.

 


Barbara Strozzi

August 06, 1619 - 1677

Baroque Period

Born in Itlay

Barbara Strozzi was the adopted daughter of the librettist and poet Giulio Strozzi. She grew up surrounded by intellectuals in Giulio's Venetian group, the Academy of the Unknowns. Once he discovered that Barbara exhibited musical talent, he formed a subset of the group, the Academy of the Likeminded, in which he allowed Barbara to preside over, singing and suggesting topics for group discussion. 

Barbara was declared a virtuoso by 15, and Giulio did his best to publicize her throughout his circles in Venice and do everything he could to cultivate her talent. He even wrote many texts himself, and then worked to get the accompanying music dedicated to her. He also arranged for her to study with Francesco Cavalli. In addition to being a celebrated singer, Barbara Strozzi also composed. Some scholars even say she may have even originated the cantata form in Italy!

 


Ellen Taafe Zwilich

April 30, 1939 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Ellen Taafe Zwilich was the first female to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music. She has written many impressive works, commissioned and performed by the world’s top ensembles. She received her education from Juilliard and currently holds a professorship at Florida State University.

 


Germaine Tailleferre

April 19, 1892 -

Modern Period

Born in France

Germaine Tailleferre was born in Paris and had early success as a pianist. When she was 12, she started studying at the Paris Conservatory to study, where she won many prizes. Erik Satie was so impressed with one of her piano compositions that he called her his “musical daughter,” and promoted her career. She went on to become the only female member of “Les Six,” a group of prominent French composers. She composed concertos, sonatas,operas, ballets, and film music.

Although most of her acclaim occurred early in her career, Tailleferre composed and taught throughout her life. She was especially devoted to children and their music.

 


Anna Thorvaldsdottir

July 11, 1977 -

Modern Period

Born in Iceland

Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir is a modern-day composer whose music is frequently performed internationally. In her online biography, Anna’s style is described to “portray a flowing world of sounds with enigmatic lyrical atmosphere.”

 


Joan Tower

September 06, 1938 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Joan Tower is an American composer, pianist and conductor. She was born in New Rochelle, New York, but spent her childhood in South America where she fell in love with rhythm and percussion instruments. Tower has never written for voices, just instruments, and many of her compositions were created with particular performers in mind. She has won many awards and commissions, served as composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and taught at Bard College.

 


Joan Trimble

June 18, 1915 -

Modern Period

Born in Ireland

Joan Trimble was born in Enniskillen, Ireland. As a student at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, she was awarded scholarships in piano, violin and composition. She then studied with Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music in London. Joan and her sister Valerie toured as a two-piano duo.

 


Maria Theresa von Paradis

May 15, 1759 - 1824

Classical Period

Born in Austria

Maria Theresa von Paradis was a pianist, singer, and composer. It was uncommon for a woman to succeed in music during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries but she overcame that obstacle, as well as the blindness that she developed as a child. She studied with several prominent musicians of the day including Antonio Salieri. Paradis is also known for founding a school for the blind and a music school for girls.

 


Women's History Month

-

Born in

March is Women's History Month so we will look at the influence of women in music, including these Women Composers.

 


Chen Yi

April 04, 1953 -

Modern Period

Born in China

Award-winning composer Chen Yi is known for blending Chinese and Western traditions in her music. She currently works as a music professor at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has served as composer-in-residence for the Women’s Philharmonic, Chanticleer, and the Aptos Creative Arts Center.

 



 

Women Composers

Women Composers

Learn more about Women's History Month and the influence of women in music as composers, conductors, performers and more!

Lera Auerbach

October 21, 1973 -

Modern Period

Born in Russia

Lera Auerbach is a Soviet-Russian born American pianist and composer whose works are frequently commissioned by a variety of artists and ensembles including Gidon Kremer, the NDR Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Danish Ballet.

