Just a few years ago, I heard Florence Price’s Violin Concerto #1 for the very first time. I was captivated by the sound. It was fresh and innovative. I wondered why I had never been exposed to her music before. The truth is, in all the years of classical musicology, there is barely a mention of composers of color, even though these musicians have contributed significantly to the evolution of music. Florence Price is just one of a plethora of such composers that have been overlooked.
We’re happy to be righting that wrong by now featuring her music on WNED Classical not only during Black History Month, but all year long in our regular music programming.
Florence Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1888. Her Mom was her first music teacher, getting Florence started on the piano. At the age of 14, Smith graduated as high school valedictorian and two years later, in 1903, left Little Rock to attend the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where there were only one or two other students of color. She excelled in her studies, and went on to a career which included many firsts. While she was serving as the head of the music department at the Clark Atlanta University, she was the first Black woman to have a symphony performed by a major American Symphony Orchestra. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra first performed her Symphony #1 in 1933. Her works would be championed by the WPA orchestra of Detroit and the Women’s Symphony Orchestra of Chicago.
In all, Florence Price created 4 Symphonies, 2 Violin Concertos, a couple of works for Piano and Orchestra, and many other choral works, along with instrumental chamber and solo-instrument pieces.
We’re happy to honor Florence Price and her music this month during Black History Month on WNED Classical.