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Celebrating the pipe organ, the King of Instruments

Mailbag: “First Things First”

October 22, 2007

Dear Michael,

I was listening to this evening’s broadcast (10/21/2007)–an interesting program first of all! A statement was made regarding the first American woman composer to write a symphony–indicating that the composer was Florence Price. In some research that I did several years ago, I saw statements that indicated that Amy Beach was the first American woman to write a symphony (known as the Gaelic Symphony). Do you know which is correct? Thanks again for your wonderful program.


Sharon Johnson



About American women composers of symphonies…I rechecked my transcript, and I did goof when I said ‘first American woman’, which, of course is wrong. Florence Price was the first African-American woman to compose a symphony. I do know about Amy Cheney Beach, so my misstatement was a blunder of the moment…unfortunately perpetuated in the broadcast!

I hope this correction helps tip the balance back.

Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (September 5, 1867–December 27, 1944) was an American composer and pianist. She was the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music and likely the first American woman composer of a symphony. Most of her compositions and performances were under the name Mrs. H.H.A. Beach.



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