Music students working to keep legacy of composer Florence Price alive

Crystal Cranmore Image
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Music students working to keep legacy of Black composer alive
Essentially Florence Price's work was forgotten - then rediscovered. Crystal Cranmore has the story.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Students at the Kaufman Music Center's Special Music School are starting Black History Month on a high note to make a special introduction to the community.

"She (Florence Price) was really an underrated composer and was discriminated against. Still, she persisted," said student musician Hazel Peebles.

Florence Price was the first Black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer and became the first to have her work performed by a major American orchestra in 1933 - the Chicago Orchestra.

Her life and musical journey are documented in a book that the students wrote - a classroom project turned publishing deal in 2021.

"It's about this person of color, this woman who faced so much adversity - and only after her death is being applauded for all the work that she did," said student musician Sophia Shao.

Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and moved to Illinois. It was there, in 2009 when a couple discovered many of Price's old works tucked away in an attic of an old home she once lived.

While many Black musicians had worked to keep Price's legacy alive, it was this discovery that would set the tone for a new story to be told.

For the first time, these musicians are performing Price's music for the city in a partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library on Monday night.

Next month, they will get to play with the Philadelphia Orchestra, which won a Grammy last year for its recording of Price's work.

"This is huge - doesn't usually come until much later in someone's career," said Kaufman Music Center Executive Director Kate Sheeran.

"Each piece is a journey - to be able to play it is incredible," said student musician Isabella Espana.

Florence Price is a representation that anything is possible.

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