Florence Price: A Classical Icon

Classical music has often been considered as a genre that consists of predominately-White composers. But, as with most things in life, there were also many great Black composers who did not receive as much acknowledgement as their white counterparts. At a time were racism and sexism were prevalent and measures were taken to ensure that the success of Black people and women were hindered, Florence Price became a pioneer of Classical music.

Florence Price was born on April 9, 1887 in Little Rock, Arkansas to parents who defied the odds of the time and had an interracial marriage. First introduced to music by her mother, a musician, Price  published her first composition at age eleven. At age 14, she enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music and studied with the notable composers Frederick Converse and George Chadwick. In 1910, Price moved to Atlanta, where she became the head of the music department at Clark Atlanta University. Later, Ms. Price decided to move to Chicago, where she enrolled in the University of Chicago, the American Conservatory of Music, Chicago Musical College, and Chicago Teacher’s College to study the arts and language.

Throughout her career, history was made on several occasions. Florence Price became the first African-American woman to be recognized as a classical composer. In 1932, Florence Price composed “Symphony in E minor”, which was later performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933 and became the first composition by an African-American woman to be played by a major orchestra. She was the first African-American woman to have a composition played by a major orchestra. I am grateful to Florence Price for paving the way for African-Americans and African-American women to become classical composers and to be acknowledged as so.


-Ivorie Farley-Cook

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