Women in Music Festival
2006 Composer Biographies
At age seventeen, composer and harpist Ruby Aspinall was honored with the first prize for the Young Composer’s Award of Wales. As a soloist and chamber musician, she has performed in numerous venues, including Buckingham Palace and the Royal Festival Hall. She is also a member of the Amadio Duo. Ms. Aspinall studied harp at the Trinity College of Music where she earned a Bachelor of Music degree.
Amy Beach | 1867-1944
Composer and pianist Amy Beach wrote over 300 works in a variety of genres. Considered the foremost American female composer of her time, she was highly disciplined and known for her ability to create large-scale pieces rapidly. Primarily self-taught, Ms. Beach received critical acclaim not only in the United States, but also in Europe. Her compositional style has been described as both Romantic and post-Romantic.
Margaret Bonds | 1913-1972
Composer, pianist, and teacher Margaret Bonds was the first African-American to appear with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performing Florence Beatrice Price’s Piano Concerto. In addition, she received a Wanamaker Prize for her composition Sea Ghost. Bonds received degrees from Northwestern University and the Juilliard School. Her works are programmatic, and they are often infused with jazz harmonies, social ideas, and spiritual elements.
Lili Boulanger | 1893-1918
French composer Lili Boulanger began musical studies at the age of three, and with the composer accompanying her, she sight-read Fauré songs a few years later. At nineteen, she caught the world’s attention by becoming the first woman to win the Prix de Rome (for her cantata Faust et Hélène). Although she was awarded a year of study in Rome, her stay was shortened due to poor health, and she died of tuberculosis at age twenty-five. In her short life, she composed more than fifty works.
Cécile Chaminade | 1857-1944
French composer and pianist Cecile Chaminade composed over 400 works, nearly all of which were published in her lifetime. She held an extensive touring schedule, performing throughout England as a frequent guest of Queen Victoria, and the United States, where Chaminade clubs were formed. Her music is characterized by clear textures and French wit. Among her most popular compositions are her piano pieces.
Winnie Cheung | b. 1975
Composer and pianist Winnie Cheung was born and raised in Hong Kong. Her works have received numerous awards, including the Brian M. Israel Prize, the Olga and Paul Menn Foundation Prize, and the Louis Lane Prize. Ms. Cheung’s compositions have been premiered by the Society for New Music and the Eastman Musica Nova Composers Project. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Chicago and is currently a third year D.M.A. Composition student at the Eastman School of Music.
Rebecca Clarke | 1886-1979
English-born composer Rebecca Clarke began composing at age sixteen and was the first woman composer to win the celebrated Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. An accomplished violist, she played chamber music with Hess, Casals, Thibaud, Szell, Rubinstein, Schnabel, Monteux and Grainger, among others. Her oeuvre includes fifty-eight vocal works and twenty-four instrumental works.
Jean Coulthard | 1908-2000
Canadian-born composer Jean Coulthard was named the Composer of the Year by the Performing Rights Organization in 1984. Her music is said to be governed by “strong feeling”, and she is recognized as a vital cultural figure and music catalyst in Canada, where she was named an Officer in the Order of Canada. Her output of over 200 compositions is frequently performed worldwide.
Pamela Decker | b. 1955
Iowa-born composer and organist Pamela “Decker is decidedly a composer to reckon with – an organist who writes originally and idiomatically for her instrument”, reported The American Organist in 2001. She is primarily published by Wayne Leupold Editions, and her works have been recorded on the Albany, Arkay, Gothic, ReZound (Loft), and Arktos Labels. Dr. Decker received her D.M.A. from Stanford University and serves as Associate Professor of Music Theory and Organ at the University of Arizona.
Elizabeth Falconer | b. 1956
American-born koto master and composer Elizabeth Falconer is widely recognized for her works that combine traditional Japanese folklore with original koto compositions. Her repertory includes ten albums of music, and with it, she tours internationally. Ms. Falconer’s music has been heard and presented in numerous venues, performance halls, and museums, including the Smithsonian Institute.
Margaret Garwood | b. 1927
Primarily self-taught, Margaret Garwood passed the requirements for a Bachelor’s degree in music by examination, and now holds a graduate degree in composition. While she has written several instrumental chamber works, the majority of her output is for voice, and includes four operas, numerous song cycles, and works for combined chorus and orchestra. Her operas have received fully staged productions in New York, Philadelphia and on the West Coast. She has written the librettos to all her own operas, with the exception of the first one.