 


Amy Beach

September 05, 1867 -

Late Romantic Period

Born in USA

Amy Beach was the first American woman to find success as a composer. She was born Amy Cheney in New Hampshire, and later moved to Boston, where she became well known as a pianist and composer. Amy could play by ear any music she heard, and at the age of four, she composed her first piano pieces in her head. Her mother actually taught her to play the piano when she was six, and at seven she gave her first public performance.

After her marriage to Dr. Henry Beach, she turned her focus to composing, and only gave recitals once a year. Beach was first known for her art songs, but then received national and international attention for her larger works, including a symphony, violin sonata and piano quintet. Many of her works have returned to the concert stage, and hundreds have been recorded.

 


Hildegard von Bingen

January 01, 1098 - September 17, 1179

Early Music Period

Born in Germany

Hildegard von Bingen (Hildegard of Bingen) was a German nun who established her own convent, and was famous for her prophecies and miracles. In addition to writing poetry, she wrote books about religion and medicine – and she composed music. Only 77 songs of hers remain after all these years.

 


Nadia Boulanger

September 16, 1887 - 1979

Modern Period

Born in France

Nadia Boulanger is most known as a teacher, although she also was a successful composer and conductor. She was one of the founding members of the American Conservatory of Fontainebleau and also taught at the Paris Conservatory. She had a heavy influence on twentieth-century music because she taught many of its leading composers including Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, and Astor Piazzolla.

 


Francesca Caccini

September 18, 1587 - 1640

Baroque Period

Born in Itlay

Singer, composer, and teacher, Francesca Caccini came from a musical family. She was  the daughter of famous composer Giulio Caccini and made her debut singing her father's music at the wedding of Marie de' Medici and Henry IV. Henry IV was so impressed by her talent that he requested she join his court as a musician. Her father claimed that she was not granted permission from her current family of service, the Grand Duke Ferdinando de' Medici of Tuscany. Some scholars, however, believe Giulio made a false claim, not wanting to lose control over his daughter.

In 1607, when Caccini was just 20, she was appointed to sing and compose for the court of the Grand-Duke of Tuscany by the Grand Duchess Christine de Lorraine, who controlled the court at the time. The fact that the court was controlled by a woman likely helped Caccini's career to blossom, giving her more opportunities than she may have experienced otherwise.

Caccini's talent was respected and she worked hard to establish her career—a difficult task for a woman in that era. That being said, she still held the status of a servant in the court. Sadly, many of her works were lost following her lifetime.

 


Cecile Chaminade

August 08, 1857 -

Late Romantic Period

Born in France

Cecile Chaminade received her first music lessons from her mother, who was a pianist and singer. When Cecile wanted to study at the Paris Conservatory, her father wouldn’t let her, so she wound up being taught privately by Conservatory professors. She especially focused on composing and her works were well received. She promoted sales of her music through concert tours and performed regularly in England, often as a guest of Queen Victoria.

She also became popular in the United States, where she 12 cities in 1908. Considering the difficulties she faced as a woman composer, the large number of her compositions - almost 200 piano works and 125 songs - is worthy of note.

 


Rebecca Clarke

August 27, 1886 - 1979

Modern Period

Born in England

Rebecca Clarke was an English composer and performer who lived during the early twentieth century. She began her music studies early, being forced along with her siblings to perform on demand for their father. She received her first formal education from the Royal Academy of Music, but her father forced her to withdraw after he received word that one of her teachers proposed marriage.

After withdrawing from the Royal Academy of Music, Rebecca went on to become Charles Stanford's first female student at the Royal College of Music. He encouraged her to switch her instrument from violin to viola, with which she would later tour internationally.

Though Rebecca was thrown out of her home in her twenties, she did not despair. Instead, she used the opportunity to focus more on her musical studies and performance schedule. Some of her notable accomplishments include becoming the first female to play with the Queen's Hall Orchestra as well as founding her own female ensemble – the English Ensemble piano quartet.

