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The Inspiring Life and Musical Achievements of Florence Price

Florence Price

Florence Price

Florence Price, an iconic musician and esteemed African-American classical composer, holds a significant place in American music history.

As a distinguished composer, pianist, and educator, she achieved several notable milestones.

She was the first African-American woman recognized as a symphonic composer and the first to have her composition performed by a major orchestra.

In this comprehensive article, we are excited to explore the remarkable life and musical legacy of Florence Beatrice (Smith) Price.

We will delve into her background, musical achievements, and the enduring impact she has made on the world of classical music.

Early Life and Family

Florence Beatrice (Smith) Price was born on April 9, 1887, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Florence and James H. Smith, in a family with mixed-race heritage.

Her father, James, was a black dentist who had relocated to Little Rock in 1876, having been born to free African American parents in Delaware.

James had a dental practice in Chicago, which was destroyed during the Great Chicago Fire, leading him to move to Arkansas and start anew.

He married Florence Irene Gulliver, a talented school teacher and pianist, in Indianapolis in November 1876.

Florence B. Price’s grandfather, William Gulliver, was a Virginia native who moved to Indianapolis and established several barbershops, contributing to the black middle class.

Florence Irene Gulliver came from a middle-class background, receiving piano lessons and mentorship from strong black women.

She became a teacher and accomplished pianist, even teaching music in an all-white school. Florence B. Price’s mother was also an amateur singer.

Together, Dr. James H. Smith and Florence Irene Gulliver had three children: Charles (born October 1877), Gertrude (born April 1880), and the youngest, Florence (Beatrice) Price (born April 1987).

Florence Price’s Journey into Music

Florence Price’s musical journey began at a young age, thanks to her mother, a former school music teacher. Mrs. Florence Smith nurtured her daughter’s talent and taught her to play the piano.

As a preschooler, Florence Beatrice (Smith) Price gave her first piano performance at four years old and had her first composition published at eleven.

Florence Beatrice Price attended Union School, which eventually became known as Capitol Hill High. Originally, it served as an elementary and night school for black students.

Later, she attended a Catholic convent school and graduated as valedictorian at the age of 14 in 1901.

Florence B. Price Attended NEC from 1903–1906.

Florence Price’s strong determination and passion for music motivated her to seek formal training after graduating from high school.

So, she enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) in Boston, Massachusetts, where she studied organ and piano teaching.

During the late 19th century, opportunities for African-American musicians were scarce.

However, to avoid racial discrimination against African Americans, she identified as Mexican on her records.

At the conservatory, Price tackled numerous challenging courses. These included Ear Training, Dictation, Harmony, Organ Construction, History of Organ Literature, Counterpoint, Orchestral Score Reading, and more.

She learned composition and counterpoint from composer George Chadwick, who taught her music theory.

She was also a student of Henry M. Dunham for organ and Frederick Converse for piano during her studies at the Conservatory.

During her time there, she wrote her first “string trio and symphony”.

Florence was highly active as a recitalist at NEC and frequently featured in evening recitals. Additionally, she received a special invitation to perform at the commencement, a privilege granted to only 9 out of 50 students.

Also, within the Normal Program, Florence Price specialized in music education and organ performance, which prepared her to become a music teacher.

In 1906, she proudly graduated with two honors. Impressively, Florence accomplished something unique in her class by obtaining two degrees.

She completed both the Teachers Diploma in Piano and the Soloists Diploma in Organ in just three years. Normally, one degree takes four years to complete.

Florence Price’s Continuous Studies at Chicago

Upon arriving in Chicago to escape Jim Crow conditions, Florence Price continued to pursue her craft and further her studies.

She studied composition, orchestration, and organ with prominent teachers in Chicago, including Arthur Olaf Andersen, Carl Busch, Wesley La Violette, and Leo Sowerby.

Additionally, Price was enrolled at various times in institutions such as the Chicago Musical College, Chicago Teachers College, the University of Chicago, and the American Conservatory of Music.

There, she studied languages, liberal arts subjects, and music to broaden her knowledge and skills.

Florence Price Career

After graduating from the New England Conservatory, Florence Price made an interesting decision.

She returned to Little Rock to start teaching and give back to her community, the black community in Little Rock.

When Florence Price decided to become a teacher, she was well aware of the pay disparity between black and white teachers.

Black teachers received $30.36 per month, while white teachers earned $40.52.

Florence Beatrice’s first job upon returning to Little Rock was at the Cotton Plant-Arkadelphia Academy in Cotton Plant, Arkansas.

This school was supported by the white Presbyterian Church and catered to black students, offering a liberal arts-based secondary school curriculum.

It was during her time at this academy that she met Neumon Leighton, a white musician who would become a lifelong friend.