Beata Golec | b. 1981
The Polish-born composer and pianist Beata Golec began writing music at age thirteen. Her debut CD, Debut de Siecle was released in 2002, featuring Ms. Golec as both composer and performer. More recently, she debuted at Carnegie Hall in May 2005. Ms. Golec is currently pursuing doctoral studies in piano performance at the Eastman School of Music and composition at the University of Buffalo. More information about her can be found at https://www.beatagolec.com/.
Sofiya Gubaydulina | b. 1931
Composer Sofiya Gubaydulina is considered one of the foremost modern Russian composers. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Koussevitzky Prize, the State Prize of Russia, and the Kulturpreis des Kreises Pinneberg. Ms. Gubaydulina’s style is quite eclectic, drawing inspiration from philosophical ideas, Eastern themes, Western ideology and the Russian Orthodox tradition. She graduated from the Kazan’ Conservatory, and proceeded with graduate studies at the Moscow Conservatory.
Jacquet de la Guerre | 1665-1729
Ms. Jacquet de la Guerre is recognized as the most prolific French Baroque woman composer, keyboard player, and improviser. At the young age of thirteen, she was described as “the marvel of our century.” King Louis XIV was her patron, encouraging her talents and overseeing her financial needs. Her compositions were widely received; her five-act opera, Cephale et Procris, was first performed at the Académie Royale de Musique in 1694.
Amanda Harberg | b. 1973
New York composer, pianist and teacher Amanda Harberg has received numerous prizes, including awards from ASCAP and a Fulbright/Hays Fellowship for a year of study in Belgium with Frederic Rzewski. Her composition teachers at the Juilliard School included Robert Beaser, David Diamond, Stephen Albert and Andrew Rudin. In addition, she studied piano with Gyorgy Sandor. Ms. Harberg’s CD, Mountain Songs, is distributed by the Koch International label. Another CD, entitled Piano Songs, appears on an independent label.
Momoko Hayashi | b. 1976
Pianist, composer, and arranger Momoko Hayashi, was born in Toyama, Japan. She studied at the Senzoku College of Music and the Berklee College of Music, where she was awarded the Toshiko Akiyoshi award for outstanding jazz composition. Currently, she is attending the BMI jazz composers workshop. Her composition teachers include Ken Pullig, Vince Mendoza and Maria Schneider.
Mary Howe | 1882-1964
American composer and pianist Mary Howe is most remembered for raising money and founding the National Symphony Orchestra. She composed twenty orchestral works, along with a large number of chamber music and piano works described as “deeply expressive”. Concerning her compositional style, she stated that her “back foot is in the garden gate of the Romantics, but I feel no hesitation in thumbing the passing modern idiom for a hitch-hike to where I want to go.”
Libby Larsen | b. 1950
Libby Larsen has been praised as “the only English-speaking composer since Benjamin Britten who matches great verse with fine music so intelligently and expressively” (USA Today). She has written over two hundred pieces of music in nearly every major genre, from chamber music and song cycles, to large-scale orchestral and choral pieces. Well-known and highly regarded, Ms. Larsen is a composer whose works have become standard in the classical music repertory.
Ursula Mamlock | b. 1928
Berlin-born Ursula Mamlock received a Commendation of Excellence in 1987 “for her contribution to the world of concert music” from BMI. The Guggenheim fellow received commissions from various groups such as the Koussevitsky and Fromm Music Foundations, and the San Francisco Symphony, among others. Her teachers have included George Szell and Roger Sessions, and she has served on the composition faculty at New York University and the Manhattan School of Music.
Joni Mitchell | b. 1943
Canadian singer, songwriter, and painter Joni Mitchell has become one of the most renowned musicians of the time. Spanning the genres of pop, jazz, and folk, and bravely expanding the borders of each field, she is said to have paved the way for many female musicians who followed after her. Ms. Mitchell’s independent and creative compositional style has led critics to say that she “may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century.”
Thea Musgrave | b. 1928
Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave has gained wide recognition as both a composer and conductor. Her works were first performed under the sponsorship of the BBC and at the Edinburgh International Festival, and have since received great critical acclaim, leading to the Koussevitzky Award, two Guggenheim Fellowships, and honorary degrees from Old Dominion University (Virginia), Smith College, and Glasgow University. Ms. Musgrave’s works include operas, concertos, and symphonic pieces.