 


Elizabeth Claude Jacquet de la Guerre

March 17, 1665 - 1729

Baroque Period

Born in France

Elizabeth Claude de la Guerre was one of the earliest-known female composers who lived and worked during the Baroque era. She was born into a musical family of organists and even later married an organist! She herself was a prodigy, first performing for King Louis XIV at age five. She was known for writing works for the keyboard, chamber music, and vocal music. After the loss of both her husband and son, she retreated from the public eye and focused more on in-home concerts and composition.

 


Louise Farrenc

May 31, 1804 - 1875

Romantic Period

Born in France

Louise Farrenc was a pianist, teacher, and composer. She taught piano at the Paris Conservatory for 30 years and was also considered to be one of the greatest female composers of the nineteenth century. She wrote music for the piano as well as for chamber groups and orchestra. She was encouraged to pursue music studies by her husband, Aristide Farrenc, who owned a publishing house that published Louise's music.

 


Gabriela Lena Frank

September 26, 1972 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Gabriela Lena Frank is a concert pianist and award-winning composer who has written works for major artists including Yo-Yo Ma, as well as some of the world’s best chamber groups and orchestras. Her mother was from Peruvian/Chinese descent and her father from Lithuanian/Jewish descent. This multi-cultural heritage has influenced many of her compositions. She also finds inspiration in the works of Bela Bartok and Alberto Ginastera, as well as Latin-American folklore.

 


Jennifer Higdon

December 31, 1962 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Jennifer Higdon was born in Brooklyn, New York. She originally studied flute at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, but then went to the University of Pennsylvania for degrees in composition. She has studied composition with George Crumb and Ned Rorem, and conducting with Robert Spano. Now, she teaches composition at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her works have been recorded on over two-dozen CDs. In 2004, her CD Concerto for Orchestra / City Scape, recorded by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, won a Grammy Award. Her composition, blue cathedral is one of the most performed orchestra works by a living composer.

 


Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre

October 10, 1666 - June 27, 1729

Baroque Period

Born in France

Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was the daughter of Claude Jacquet, an organist and harpsichordist who taught all his children – boys and girls – to play. Elizabeth played and sang so well that French King Louis XIV allowed her to perform in public at a time when women weren’t allowed to do that. She started performing in court when she was 5, and only left to get married to another keyboard player, organist Marin de La Guerre.

Like most harpsichordists of her day, Elizabeth was well known for her improvisations. She was the first woman in France to write an opera, and also wrote sonatas and cantatas, which were new forms at the time.

 


Libby Larsen

December 24, 1950 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

American composer Libby Larsen was born in Delaware, but now lives in Minnesota. She has written songs, chamber music, symphonies, and operas for both children and grown-ups. She is a strong advocate for music education and for women in music. In 1973, she founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now called the American Composers Forum, to link composers to communities and develop more opportunities for new music. She has received many awards for her work, including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a 1994 Grammy Award for the recording that includes her song cycle Sonnets from the Portuguese.

 


Tania Leon

May 14, 1943 -

Modern Period

Born in Cuba

Cuban-born composer and conductor Tania Leon has won numerous awards for her work. She has received commissions from the world’s most prestigious ensembles including the LA Master Chorale, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. She is the founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the founder and artistic director of Composers Now, a non-profit in New York City that serves to empower living composers. She also has served as the U.S. Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain. She currently works as a professor at Brooklyn College and at the Graduate Center of CUNY.

 


Lili’uokalani

September 02, 1838 - 1917

Romantic Period

Born in USA

Lili’uokalani was the last monarch of Hawaii before the island became a territory, and later a state of the United States of America. She was known for writing songs in her spare time and composed 160 during her lifetime.

 


Marianna Martines

May 04, 1744 - 1812

Classical Period

Born in Austria

Marianna Martines began her studies in music at a young age, learning from several important names in music history including Franz Joseph Haydn. She studied voice, piano, and composition, and write her first piece of music when she was just twelve years old. Marianna was elected to the Musical Academy of Bologna and also founded a singing school. She was known for holding weekly musical soirees, or parties, in her home that attracted many well-known individuals in Vienna at the time.