After her tenure at Cotton Plant, Florence started working at Shorter College in North Little Rock, an institution founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and Arkansas Baptist College.

Here, she played the organ for weekly services, as Shorter College was a Christian school.

Additionally, she organized performances for the students and faculty to enrich the school’s cultural experiences.

Following her father’s passing in 1910, Florence Price left her hometown at the age of 23.

She accepted a prestigious teaching position as the Head of the Music Department at Clark University in Atlanta.

This opportunity allowed her to start afresh and embrace new experiences.

Life at Clark University in Atlanta

In 1910, Florence Price traveled to take up a prestigious teaching position at Clark University in Atlanta.

She held several significant roles at the university, serving as the Head of the Music Department, a composer, artist-in-residence, and music teacher.

Upon arriving at Clark University, Florence received a warm welcome as one of the few well-educated African American women on campus.

This was particularly meaningful since most of the teachers at the university were white, making her presence even more valued.

The faculty and administrators at Clark organized weekly rhetorical programs in the chapel to enrich the university’s cultural life.

These programs provided an opportunity for students to hear and recite works by classical authors, poets, and playwrights.

As the Head of the Music Department, Florence’s appointment was crucial for the university’s cultural life.

Under her guidance, the students performed works by renowned composers like Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, and Brahms.

Vocal and instrumental concerts were common, exposing the students to a diverse range of European and African American music.

Florence regularly gave piano and organ recitals and invited nationally recognized artists to perform on campus.

This introduced the students to a wide variety of European concert music as well as works by African American musicians.

Notably, the program also greatly benefited the performers, especially African American instrumentalists, who were often excluded from mainstream concert halls.

Through these performances, they had a platform to showcase their talents and skills.

Florence Price’s leadership not only enriched the cultural life of Clark University but also inspired a deeper understanding and love for music among the students.

Many of the students’ experiences in the program encouraged them to pursue music careers.

After two years at Clark University, Florence returned to Little Rock, Arkansas, where she eventually got married.

Florence Price’s Life at Little Rock

After marrying Thomas Price, Florence Price returned to Little Rock. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find work in the racially segregated town.

However, she didn’t stop teaching. In her free time, she offered private piano and violin lessons while taking care of her three children.

Florence had a strong passion for education, and she couldn’t resist sharing her knowledge even in her spare time.

As a result, she became one of the most sought-after music teachers in Black Little Rock. Students admired her firm yet likable teaching style.

Each week, they had two half-hour lessons where they played piano pieces and learned about musical transposition.

What made Florence Price even more extraordinary was that she created her own piano studies.

These studies had interesting titles that appealed to children, such as “Brownies on the Seashore” and “Brung the Bear.”

Some of the studies focused on advanced concepts, like “Golden Corn Tassles,” which explored the difference between legato and staccato.

Florence Price’s music and teaching left a lasting impact on her community.

New Life in Chicago

During the late 1920s, racial tension in Little Rock became worse, impacting Florence Price’s career goals.

Despite her excellent academic and teaching qualifications, the Arkansas Music Teachers Association denied her admission because of her skin color.

In 1927, the situation in Little Rock grew scarier for African Americans due to lynching and a lack of police protection.

The tension escalated after an alleged incident where a white child was killed by an African American man, leading the white community to retaliate.

In fear for their lives, the Price family decided to leave and sought refuge in Chicago as part of the Great Migration, escaping Jim Crow conditions.

The Price family made their home at 3835 Calumet St., right in the heart of Chicago’s Black Belt.

On arriving in Chicago, Price and her husband actively engaged in their professional and social lives, making the most of everything the city had to offer.


In Chicago, they discovered a vibrant African American community excelling in various artistic fields, including literature, poetry, dance, theater, visual arts, and music.

The city’s Grand Theater featured renowned jazz and blues performers, contributing to its lively atmosphere.

Despite facing challenges, Florence Price remained deeply spiritual and became a part of Grace Presbyterian Church, where she showcased her talent in contemporary music, including organ and choral pieces.

She actively participated in the R. Nathaniel Dett Club and held positions on the composition committee.

Welcomed into this active musical community, Price joined groups that aimed to encourage black and women’s involvement in classical music.

One such group was the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM), founded in Chicago in 1919 to support African-American performers and composers in classical music.

Through her membership in NANM, she had the opportunity to connect with renowned composer William Dawson, writer Langston Hughes, and contralto Marian Anderson.

Florence Price’s association with writer Langston Hughes and contralto Marian Anderson proved to be beneficial for her.

Their support played a crucial role in Price’s future success as a composer. Through their collaboration, Price composed over 50 songs specifically for Marian Anderson.

Florence Price’s Flourish Career

After moving to Chicago, Florence Price’s career flourished. She set up a private piano studio in her home, and, with her children a little older, she dedicated a lot of time to composing music.

