Florence Price was born Florence Beatrice Price on April 9, 1887 in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was an African American classical composer for most of her life. Price has always had a background in music, as her mother was a musical teacher, who trained her in her earlier years. Her first piano performance was at the age of four and her first composition was published at the age of 11 years old.
Characteristics/ Style of Music
Price was trained in European tradition. Overtime, she began to write with a vernacular style focusing on the ideas and sounds that fit urban society. She was also very religious and incorporated African American spirituals into her music. While doing this, she emphasized rhythm and syncopation of the spirituals rather than just using the sacred text that went with the spirituals. Her melodies were blues-inspired and mixed with more traditional European romantic techniques. By weaving tradition and modernism into her music, she was able to reflect the way life was for African Americans in large cities at the time.
In 1910, Florence Price moved to Atlanta, GA and became head of the Clark Atlanta University’s music department. After marrying, she went back to Little Rock, Arkansas. After a lynching in 1927 however, she moved to Chicago. By being well-versed in her musical education and being able to travel, Price was able to meet and impact several people. This included but was not limited to: Margaret Bonds, Langston Hughes, Marian Anderson, and many more. In addition, Price became the first African American woman to gain international recognition as a classical composer. In 1940, Florence Price was inducted in the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, for her work as a composer.
In 1931, financial struggles led to a divorce for Florence Price. After this, Price and Bonds submitted compositions for Wanamaker Foundation Awards. Price won first place for her composition Symphony in E Minor and third place for her Piano Sonata. This earned her $500 prize. After this competition, her presence began to sky rocket as she got national recognition for her compositions and performances. Later, her Symphony in E. Minor would be conducted by Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on June 15, 1933. Her art songs were widely performed by African American singers such as Marian Anderson, Ronald Hayes, and Leontyne Price.
Florence Price was a revolutionary woman in the classical music genre. In my opinion, she was one of the most influential in her field because of her ability to not only resonate with the people around her but be able to consistently produce work that she was passionate about.