 


Missy Mazzoli

October 27, 1980 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Missy Mazzoli is a successful composer whose music has been performed by many major artists including the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, Emanuel Ax, the New York City Opera, the LA Philharmonic, and many more. She recently founded Luna Lab, a mentorship program for young female composers. Missy is also a performer. She plays piano and often performs with Victoire, a band she founded in 2008 that focuses on performing her works.

 


Fanny Mendelssohn

November 14, 1805 -

Romantic Period

Born in Germany

Fanny Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg, Germany, and grew up in Berlin. As a kid, Fanny took music lessons and performed with her younger brother Felix, who also grew up to be a famous musician. They both played the piano and composed. They also liked to put on plays. Their father had no problem with his son being a professional musician, but he told Fanny that there was only one suitable thing for her to become: a housewife. Fanny did get married, to an artist named Wilhelm Hensel, after which she was known as Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel. He encouraged her to compose.

When Fanny and Felix were children, the Mendelssohn family held regular Sunday afternoon concerts in their home. Much of the music Fanny composed was for those performances. Even though she never had the career her brother Felix did, Fanny wrote over 400 pieces of music. She is especially known for her songs and her "Songs Without Words" small pieces for solo piano.

Listen to a special show about women composers including Fanny Mendelssohn.

 


Thea Musgrave

May 27, 1928 -

Modern Period

Born in Scotland

Thea Musgrave was born in Scotland but now lives in the United States. Her music includes everything from huge operas to very small choral pieces. Just like Aaron Copland, she studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger – and later, she studied with Copland as well.

Musgrave is highly regarded as an opera composer and has achieved much success with her works for the stage. She has been also recognized for her work developing and promoting opera in Norfolk, Virginia.

Naomi recently created this profile of Thea Musgrave for NPR's Here & Now progam.

 


Florence Price

April 09, 1887 - 1953

Modern Period

Born in USA

Florence Price is most known as the first African American woman to have her work performed by a major American orchestra. She studied with George Chadwick at the New England Conservatory and later wrote radio jingles and popular songs in addition to her more serious compositions.

 


Kaija Saariaho

October 14, 1952 -

Modern Period

Born in Finland

Award-winning Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is known for combining live music with electronics. Her work at the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music in Paris has influenced her compositions. Though she is mostly known for her chamber music, she has also written several larger-scale works including opera.

 


Clara Schumann

September 13, 1819 -

Romantic Period

Born in Germany

Before she was even born, Clara Schumann's father had determined that she would be a star at the keyboard. Her father, Fredrich Wieck, was a piano teacher, and he saw to it that she studied music, performed and composed - all at an early age. Clara toured all over Europe, wowing audiences with her playing, and her compositions.

When Clara fell in love with Robert Schumann, who was studying with her father, Friedrich Wieck tried hard to stop them from getting married. It took years -- and a court battle -- before Robert and Clara could finally get married. But Clara and Robert Schumann became one of the greatest musical partnerships of all time. She gave the first performance of many of his pieces, including his piano concerto and was a tremendous influence on his music. She also premiered works by Chopin and Brahms. Even though she gave birth to eight children, and had great family responsibilities, Robert encouraged her compose. When Robert got sick, and after his early death, Clara supported her family by giving concerts and teaching. She continued to perform into her 70's.

Listen to a special show about Clara Schumann.

 


Caroline Shaw

1982 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Caroline Shaw is a vocalist, violinist, composer, and producer who is known for being the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music. She frequently receives commissions from the world’s greatest musicians and ensembles including the Dover Quartet, Anne Sofie von Otter, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

 


Ethel Smyth

April 23, 1858 - 1944

Romantic Period

Born in England

Ethel Smyth was a respected English composer of her time and known for her chamber music, orchestral works, vocal scores, and opera.