Florence Price’s creativity was boundless, evident in her continuous artistic endeavors wherever she went. This led to numerous compositions.

Moreover, her passion for teaching remained unwavering and evolved over time.

She provided music lessons both at her home and at T. Theodore Taylor’s School of Music. The school was situated in the Abraham Lincoln Center Community Service Agency on 700 E. Oakwood Blvd. in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville Community.

Today, this location is occupied by Northeastern Illinois University’s Center for Inner City Studies.

This turned out to be the most productive period of her life, as she discovered her talent for composing instructional pieces for kids.

Her compositions primarily focused on piano but also included works for violin and organ with piano accompaniment.

This niche became a profitable endeavor for her. She easily secured publishers such as McKinley, G. Schirmer, Gamble Hinged Music, Theodore Presser, Clayton F. Summy, and Carl Fischer.

Florence Price’s relationship with McKinley blossomed, leading to the publication of over 25 of her compositions for children throughout her career.

Some of these compositions included pieces like Playful Rondo (1928) and Mellow Twilight (1930).

Additionally, one of her compositions, At the Cotton Gin, A Southern Sketch, was submitted to a competition by her husband without her knowledge.

To her surprise, it won a cash prize and a publishing contract with Schirmer that would last for many years.

During her prolific career, she composed over 450 works, including piano concertos, symphonies, organ pieces, compositions for violin, chamber works, art songs, and arrangements of spirituals.

Florence Ventures into Popular Music

Following her divorce in 1931, she took on the role of an organist for silent film screenings. Additionally, Florence wrote popular music using the pen name Veejay.

She composed songs for radio advertisements, theaters, and musicals in the city under a pen name to make ends meet.

Her compositions often followed the tin pan alley format, with sentimental or tragic verses followed by a catchy chorus that expressed a reaction to the situation.

Chicago Music Association

In Chicago, Florence Price truly discovered a new and fulfilling phase in her composition career. She became part of the Chicago Black Renaissance.

In 1928, she released a collection of piano pieces and had the opportunity to meet notable figures like W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Additionally, she set poems by Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar to music.

Furthermore, despite her active engagement with the Dett Club, she also played a significant role in the Chicago Music Association.

Florence Price met baritone Theodore Charles Stone, a member and later President of the Chicago Music Association (CMA), at Chicago Musical College.

Ted Stone’s encouragement led Florence to join CMA, where she had the opportunity to interact with distinguished members of the black community.

At CMA, Florence Price met organist Estella Bonds and her daughter, Margaret, who later became Florence’s student.

Florence Price’s friendship with Margaret Bonds, her student and fellow black pianist and composer, led her to move in with Bonds after her divorce.

Moreover, this friendship connected her to prominent individuals in the art world.

Consequently, both Florence Price and Margaret Bonds started gaining national recognition for their compositions and performances.

This, in turn, led to more opportunities for performances and increased collaboration between them.


In 1930, an important early success took place at the twelfth annual convention of the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM).

During this event, pianist-composer Margaret Bonds premiered Florence Price’s Fantasie nègre [No. 1] (1929) in its original version titled “Negro Fantasy”.

Carl Ditton, writing for the Associated Negro Press, expressed his surprise and admiration for the performance:

“The surprise of the evening was a most effective composition by Mrs. F. B. Price, entitled ‘A Negro Phantasy’, played by the talented Chicago pianist, Margaret Bonds. The entire association [i.e., NANM] could well afford to recommend this number to all advanced pianists.”

The performance was a significant achievement and garnered praise, showcasing the talent of both Florence Price as a composer and Margaret Bonds as a pianist.


Price’s compositions were performed in concerts at churches and black social and cultural clubs.

They were presented by chamber ensembles, solo artists, her own Treble Clef Glee Club, and the Florence B. Price A Cappella Chorus conducted by Grace W. Thompkins.

In 1932, she entered her First Symphony and three other works into the Rodman Wanamaker music contest.

Price’s Symphony in E minor won first prize, and her piano sonata won third prize.

Moreover, the other two submissions, “Ethiopia’s Shadow in America” (an orchestral piece) and “Fantasie Nègre No. 4” for piano, both received honorable mentions.

At just 19 years old, Margaret Bonds also participated and won second prize for her song “Sea Ghost.”

She was awarded a cash prize of $750 (which would be equivalent to thousands of dollars today).

Moreover, the competition also brought her symphony to the attention of Frederick Stock, the conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1905.

Price Symphony Performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

On June 15, 1933, Price’s composition had its premiere during a concert by the Chicago Symphony, conducted by Frederick Stock.

Maude Roberts George, an influential advocate for the arts, made this possible.

