Rediscovering The Music Of African American Composer Florence Price

Oct 30, 2019

A portrait of Florence Price, the first female, African American composer to have her symphony performed by a major orchestra.
Credit G. Nelidoff / Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville

Florence Price was the first African American woman to have her symphony performed by a major orchestra. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed her work in 1933, and for any other composer that event would have launched a successful career, but Price’s talents were overlooked because of the color of her skin and her gender.

She kept trying to promote her music — and she kept writing symphonies, choral pieces and more. But many conductors and music directors ignored Price, and her work was not published. Much of her music was lost until 2009, when several boxes of compositions and personal papers were discovered in Price’s summer home just before it was demolished.

Host Frank Stasio talks to William Henry Curry about the music and life of Florence Price. Curry is the music director of the Durham Symphony Orchestra, which will perform work by Florence Price, Peggy Stuart Coolidge and more in their program celebrating the centennial of American women’s suffrage on Sunday, Nov. 3 at 4 p.m. at the Carolina Theatre in Durham.