Lavinia Kell Parker | b. 1977
Lavinia Kell Parker holds a degree in music composition from Wilfrid Laurier University, where she studied with Dr. Glenn Buhr, Dr. Peter Hatch, and Linda Caitlin Smith. In 2005, Ms. Parker was a prizewinner in the 2005 Ruth Watson Henderson Choral Composition Competition for her piece scored for SSA, Songs Are Thoughts. Another choral work, Visible Stars, was premiered by the Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir at Toronto’s Ford Centre for the Performing Arts. As a pianist, she has performed solo and ensemble improvisations in various venues, including Kitchener-Waterloo’s Open Ears Music Festival, which was broadcast on CBC radio.
Barbara Pentland | 1912-2000
Barbara Pentland was one of Canada’s most important, innovative and forward-looking composers. Her music for voice, keyboard, chamber ensemble, and orchestra reflects her lifelong concerns as an artist: “purity of line, economy of expression and directness of purpose.” Born in Winnipeg, she overcame illness and parental disapproval to pursue her chosen vocation, learning her craft in Paris, at the Juilliard School, and at the Berkshire Music Center where she worked with Aaron Copland.
Florence Beatrice Price | 1887-1953
Florence Beatrice Price became the first black woman to have a symphony premiered by a major orchestra (Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1933). Although generally Romantic in style, her music incorporates African-American spirituals, bold modulations, and exotic harmonies. Ms. Price received her Artist’s Diploma in organ and her Piano Teacher’s Diploma from the New England Conservatory. She pursued additional studies at the American University.
Shulamit Ran | b. 1949
Following the premiere of her composition Legend by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Israeli-born composer Shulamit Ran was said to have “never forgotten that a vital essence of composition is communication” (Chicago Tribune). Her composition Symphony received a Pulitzer Prize in 1991 and first place in the Kennedy Center’s Friedheim Award in 1992. She has held professorships at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where she currently teaches.
Elizabeth Raum | b. 1945
Canadian composer (of American birth) Elizabeth Raum is often known as a “performer’s composer,” writing in a neo-romantic, lyrical style that delights large audiences. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, Ms. Raum went on to play principal oboe in both the Atlanta and Regina Symphony Orchestras. An avid poet and writer, she has written the librettos to all of her operas. Ms. Raum also holds a Master of Music degree in composition from the University of Regina.
Clara Schumann | 1819-1896
Hailed as Europe’s “Queen of Piano,” Clara Schumann began composing at the age of nine. Her sixty-six works include songs, partsongs, pieces for piano and orchestra, pieces for solo piano, and cadenzas for piano concertos. Greatly admired by her contemporaries, Ms. Schumann was awarded the title of “Royal and Imperial Chamber Virtuosa, With Great Distinction” in Vienna, by the Emperor. Ms. Schumann’s compositional style is characterized by virtuosity, poeticism, bold harmonies, rhythms, and modulations.
Laura Elise Schwendinger | b. 1962
Laura Elise Schwendinger’s music has been performed on tour by Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish, at venues including Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, the Theatre Chatalet in Paris, the National Arts Center in Canada, and at the Tanglewood and Ojai Music Festivals. Ms. Schwendinger is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
Barbara Strozzi | 1619-1664
Barbara Strozzi composed some of the most remarkable and dramatic music of the seventeenth century. She was regarded as the foremost singer and lute player in Venice. Her music bears resemblances to her teacher Cavalli’s, however, it displays more lyricism. Formally, she contrasted musical ideas and utilized refrains. Ms. Strozzi’s eight volumes of published music include arias, madrigals, duets, and more cantatas than any other seventeenth century composer.
Judith Lang Zaimont | b. 1945
Judith Lang Zaimont is an internationally known composer, famous for her one hundred works in genres ranging from symphonies to chamber music and solo works. Her music has been described as “powerful”, “expressive”, “provocative”, and “brilliant”. Among major ensembles that have commissioned and performed her works are the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony. Ms. Zaimont is also a respected teacher, having served on the faculties of Queens College and the Peabody Conservatory of Music.
– Compiled and edited by Sophia Ahmad