She funded the inclusion of Price’s First Symphony in a program dedicated to “The Negro in Music” during the Century of Progress World’s Fair.

Impressed by Price’s talent, Stock offered to conduct her symphony and personally invited her to attend rehearsals.

Since 1917, the German-born Stock has been a strong advocate of American music, making sure to include at least one American piece per program.

This marked the historic occasion of being the first symphony by an African-American woman performed by a major orchestra.

Despite the prevailing racism of the time, George’s support marked a historic moment.

It made Price the first African-American woman to have her music played by a major U.S. orchestra.

Price’s premiere garnered significant public attention.

Notable figures like composers John Alden Carpenter and George Gershwin, along with diplomat Adlai Stevenson, were present in the audience.

The event received extensive coverage from the press and radio and was warmly received.

The Chicago Daily News praised the symphony, describing it as faultless, with a message conveyed through both restraint and passion. They deemed it deserving of a place in the regular symphonic repertoire.

Consequently, Florence Price’s Symphony gained significant recognition.

Later that season, the Illinois Host House of the World’s Fair paid tribute to Price and her music with a dedicated program.

This remarkable honor was bestowed upon her despite having moved to Illinois only five years prior.

Other Orchestral Works Recognition

Furthermore, Price’s other orchestral works received recognition. They were performed by the Works Progress Administration Symphony Orchestra of Detroit, the Chicago Women’s Symphony, and the Women’s Symphony Orchestra of Chicago.

In 1940, Price’s talent was recognized as she was inducted into the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

She also published two spiritual arrangements in 1949, “I Am Bound for the Kingdom” and “I’m Workin’ on My Buildin'”, dedicated to Marian Anderson, who regularly performed them.

Despite these successes, Florence Price faced ongoing struggles to gain the support and recognition she deserved in the world of classical music throughout her life.

Florence Price’s Love for the Piano

The piano played a central role in Florence Price’s music composition and teaching.

Through the piano, she received her initial musical education. During her time at the New England Conservatory in Boston, both the piano and the organ became the focal points of her studies.

In fact, the majority of her surviving compositions and teaching life were focused on the piano.

Piano Dominance in Her Music Compositions

The piano played a central role in Price’s musical journey, serving as the primary medium for her abundant musical creativity.

It’s no surprise, then, that out of Price’s total surviving body of 458 works, around 47% were written for the piano.

This accounts for approximately 216 compositions, surpassing any other single category.

The following in line were songs and arrangements of spirituals, which also incorporated piano elements.

As a testament to her talent, it was a piano composition, the suite “In the Land O’ Cotton” showcased on this album, that earned her recognition as a composer.

This composition tied for second prize in the Holstein Competition sponsored by Opportunity Magazine in 1926.

Furthermore, piano compositions continued to fuel her growing reputation in the early 1930s.

Notably, her “Cotton Dance” received an honorable mention in the Rodman Wanamaker Composition Competition for Composers of the Negro Race in 1931.

The Piano Sonata and the fourth (B-minor) Fantasie nègre, both included on this album, won prizes in the same competition in 1932.

In 1933–34, Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement had three notable performances.

Florence Price herself was the soloist on two of these occasions: the first at the commencement exercises of Chicago Musical College and the second at the national convention of the National Association of Negro Musicians.

The third performance featured Margaret Bonds as the soloist and took place at the Century of Progress World’s Fair in 1934.

Compositions’ Style Shift and Piano

In the late 1930s, Florence Price’s style started to shift, incorporating more modernist elements alongside the Afro-Romantic ones seen in her earlier works.

Throughout this transformation, the piano remained her steadfast musical companion until the end.

She continued to create beautiful and expressive pieces like “Three Roses” and “Your Hands in Mine,” as well as evocative masterworks like “Clouds,” “Scenes in Tin Can Alley,” and her last major suite, “Snapshots.”

These compositions were a testament to her enduring love for the piano throughout her life.

Piano Dominance in Her Music Teaching

The piano held a central place in Florence Price’s music teaching. From 1906 to 1910, she taught piano at the Cotton Plant Academy, and later, she served as the head of the Music Department at Atlanta University from 1910 to 1912.

Even after that, she continued to provide private piano lessons until just a few months before her passing in 1953.

Her students included beginners, intermediates, and advanced learners in Arkansas and her beloved hometown of Chicago, including her own daughters.

Aside from composing music for the piano, there is a delightful indication of how significant the piano was to her identity as a musician.

Among the Florence Price papers in the libraries of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, there is an undated ink drawing.

The drawing, apparently created by a youthful hand, portrays a piano in a domestic setting with the lid up, and it bears the caption: MY CAREER.

This charming illustration beautifully captures the profound impact the piano had on her life as a musician.

