Women in Music Festival
2007 Composer Biographies
Tania León – The Women In Music Festival’s first Composer-in-Residence | b. 1943
Cuban-born Tania León is a vital personality on today’s music scene, highly regarded both as a composer and conductor and recognized for her accomplishments as an educator and advisor to arts organizations. She has been the subject of profiles on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Univision, Telemundo and independent films. Ms. León is currently featured on Univision’s “Orgullo Hispano” series which celebrates living American Latinos whose contributions in society have been invaluable.
León was the subject of a Composer Portrait concert at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre which the New York Times noted that “A hidden Latin American dance rhythm provides a fixed point upon which she attaches other overlapping and enormously varied rhythmic patterns. Ms. León animates her tart atonal harmonies…. intense, hard-driving yet elusive… the concert attracted a large, mostly young and encouragingly diverse audience.” León is the recipient of a 2005 commission from The Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University. In 1998 she was awarded the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1999 received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Colgate University. León has received awards for her compositions from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, NYSCA, the Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Fund, ASCAP and the Koussevitzky Foundation, among others. In 1998 she held the Fromm Residency at the American Academy in Rome. León has been Visiting Lecturer at Harvard University, Visiting Professor at Yale University, the University of Michigan and the Musikschule in Hamburg. She has received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Colgate University and Oberlin College. In 2000 she was named the Claire and Leonard Tow Professor at Brooklyn College, where she has taught since 1985.
Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh studied composition and piano at the Baku Conservatory and earned a doctorate in musicology. She has toured in the United States as a soloist and with the Kronos Quartet, who also perform her compositions. She has received commissions from numerous groups, including the Silk Road Ensemble. Her works blend characteristics of conventional Azerbaijani music with Western methods.
Saskia Apon was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. At the Rotterdam Conservatory, she studied harp with Margot Flipse-Broeders, however she is self-taught as a composer-arranger. Many of her works and arrangements are for brass combinations. Ms. Apon serves as the Rotterdam Philharmonic Brass’ arranger in residence.
Composer and violinist Grazyna Bacewicz was the first female Polish composer to receive international acclaim. She studied composition with Nadia Boulanger and violin with Carl Flesch, and she was the principal violinist of the Polish Radio Orchestra when she was just in her 20s. Her compositions grew to worldwide renown, including her Concerto for String Orchestra which was performed by the National Symphony in 1950.
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.
British composer and violist Diana Burrell was born in Norwich. A graduate of Cambridge University, she has received numerous commissions from organizations such as the BBC, and the Royal Northern College of Music. Her works have garnered praise from the Royal Philharmonic Society and the BBC Radio 3. She is a lecturer in composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and has recently been appointed as the Artistic Director of Spitalfields Festival in London.
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 a D.M.A. in Composition from the Eastman School of Music.
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.
Frances Copthorne was a dynamic composer, vocalist and pianist in Chicago. Ms. Copthorne became an active member of the National League of American Pen Women, an organization comprised of women poets, authors and composers. She performed regularly on a weekly broadcast from a Chicago radio station in 1931, and in 1934 she performed at the White House for Eleanor Roosevelt. She traveled to France in 1937 to study composition and counterpoint with Nadia Boulanger.
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.
Michaela Eremiasova was born in Prague and is currently pursuing a PhD in composition at the Eastman School of Music. She has also studied at the Berklee College of Music, and has composed music for film and animation works including Cat Ashworth’s documentary Beating the Biological Clock and the animated opera Car Crash Opera by Skip Battaglia. She also co-orchestrated the opera, West-The Future of the American Musical Theater by Broadway composer Charles Strouse.
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. As a two-time winner of the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition, she debuted at Carnegie Hall in May 2005 and again in October 2006. 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 Ms. Golec can be found at www.beatagolec.us.
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.
Elisabeth-Claude 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.
Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel | 1805-1847
Often outshadowed by her younger brother Felix, Ms. Hensel composed 466 pieces of music, and was the one Felix sought for musical advice on his own compositions. Some of her songs were published under Felix’s opus 8 and 9, and her song, Italy, was one of Queen Victoria’s favorites, although the queen thought Felix penned it. Her works are highly regarded and have become more widely disseminated.
Composer, conductor, and flutist, Katherine Hoover is the recipient of a National Endowment Composer’s Fellowship and many other awards, including an Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Composition. Her works are published by Theodore Presser, Carl Fischer, and Papagena Press. Ms. Hoover attended the Eastman School of Music, and also holds a Masters degree in Music Theory from the Manhattan School of Music, where she also taught.
Billie Holiday | 1915-1959
Ms. Holiday made her singing debut in Harlem nightclubs and speakeasies, and was noticed by the likes of Count Basie, Artie Shaw, and Benny Goodman. Although she recorded over two hundred “sides” between 1933 and 1944, she never received royalties for any of them. Ms. Holiday had no musical training, yet her unique style, harmonization, diction, phrasing, and dramatic intuition made her one of the leading jazz singers of the time. Ms. Holiday died an early death at the age of forty-four.
Comprised of Emily Saliers (b. 1963) and Amy Ray (b. 1964), the Grammy-award winning Indigo Girls started playing together in the early 1980s under the name B-Band, and then changed to their current name in 1985. The combination of Ms. Saliers’ gentle yet complex style and Ms. Ray’s edgier and direct sound has been a folk favorite ever since the acoustic revival of the late 1980s. Yet, their sounds have remained timeless; they recently released their tenth studio album in September 2006.
