1887–1953

Florence Price

Florence Price was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who was born in Little Rock, Ark., and spent much of much of her career in Chicago. She is famous for being the first Black woman to have a symphony premiered by a major U.S. orchestra—her Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, which was performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933. But she was also a prolific composer of piano music and songs, many of which mingle the styles of European classical music, jazz, and African-American spirituals. Price wrote over 300 works, most of which remain unpublished. Thanks to the work of many scholars and performers, her music has finally moved into the limelight, after decades of neglect—but her vast output of songs still contains treasures waiting to be unearthed.

Additional Resources

The writing on Florence Price and her music is growing by the day, thanks to the work of scholars such as Douglas Shadle and Samantha Ege, who have written extensively on Price and are currently co-authoring a Price biography for Oxford University Press. (Ege, a pianist as well as a musicologist, has also released a wonderful album of Price’s piano works.) The most thoroughgoing study of Price’s life and work is Rae Linda Brown’s The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price (University of Illinois Press, 2020). Price’s papers—including correspondence, photographs, and musical scores—can be found in the Florence Beatrice Smith Price Collection of the University of Arkansas. For useful commentary on her songs specifically, see these sources:

Did you know?

In 2009, stacks of Price’s papers were found in an abandoned house in St. Anne, Ill. Among them were dozens of her scores, including her two violin concertos and her fourth symphony.

Video Recordings

Bass-baritone Justin Hopkins and pianist Jeanne-Minette Cilliers perform Price’s “The Heart of a Woman.”
Bass-baritone Justin Hopkins and pianist Jeanne-Minette Cilliers perform Price’s “Judgement Day.” This is the first ever recording of the song.
Bass-baritone Justin Hopkins and pianist Jeanne-Minette Cilliers perform Price’s “Monologue for the Working Class.” This is the first ever recording of the song.
Countertenor Darryl Taylor and pianist Deborah Hollist perform Price’s “Night.”

Other Composers

United States

Undine Smith Moore

Undine Smith Moore was a composer and educator who left a lasting impact on 20th-century music. For over forty years she taught music theory, piano,

Read More >>
Margaret Bonds
United States

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

Read More >>
France

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

Read More >>