Mary Turner Salter

Born in Peoria, Illinois, Mary Turner Salter went to high school just across the Mississippi River in Burlington, Iowa, before moving east to study music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She was a gifted mezzo-soprano and pianist, and she sang professionally in Boston and New York City and taught voice at […]

Nadia Boulanger

Nadia Boulanger was one of the most renowned composition teachers of the twentieth century—or of any century. Her students are a who’s who of famous musicians, spanning seven decades: Virgil Thomson, Marion Bauer, Aaron Copland, Elliot Carter, Quincy Jones, Thea Musgrave, Philip Glass, and John Eliot Gardiner, to name only a handful. Her list of […]

Amanda Aldridge

Amanda Aldridge was a British singer, pianist, composer, and teacher. Her father, the celebrated Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge, died when Amanda was a little over a year old, so it was her mother, the Swedish singer Amanda Brandt, who fostered Amanda’s musical talents, as well as those of her two sisters and two brothers.  Aldridge studied […]

Rebecca Clarke

Rebecca Clarke was one of most distinguished and gifted British composers in the first half of the 20th century. Born to an American father and a German mother, she learned the violin at a young age, later switching to viola at the suggestion of the composer Charles Villiers Stanford, with whom she studied at the […]

Undine Smith Moore

Undine Smith Moore was a composer and educator who left a lasting impact on twentieth-century music. For over forty years she taught music theory, piano, and organ at Virginia State College (later Virginia State University), mentoring many students who went on to become celebrated musicians and composers, including jazz pianist Billy Taylor, conductor Leon Thompson, […]

Marie von Kehler

Precious little is known about the German composer Marie von Kehler. We have more music by her than documentary information about her. She was born in Nysa, which at the time was part of Prussia and is now a city in southwestern Poland. She died in Lemgo, a small town in northwestern Germany.  Kehler served […]

Cécile Chaminade

French composer and pianist Cécile Chaminade wrote approximately four hundred works, including 125 songs. Almost all of her works were published in her lifetime—rare for a woman of her day. She toured extensively, especially in England and the United States, performing her pieces for enthusiastic audiences. Her music was so popular in the U.S. that […]

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was an acclaimed British conductor and composer. The son of an Englishwoman and a man from Sierra Leone, he showed great musical talent as a child; he learned violin and piano from his father and started singing in a church choir when he was only ten years old. At fifteen, he entered the […]

Dame Elizabeth Maconchy

Elizabeth Maconchy was a fiercely individual British composer who wrote music that was often highly dissonant, contrapuntal, intense, even disturbing—and far from the more pastoral, lyrical music of fellow Britons such as Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams (who taught her composition at the Royal College of Music and remained a lifelong friend). She was […]

Margaret Bonds

Margaret Bonds

Composer and pianist Margaret Bonds grew up in a musically rich environment in Chicago—her mother was a gifted organist, and in high school Bonds studied piano and composition with Florence Price. Like Price, Bonds was a pathbreaker. In 1934, she became the first Black soloist to play with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, when she performed […]