Personal Life

During Florence Beatrice’s time teaching at Clark, she fell in love with a young and handsome attorney named Thomas Jewell Price.

At 26 years old, in the summer of 1912, she returned to Little Rock to prepare for her wedding.

There, she married Thomas Price in a ceremony conducted by a justice of the peace.

Thereafter, Florence left her teaching job and relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas, where Thomas practiced law.

They made their home in a middle-class, predominantly black neighborhood, surrounded by other professionals.

Florence Beatrice’s Home and Family

Shortly after getting married, the Prices started a family and welcomed their first child, a boy named Thomas Jr. Price.

This filled Florence Price with immense pride. To express her deep love and connection with her son, she composed a heartfelt song titled “To My Little Son.”

The Prices later had two daughters named Florence Louise and Edith Cassandra.

After the children were born, Perry Quinney moved in with the Price family to care for the children, allowing Price time to teach, compose, and engage in other musical activities outside the home.

As racial tension increased in Little Rock during the late 1920s, the Price family decided to move to Chicago, a city considered the land of opportunity for many African Americans.

Marital Journey

In the early years in Chicago, life seemed stable, and they enjoyed their new environment.

However, the Great Depression hit, and Thomas Price struggled to find work, putting financial strain on the family.

His frustration and anger led to violence towards Florence, and he even threatened her life.

Consequently, Florence Price filed for divorce from Thomas Price and won the case in January 1931.

She also gained custody of her children, $25 a week in alimony and child support, and an additional $100 in court fees.

During this challenging period, Price found support by living with friends.

Eventually, she moved in with her student and friend, Margaret Bonds, who was also a black pianist and composer.

Free from the mental, emotional, and physical abuse she had endured for so long, Florence Price’s path crossed with another man named Pusey Dell Arnet.

Pusey Dell Arnett, a widower, was an insurance agent and former baseball player for the Chicago Unions, thirteen years her senior.

On February 14, 1931, just one month after her divorce, she married Pusey Dell Arnett, likely seeking financial security.

Although they separated in April 1934, it appears they never officially divorced.

Florence Price’s Death and Life After

Florence B. Price died in Chicago on June 3, 1953. She was getting ready for a trip to Europe when she had a stroke and passed away in Illinois. She was 66 years old at the time.

After Florence Price passed away, a significant part of her work didn’t get the same amount of attention.

This was because new types of music became popular, and these new styles matched what people in society liked during that time. Also, a few of her pieces got lost over the years.

But, as other African-American and female composers started to be recognized for their music, the same thing happened for Price’s work too.

Actually, her music became even more well-liked after she passed away, and she also got more honors and recognition.

Honors and Recognition After Death

In 1964, an elementary school in Chicago adopted her name to honor her legacy as a notable black composer and musician from the city.

This school became known as Florence B. Price Elementary School, sometimes even called Price Lit & Writing Elementary School.

You could find it at 4351 South Drexel Boulevard in the North Kenwood part of Chicago, Illinois.

The school had a specific purpose: to serve the mostly African-American students in the community.

When Price Elementary School opened its doors in 1964, it quickly became an important part of the neighborhood.

But as time went on, the school’s academic performance wasn’t as good as it should have been. So, the school district decided to slowly close it down. This happened officially in 2013, leading to the school’s closure.

Interestingly, the school held a piano that had once belonged to Florence Price herself.


In February 2019, something exciting happened. The University of Arkansas Honors College organized a special concert.

The goal was to remember and celebrate Florence Price’s contributions.

And then, in October 2019, the International Florence Price Festival shared some big news.

They told everyone about their very first event, dedicated entirely to celebrating the amazing music Florence Price had created.

This special festival happens at the University of Maryland School of Music in August 2020.


From January 4 to January 8, 2021, Florence Price became a big deal on BBC Radio 3.

They chose her as their composer of the week. This was a huge deal because it meant more people got to know about her and her incredible music.

Also in 2001, the Women’s Philharmonic did something pretty cool. They made an album featuring some of Florence Price’s work.

And then, in the same year, pianist Karen Walwyn and the New Black Repertory Ensemble performed some of Price’s music.

They played her concerto in one movement and her symphony in E minor.

Back in 2021, a classical pianist named Lara Downes started a cool project called Rising Sun Music.

The goal was to show how different composers from all sorts of backgrounds influenced American classical music.

Lara got help from people like Adam Abeshouse, who is a producer.

Together, they put out new recordings of music by Price and other composers.

These composers are super important, but not many people talk about them when they talk about the history of classical music.


Then, in 2022, the Catalyst Quartet did something awesome. They have this series called Uncovered, where they highlight music by black composers.

And guess what? They played almost two hours of Price’s music in this series.

One of the big pieces was Price’s A-minor Quintet for Piano and Strings. It was recorded for the first time just last year by the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective.

