Florence B. Price: African American Influence On Classical Music

Florence B. Price:  African American Influence On Classical Music

Not much is known regarding the African American influence on classical music. Culturally African Americans are recognized for their influences in Rhythm, Blues, and depending on which era, Rock and Roll. In the 1930’s one woman by the name of Florence B. Price changed that idea forever. Florence Price was born April 9th, 1887 and was the first African American female to have her works performed by a major all white orchestra. While other children her age were playing cowboys and Indians, Florence took a liking to the piano and gave her first performance at the tender age of four. Price’s dexterity in music was so prevalent that she was already a published composer by the age of 14. Not only was she a composer, but she graduated from Capitol High School at that age as well. Florence went on to procure two degrees in music from the New England Conservatory. Upon completion of those degrees, she returned to The United States and worked as a music instructor at Clark University in Atlanta, GA. Unfortunately, due to Jim Crow laws, impoverishment, and a troubling marriage, Florence moved back to Chicago. However, it is there where the height of her career began. Though she gained some success as a young artist, It wasn’t until the 1930's, when she composed the first symphonic piece ever written by a woman of color, that she gained a well deserved wide range of success. Symphony in E Minor paved the way for orchestras both nationally and internationally and presented work from Price over the next two decades, with her being called upon to perform those works as well. Price adored the arts and often collaborated in other art forms, such as poetry where she wrote music to poems written by Langston Hues. Florence passed away from a stroke on June 3, 1953. Some of her works were lost or overshadowed by the times. However, because of the assiduity of those shedding light on the African American community, Florences works are now assimilating proper attention.






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