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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.

Florence Beatrice Price

Florence Beatrice Price

In 2009 a family began renovating an abandoned house in St. Anne, Illinois, and were astonished to discover piles of paper throughout the home… music manuscripts.

The papers, and the house, had once belonged to composer Florence Beatrice Price, the first African-American woman to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra.

Florence was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1887 and studied at the prestigious New England Conservatory, where she earned degrees in organ performance and piano pedagogy. Trained in a late Romantic style, Price merged European influences with elements of her African American heritage… including spirituals, call-and-response, and dance rhythms. She taught at several southern colleges, married, and moved to Chicago, where she resumed composition studies and built connections with other Black artists and intellectuals.

Perhaps the most important connection was with Margaret Bonds, also a pianist and composer, and Price’s student. Bonds premiered Florence’s Fantaisie nègre in 1929 to acclaim, and both entered works in the 1932 Wannamaker Foundation competition. Both won first prize… Bonds for song, and Price’s Symphony in E minor for orchestral composition. The symphony was then performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the 1933 World’s Fair.

Price continued to write: 4 symphonies, 3 concertos, suites, overtures, songs; but many of those remained unpublished at the time of her fatal 1953 heart attack in Chicago… that is, until their rediscovery in that abandoned downstate Illinois summer house 56 years later.

Florence Beatrice Price… a Composing Woman.


Symphony #1 in e minor
Violin Concerto #2
Fantaisie nègre no. 1
String Quartet #2 in a minor
Resignation, for choir (text also by FBP)
Ethiopia’s shadow in America

Supporting Materials

Image of Florence Price, from

Image of Florence Price with Sixteen Other People at 1934 Party in Honor of Maude R. George taken by Worthington Studios. From

Image of Florence Price seated in front of a piano. From

Accessible websites relevant to the composer

This website invites performers and scholars of Florence Beatrice Price to share their contributions with the public. It contains biographical information as well as ongoing scholarly research.

This is the website for the international Florence Price festival. It contains biographical information as well as information about events and concerts featuring Price’s music.

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.