This new performance is amazing because it sounds just right—all the instruments and feelings are balanced perfectly.

Florence Price’s Musical Treasures

In 2009, while fixing up an old house in Illinois, the new owners found something amazing.

They discovered stacks of music sheets, books, and papers that once belonged to Price herself. Notably, Florence used the house as her summer home.

In this treasure trove, they found many of her musical scores. This collection included her two stunning violin concertos and her fourth symphony.

Excited to keep and share this incredible discovery, the owners contacted the librarians at the University of Arkansas.

Interestingly, they already had some of Price’s papers. But these new materials had more of her scores that everyone thought were lost.

Finding these papers shows how talented Price was. It helps us understand better how she created music, which is a big deal in the classical music world.

This exciting news is a treat for scholars and music fans. It lets them see how brilliant Price was.

It’s interesting that they also found three versions of her piece “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight” in the same building that year.

One of these, meant for an orchestra and choir, came to life on April 12, 2019, by the Du Bois Orchestra and Lyricora Chamber Choir in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Big news came in November 2018 from the publisher G. Schirmer, known in the music world.

They said they had the rights to all of Florence Price’s music. They started publishing editions of many of her pieces.

This even included her beautiful piano music and a new edition of her Piano Concerto Number 1.

Because of this, people can keep enjoying Price’s amazing music, and she will always be remembered in the music world.

Composition Styles and Techniques

Florence Price’s music is a beautiful blend of influences that come together in a strong way.

It’s like mixing her African American background with classical music skills.

Even though Price learned music the European way, her own music sounds very American and shows where she comes from in the South.

You can often hear the influence of Dvorak’s style in her music, like in her first violin concerto.

In her pieces, you can hear heartfelt melodies that show the challenges and successes of her time.

She wrote music that felt like how people talk and live in the city. This adds a deep and real feeling to what she creates.

Because she was a strong believer in Christianity, she used a lot of the music from African-American churches in her work. 

Her teacher, George Whitefield Chadwick, encouraged her to use the music of spirituals, but not just the words; she focused on the rhythm and how the beats played off each other.

What’s amazing is how Price combines the old musical styles from Europe with the rich sounds of spirituals and folk music.

When she made her first symphony, she used the tunes from African-American spirituals, but she mixed them with the way instruments play.

This mix connects different worlds, letting people dive into the mix of cultures that shaped who she was.

Other Influence of Her Composition

Her music isn’t just about art; it’s also a way to remember history and the strength of black musicians even when things were tough.

In her first symphony, there’s a part called the Juba Dance in the third movement.

This dance came from a time before the Civil War, and it was already being used by European composers in their music, like in Debussy’s piece from 1908.

Price mixed old and new styles in her music, just like how life was for African Americans in big cities back then.

Emotion in Florence Price’s Compositions

When you listen to Florence Price’s music, you can really feel the strong emotions she went through and the stories she wanted to share.

It’s like going on a musical journey that embraces both where she came from and how great she was as an artist.

Florence Price is skilled at making music that brings out many feelings. Some parts might feel serious and thoughtful, while others are full of happiness and rhythm.

The way she blends different melodies and rhythms shows she’s a master at what she does.

She’s not afraid to go beyond what people expect from classical music.

In simple words, Florence Price’s music isn’t just something we enjoy; it also reminds us how powerful art can be for culture and society.

Florence Price’s Works

Florence Price is definitely one of the incredible composers of the 20th century. She left a lasting impact on the music world. 

Even though she faced tough times as an African American woman making music back then, she broke rules and challenges to create her own special style of music. 

She composed a lot of music and has a wealth of work associated with her name. 

Her musical creations encompass symphonies, concertos, choral pieces, songs, and music for small groups and solo instruments.

She even made music for violin, organ, piano, and spiritual songs. Some of her famous pieces include “Three Little Negro Dances,” “Songs to the Dark Virgin,” “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord,” and “Moon Bridge. 

Price used the rhythms and melodies of African American music in many of her works. 

She said that rhythm is super important in this kind of music and that it feels like a strong force that never stops. 

Her music mixes the fancy style of classical music with the special sounds of African American spirituals and folk tunes. 

Her Symphony No. 1 was a big deal because it was the first piece by an African American woman to be played by a major orchestra. 

In her music, Price talked about the hard times and the good moments her community went through. Her music is full of strength and pride in her culture.

Florence Price’s Symphonies

Florence Price composed several symphonies during her lifetime. 

Her symphonies are notable for blending classical forms with African American musical traditions, creating a unique and impactful sound. 

One of her most famous symphonies is Symphony No. 1 in E minor, which made her the first African American woman to have a composition performed by a major orchestra. 