Ethel was born into a successful family who didn't understand why she sought to follow her ambitions to become a composer. At that time, it was uncommon for women to pursue a career in this way. She studied for a period at the Leipzig Conservatory and then left to study privately. Her work met the approval of big-name composers of her time including Brahms, Clara Schumann, Grieg, and Tchaikovsky. An advocate for women's rights, Ethel sometimes would allow her political views to seep into her work. She lost her hearing later in life, and at that point devoted herself to writing prose.

 


Barbara Strozzi

August 06, 1619 - 1677

Baroque Period

Born in Itlay

Barbara Strozzi was the adopted daughter of the librettist and poet Giulio Strozzi. She grew up surrounded by intellectuals in Giulio's Venetian group, the Academy of the Unknowns. Once he discovered that Barbara exhibited musical talent, he formed a subset of the group, the Academy of the Likeminded, in which he allowed Barbara to preside over, singing and suggesting topics for group discussion. 

Barbara was declared a virtuoso by 15, and Giulio did his best to publicize her throughout his circles in Venice and do everything he could to cultivate her talent. He even wrote many texts himself, and then worked to get the accompanying music dedicated to her. He also arranged for her to study with Francesco Cavalli. In addition to being a celebrated singer, Barbara Strozzi also composed. Some scholars even say she may have even originated the cantata form in Italy!

 


Ellen Taafe Zwilich

April 30, 1939 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Ellen Taafe Zwilich was the first female to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music. She has written many impressive works, commissioned and performed by the world’s top ensembles. She received her education from Juilliard and currently holds a professorship at Florida State University.

 


Germaine Tailleferre

April 19, 1892 -

Modern Period

Born in France

Germaine Tailleferre was born in Paris and had early success as a pianist. When she was 12, she started studying at the Paris Conservatory to study, where she won many prizes. Erik Satie was so impressed with one of her piano compositions that he called her his “musical daughter,” and promoted her career. She went on to become the only female member of “Les Six,” a group of prominent French composers. She composed concertos, sonatas,operas, ballets, and film music.

Although most of her acclaim occurred early in her career, Tailleferre composed and taught throughout her life. She was especially devoted to children and their music.

 


Anna Thorvaldsdottir

July 11, 1977 -

Modern Period

Born in Iceland

Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir is a modern-day composer whose music is frequently performed internationally. In her online biography, Anna’s style is described to “portray a flowing world of sounds with enigmatic lyrical atmosphere.”

 


Joan Tower

September 06, 1938 -

Modern Period

Born in USA

Joan Tower is an American composer, pianist and conductor. She was born in New Rochelle, New York, but spent her childhood in South America where she fell in love with rhythm and percussion instruments. Tower has never written for voices, just instruments, and many of her compositions were created with particular performers in mind. She has won many awards and commissions, served as composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and taught at Bard College.

 


Joan Trimble

June 18, 1915 -

Modern Period

Born in Ireland

Joan Trimble was born in Enniskillen, Ireland. As a student at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, she was awarded scholarships in piano, violin and composition. She then studied with Ralph Vaughan Williams at the Royal College of Music in London. Joan and her sister Valerie toured as a two-piano duo.

 


Maria Theresa von Paradis

May 15, 1759 - 1824

Classical Period

Born in Austria

Maria Theresa von Paradis was a pianist, singer, and composer. It was uncommon for a woman to succeed in music during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries but she overcame that obstacle, as well as the blindness that she developed as a child. She studied with several prominent musicians of the day including Antonio Salieri. Paradis is also known for founding a school for the blind and a music school for girls.

 


Women's History Month

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Born in

March is Women's History Month so we will look at the influence of women in music, including these Women Composers.

 


Chen Yi

April 04, 1953 -

Modern Period

Born in China

Award-winning composer Chen Yi is known for blending Chinese and Western traditions in her music. She currently works as a music professor at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and has served as composer-in-residence for the Women’s Philharmonic, Chanticleer, and the Aptos Creative Arts Center.

 



 

 

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