This Black History Month, Noteworthy is celebrating the significant contributions that Black composers have made to the history, cultivation, and appreciation of orchestral music. At the TSO, this celebration is a year-round commitment expressed through the programming of our concerts, community outreach programs, and the sustenance of a platform for Black musicians. For the month of February, we’ll be casting an editorial spotlight on Black composers that inspire us and reflect the TSO’s broader mission to create musical experiences for every member of Toronto’s diverse communities. This first installation features American composer Florence Price!
Price was born into a middle-class Arkansas family in 1887, to a mother that was deeply committed to a robust musical education for her talented daughter. The dual barriers of racism and sexism prevented her from receiving advanced musical training as a teenager in Little Rock, but a relocation to Boston’s New England Conservatory in 1903 — under the auspices of the supportive George Whitefeild Chadwick — allowed her compositional powers, infused with African-American folks melodies, to flourish. Out of this foundational soil grew a lifetime of tireless work and compositions that earned her notoriety in the American new music scene. Though her body of work went relatively unheralded after her death, an intentional revival and appreciation of Price’s discography has ramped up over the last few years, most notably is a 2022 recording of her first and third symphonies by the Philadelphia Orchestra.
Last year, Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser — our Barrett Principal Education Conductor & Community Ambassador — took a moment to reflect on the staying power and charm of this incredible Black woman: