Music

Composers

What symphony was the first by a black woman composer performed by a major orchestra?

Florence Beatrice Smith Price (1888–1953) was the first black woman to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra. The Chicago Symphony, under Frederick Stock, first played her Symphony No. 1 in E Minor at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. Born in Camden, New Jersey, Price was the first black woman to achieve distinction as a composer. She was a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in 1906 and furthered her music education at Chicago Music College, the American Conservatory, the University of Chicago, Chicago Teachers College, and elsewhere. She taught music at Shorter College in Arkansas and later gave private lessons in violin, piano, and organ. One of her mentees, Margaret Bonds, later became known in the music world. Price won her first Harmon prize for composition in 1925. She wrote a number of works, many of which were published. She also made recordings, but no extensive list of these works in known to exist.



Margaret Allison Bonds is most often remembered for her vocal music, including the famous “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

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