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Classical music has a history of Composing… Women! So this Women’s History Month Tri States Public Radio and the WIU School of Music shines the spotlight… one every weekday… on over twenty great female composers. From baroque to romantic… to impressionist… to post-serialist. From the mystic Abbess who advised the Pope… to the Chicagoan whose works were rediscovered in an abandoned house. Listen in for Composing Women… Every weekday during March at 7:19 during Morning Edition, or at 5:48 during All Things Considered, as TSPR Music Director Ken Zahnle introduces you to our composer of the day… and at 11:00 a.m. during Ovation for a featured work by our featured classical master.

Amy Cheney Beach

Amy Cheney Beach

The first successful American woman composer of large-scale works, Amy Cheney could improvise counter-melodies at age two, taught herself to read music at three, and began playing her own works at her first public recitals at seven. From 16 to 18 she impressed Boston audiences with virtuosic performances of Chopin and Mendelssohn concertos.

In 1885 she married surgeon and Harvard lecturer Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach, 24 years her senior. At his request, Amy agreed to give up performing… save two charity concerts a year… focusing on composition instead.

Over the next 25 years her disciplined routine produced important large-scale works: Her Mass in B-flat Major was the first work by a woman to be performed by Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra premiered her Gaelic Symphony… the first composed and published by an American woman. Commissions from across the continent followed.

After the death of her husband in 1910 Beach resumed performance, touring Europe where she was recognized as the first American woman performing and composing at a European level. Upon her return home Beach continued to tour in the U.S., and spent her summers composing at the MacDowell artist colony.

As a leader, Beach promoted the music and careers of talented women through the Music Teachers National Association, the Music Educators National Conference, and the Society of American Women Composers.

Amy Cheney Beach… a Composing Woman.


“Gaelic” Symphony in e minor, op. 32
Three Shakespeare Choruses, op. 39
Piano Concerto in c# minor, op.45
Piano Quintet, op. 67
Piano Trio, op. 150
Pastorale for woodwind quintet, op. 151

Supporting Materials
Image of Amy Beach from
Image of Amy Beach from 1908, from
Amy Beach as a young woman, from
Amy Beach standing with her husband, Dr. Henry Harris Aubrey Beach.

Accessible websites relevant to the composer

Ken oversees all music programming for Tri States Public Radio, hosting the morning classical music program Ovation, the Saturday nigh jazz survey After Hours, and engineering recorded performances for TSPR. Ken is a native of Highland Park, IL, with degrees in music and broadcasting from Western Illinois University. Teenage years listening to Chicago's old-school fine arts and classical radio stations, coupled with a few months spinning discs on a college residence hall radio station, led him onto the primrose career path of radio. Ken has deep roots at TSPR, starting as a student staff announcer and host, before becoming news director for a group of local radio stations, then Program Director for Tri States Audio Information Services. When he's not deep within our studios and music library, he continues his over quarter-century of assisting Macomb High School's Marching Band.