Her symphonies often incorporate elements of spirituals and folk melodies, showcasing her ability to fuse different musical styles. 

Price’s symphonies have gained increased recognition in recent years, contributing to her legacy as a pioneering composer.

Some of her notable symphonies are listed below:

  • Symphony No. 1 in E minor (1931–32)
  • Symphony No. 3 in C minor (1938–40)
  • Symphony No. 4 in D minor (1945)

Florence Price Concertos

Florence Price composed a number of concertos during her musical career. 

These concertos showcase her ability to create captivating and expressive music for solo instruments accompanied by an orchestra. 

One of her best-known concertos is the Piano Concerto in One Movement, which she herself performed at important events. 

Price’s concertos often combine her classical training with elements of African American musical heritage, making them stand out for their unique blend of styles. 

Her contributions to the concerto genre have added to her legacy as a pioneering and influential composer.

  • Piano Concerto in D minor (1932–34);
  • Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major (1939)
  • Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor (1952)
  • Rhapsody/Fantasie for piano and orchestra

Florence Price’s Choral Works

Florence Price also created a variety of choral works that demonstrate her mastery of composing for voices. 

These choral pieces encompass a wide range of emotions and themes, often drawing inspiration from African American spirituals and folk traditions. 

One of her notable choral works is “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight,” which showcases her ability to weave poignant stories through music.

Price’s choral compositions resonate with rich harmonies and powerful narratives, reflecting her unique perspective as a composer. 

Her choral works contribute to her legacy as an important figure in American music history.

  • The Moon Bridge” (M. R. Gamble), SSA, 1930
  • The New Moon”, SSAA, 2 pf, 1930
  • The Wind and the Sea” (P. L. Dunbar), SSAATTBB, pf, str. qt., 1934
  • Night” (Bessie Mayle), SSA, pf (1945)
  • Witch of the Meadow” (Gamble), SSA (1947);
  • Sea Gulls”, female chorus (1951)
  • Nature’s Magic” (Gamble), SSA (1953)
  • Song for Snow” (E. Coatsworth), SATB (1957)
  • Abraham Lincoln walks at midnight” (V. Lindsay)
  • After the 1st and 6th Commandments, SATB
  • Communion Service”, (F, SATB+organ)
  • Nod (W. de la Mare), TTBB
  • Resignation (SATB)
  • Song of Hope
  • Spring Journey (SSA with string quartet)

Florence Price’s Vocal Solo Pieces with Piano Accompaniment

Florence Price also created beautiful solo vocal pieces accompanied by the piano. 

These compositions highlight her talent for crafting melodies that perfectly blend with piano music. 

In these works, her music often captures emotions and stories, drawing from African American musical influences. 

A notable example of her solo vocal pieces is “Songs to the Dark Virgin,” which showcases her ability to convey deep feelings through music.

Price’s solo vocal compositions with piano accompaniment are a testament to her creativity and unique voice as a composer.

Some of her notable vocal solos with piano accompaniment are listed below:

  • Don’t You Tell Me No (1931/1934)
  • Dreamin’ Town (Dunbar, 1934)
  • Four Songs from the Weary Blues (Hughes) (April 26, 1935)
  • B-Bar (1935)
  • My Dream” (Hughes, 1935)
  • Dawn’s Awakening (J. J. Burke, 1936)
  • Songs for the Dark Virgin
  • Hold Fast to Dreams (Hughes, 1945)
  • Night (L. C. Wallace, 1946)
  • Out of the South Blew a Wind (F.C. Woods, 1946)
  • An April Day (J. F. Cotter, 1949)
  • The Envious Wren (A. and P. Carey)
  • Fantasy in Purple (Hughes)
  • Feet o’ Jesus (Hughes)
  • Forever (Dunbar)
  • The Glory of the Day was in her Face (J. W. Johnson).
  • The Heart of a Woman (G. D. Johnson)
  • Love-in-a-Mist (Gamble)
  • Nightfall” (Dunbar)
  • Resignation (Price), also arr. chorus;
  • Song of the Open Road; Sympathy” (Dunbar);
  • To My Little Son” (J. J. Davis)
  • Travel’s End (M. F. Hoisington)
  • Judgement Day (Hughes)
  • Some o’ These Days

Florence Price’s Piano Works

Florence Price’s piano works are a testament to her extraordinary musical talent. 

Through her compositions, she masterfully combined classical influences with African American musical traditions, creating a unique and captivating sound. 

Her piano pieces often reflect a blend of emotions and stories, drawing inspiration from her heritage. 

Notable works like “In the Land O’ Cotton” and “Cotton Dance” showcase her ability to evoke vivid imagery and feelings through music. 

Price’s piano works are a cherished part of her legacy, highlighting her innovation and contribution to the world of music.

