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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.

Thea Musgrave

Thea Musgrave

Scottish composer Thea Musgrave once had a dream in which a single clarinet player led the entire orchestra to mutiny--- a dream she realized in her 1967 Concerto for Orchestra.

In her concerto, the clarinet not only stands and interrupts the entire performance… it also dictates tunes for the other instruments to play. This dramatic approach to composition has been characteristic of Musgrave’s work throughout her career.

After university study in Edinburgh, Musgrave travelled to Paris in 1949 to study with famed teacher Nadia Boulanger. She remained Boulanger’s pupil for four years, then embarked on a career of teaching and composing in both America and Great Britain, before setting permanently in the U.S. in 1972.

Some of her large-scale works are inspired by tensions: soloist versus orchestra, as in the orchestra concerto; or “orchestra-as-machine” versus “orchestra-as-collective-of-individuals.” Others are rooted in art, such as The Seasons, inspired by a visit to the Metropolitan Museum. Her operas, often crafted with her own words, put historical figures center, such as Mary, Queen of Scots or Harriet Tubman.

In a sign of increasing recognition for female composers, her 90th birthday brought two major retrospectives of her work: at the Edinburgh International Festival and the BBC Proms.

Her advice for aspiring composers? "Don't do it, unless you have to. And if you do, enjoy every minute of it."

Thea Musgrave… a Composing Woman.

Horn Concerto
Orfeo I, for solo flute and pre-recorded track
Excursions, for piano solo. 1: Driving in the Highlands, 7: Fog on the Motorway
Mary, Queen of Scots, opera
The Seasons: Summer, for chamber orchestra
“Nada dura” from Simon Bolívar, opera
Turbulent Landscapes for orchestra

Supporting Materials

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.