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Black History Month – Florence Price

February 2, 2024

Florence Beatrice Price (1887–1953) was a groundbreaking African-American composer and pianist. Notably, she is the first black woman to gain national status, having had her composition performed by a major American symphony orchestra.


Born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, she received initial training from her mother, demonstrating her musical talent for piano playing and composing early on. Later, she attended the New England Conservatory, graduating in 1906 with degrees in piano teaching and organ performance.

Despite facing racial and gender barriers in Arkansas, where music groups shunned her because of her race, Price persevered. In 1932, she was awarded two first-place Rodman Wanamaker Music Awards. In 1933, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra premiered her Symphony in E Minor, marking a historic moment for African-American composers.

Price’s compositions, which were influenced by African-American spiritual and folk traditions, blend classical and folk elements. Her symphonies, chamber works, and vocal pieces showcase a unique fusion of Western classical music and the cultural richness of the African-American community. 

Florence Price’s resilience and artistry paved the way for future generations of African-American composers and musicians.