Some of her notable piano works are listed below:

List Of Price’s Piano Works

  • Tarantella (1926)
  • Impromptu No. 1 (1926)
  • Valsette Mignon (1926)
  • Preludes (1926–32):
    • 1 Allegro moderato;
    • 2 Andantino cantabile;
    • 3 Allegro molto;
    • 4 [“Wistful”] Allegretto con tenerezza;
    • 5 Allegro
  • At the Cotton Gin (1927)
  • Pensive Mood (March 3, 1928)
  • Scherzo in G (May 24, 1929)
  • Song Without Words in G Major (1928 or early 1930s)
  • Meditation (ca. 1929)
  • Fantasie nègre [No. 1] (E minor) (1929,
  • Fantasie nègre (as “Negro Fantasy”; rev. 1931);
  • Sinner, please don’t let this harvest pass.
  • On a Quiet Lake (June 23, 1929)
  • Waltz of the Spring Maid (ca. early 1930s)
  • Barcarolle (ca. 1929–32)
  • His Dream (ca. 1930–31)
  • Cotton Dance (Dance of the Cotton Blossoms) (1931)
  • Fantasie nègre No. 2 in G minor (March, 1932)
  • Piano Sonata in E minor (1932)
  • Child Asleep (July 6, 1932)
  • Etude [in C major] [ca. 1932]
  • Little Negro Dances (1933);
  • Scenes in Tin Can Alley (ca. 1937):
  • The Huckster” (October 1, 1928),
  • Children at Play”, “Night”
  • 3 Sketches for Little Pianists (1937)
  • Arkansas Jitter (1938)
  • Bayou Dance (1938)
  • Dance of the Cotton Blossoms (1938)
  • Summer Moon (for Memry Midgett) (April 6, 1938)
  • Down a Southern Lane (April 29, 1939)
  • Joy in June (June 27, 1938)
  • On a Summer’s Eve (June 15, 1939)
  • Rocking chair (1939)
  • An Old Love Letter [ca. 1941]
  • Your Hands in Mine (1943)
  • In Sentimental Mood (1947)
  • Whim Wham (July 6, 1946)
  • Placid Lake (July 17, 1947)
  • Memories of Dixieland (1947);
  • To a Brown Leaf (1949)
  • First Romance (ca. 1940s)
  • Waltzing on a Sunbeam (ca. 1950)
  • The Goblin and the Mosquito (1951)
  • Snapshots (1952):
    • Lake Mirror (October 13, 1952),
    • Moon Behind a Cloud (17 July 1949),
    • Flame (January 14, 1949)
    • Until We Meet (1952)
  • Dances in the Canebrakes (1953); and many more

Florence Price’s Works for Organ

Florence Price’s Organ works reveal her exceptional ability to infuse powerful emotions into her compositions. 

Drawing from her African American heritage and classical training, she crafted pieces that resonate with depth and soul. 

Her organ works are a harmonious blend of spirituality and musical innovation. 

Notable compositions like “Adoration” and “Fughetta” showcase her skill in creating intricate melodies that stir the heart. 

Price’s music for the organ still amazes people today. Her special compositions make people feel inspired and fascinated, taking them into the colorful world of her music.

Some of her notable piano works are listed below:

  • Adoration in The Organ Portfolio vol. 15/86 (December 1951),
  • Andante (1952)
  • Andantino
  • Allegretto
  • Cantilena (March 10, 1951)
  • Caprice
  • Dainty Lass (November 19, 1936)
  • Festal March
  • The Hour Glass
  • Hour of Peace or Hour of Contentment, or Gentle Heart, (November 16, 1951)
  • In Quiet Mood
  • Offertory in The Organ Portfolio vol. 17/130 (1953). Dayton OH (1953)
  • O Solemn Thought, (July 14, 1950)
  • Passacaglia and Fugue (January, 1927)
  • A Pleasant Thought (December 10, 1951)
  • Prelude and Fantasie (1942)
  • Steal Away to Jesus (November 19, 1936)
  • Suite No. 1 (April 6, 1942)
  • Variations on a Folksong

Final Note

Florence Price, a remarkable composer of the 20th century, left an indelible mark on the world of music.

As an African American woman composing during a challenging era, Price defied norms and obstacles to craft a unique musical voice. Her compositions are a blend of classical elegance and the rich heritage of African American spirituals and folk melodies.

Though her legacy faced obscurity for a time, the modern resurgence of interest in her work highlights the enduring power of her compositions.

Florence Price’s enduring contribution to music serves as an inspiration and a testament to the importance of diverse voices in the world of classical composition.

It’s unfortunate that, due to her race and gender, Price’s music was nearly erased.

It’s unfortunate that, due to her race and gender, Price’s music was nearly erased. But it’s nice to see her music coming back again.

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