Ms. Ivanova has composed a variety of works that have been performed in venues such as the Mozarteum (Salzburg) and Weill Recital Hall (New York). She has been published by Universal Edition, and has received the First Prize in Category “A” at the International Contest of Acousmatic Compositions Métamorphoses 2004. She holds degrees from the Moscow Tchaikovsky State Conservatory and from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London; she is currently a Ph.D. composition student at the Eastman School of Music.
A native of South Korea, Jung Sun Kang first came to the United States in 2006. She earned a bachelor of music degree at Ewha Women’s University
in 2006; there, she studied composition, piano and Korean traditional music. She is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at the Eastman School of Music where she studies composition with Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon and piano with Tony Caramia. Her interests include a wide variety of new music, jazz and ethnomusicology.
Lori Laitman | b. 1955
Since 1991, American composer Lori Laitman has been writing primarily for voice, however, her works include music for film, theatre, and chamber music as well. Regarding her pieces, Opera News says, “It’s a treat to hear contemporary art songs that showcase the voice as flatteringly as these, and which retain individuality and surprise without sacrificing accessibility.” Ms. Laitman’s pieces have been heard in venues such as Weill Recital Hall and Alice Tully Hall (New York), and The Kennedy Center (D.C.).
Sally Lamb | b. 1966
American composer Sally Lamb has been the winner of numerous honors, including awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (the 2001 Charles Ives Fellowship), the Whitaker New Reading Session, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Meet the Composer, and ASCAP. Dr. Lamb is an assistant professor of composition and theory at the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. She received her D.M.A. from Cornell University.
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.
Anne Lauber | b. 1943
Swiss-born Canadian composer and conductor Anne Lauber has received wide acclaim for her works that range from solo to orchestral compositions. Of particular note is her symphonic tale Beyond the Sound Barrier, which was jointly commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. She has taught at the University of Quebec, Concordia University, and the University of Montreal. In 1987, Ms. Lauber was elected president of the Canadian Music Centre.
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.
Pink | b. 1979
Singer Pink has been stirring up the American female vocal scene since she rose to international acclaim in 2002. She is known for her edgy style and preference to candidly share real-life experiences as opposed to some of her female counterparts’ preference for gentle love ballads. She has established herself as a transatlantic sensation with numerous top hits and an ability to tap into the pulse of teenage angst.
Betty Roe was born in London, England, and studied composition, piano, cello, and voice at the Royal Academy of Music. From 1968-78, she was the Director of Music at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), and worked comprehensively as a session singer with principal London ensembles. In 1970, with her late husband, Ms. Roe founded Thames Publishing Her compositions are mostly comprised of solo songs, church and choral music, and musicals.
Clara Schumann | 1819-1896
Hailed as Europe’s “Queen of Piano,” composer-pianist Clara Schumann began writing music 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.
Erica Seguine | b. 1987
Erica Seguine’s music has been performed by numerous groups, including Eastman Jazz Ensemble and the Empire State Youth Jazz Ensemble. In December 2004, Ms. Seguine’s “Trio for Flute, Oboe, and Piano” was selected to be performed at the Young Composer’s Honors Concert. She is currently a student at the Eastman School of Music, where she is pursuing a B.M. degree in Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media with concentration in composition.
Irene Britton Smith | 1907-1999
Irene Britton Smith’s vocation for forty years was as a teacher of reading in the Chicago public schools. In her summers, the African-American composer studied music and earned a masters degree. Although for her, composing was a “hobby”, she studied at Tanglewood, Juilliard, and in Fountainbleau with Nadia Boulanger. In addition, she played piano, organ, and violin, and was also a church musician.
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.
Now residing in America, Welsh composer Hilary Tann draws much of her compositional inspiration from nature. She was schooled at the University of Wales at Cardiff and at Princeton University, and she has composed a number of works that reflect her deep interest in Japan. She chairs the Department of Performing Arts at Union College in Schenectady, and since 1989, her music has been exclusively published by Oxford University Press.
Joan Tower | b. 1938
Acclaimed as “one of the most successful woman composers of all time” by The New Yorker, Joan Tower’s career has spanned five decades. In 1990, she became the first woman ever to receive the Grawemeyer Award in Composition. Four years later, Carnegie Hall’s “Making Music” featured artists such as Ursula Oppens, the Tokyo String Quartet, and others in a retrospective of her compositions. Ms. Tower teaches at Bard College and is composer-in-residence for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.
Hildegard Von Bingen | 1098-1179
Composer Hildegard Von Bingen wrote music at a time when only a few women were highly regarded. Approximately 80 of her musical works have survived, and they were all written for the nuns at her convent. Although most esteemed for her compositions, she was also widely respected and consulted by kings, popes and bishops. In addition, she wrote major works and treatises on theology, sexuality, botany, geology, and even natural medicine.
Most regarded for her theater and opera works, this English-born Scottish composer studied with John Tavener. She often draws inspiration from medieval history as well as Scottish culture, and The Independent newspaper has said that “Judith Weir has brought new hope to those who thought modern music could never be tuneful and original”. Her major commissions include woman.life.song for Jessye Norman and We are Shadows for Sir Simon Rattle.
In 1986, Chinese-born composer Chen Yi became the first woman to earn a master’s degree in composition in China. She is a recipient of a Grammy award and the Charles Ives Living Award, and has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well commissions from Yo-Yo Ma & the Pacific Symphony and the LA Philharmonic. She has served on the faculty of the Peabody Conservatory and currently teaches composition at the Conservatory of the University of Missouri – Kansas City.
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 has served on the faculties of Queens College and the Peabody Conservatory of Music.
– Compiled and edited by Sophia Ahmad