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Music Seminar Explores Work of Women in Music

Student plays piano during a presentation about composer Sophie Eckhardt-Gramatte, whose photo is shown on a screen above the piano

Students in Meredith’s music literature seminar spent the fall semester focused on the work of women composers, and the results of their work was on stage during a lecture-recital on December 14, 2017.

The seminar for upper-level music majors was taught by Shannon Gravelle, Meredith’s director of choral activities and music education coordinator.

“The lens with which we approached this semester was women in music, and the fact that women have been underrepresented throughout the history of music,” Gravelle said. “The students have undertaken serious questions about cultural expectations and how this has affected the music of women in history and in the current era.”

The seven students in the class selected a woman in music and spent the semester researching her life and work. The students studied the composers through scholarship as well as performance. In the lecture-recital, each student presented historical context about each artist, shared biographical information, and then analyzed and performed an excerpt of the composer’s works.

The students in the class and the musicians and composers they studied were:

  • Caroline Carter, who is earning a Bachelor of Arts in music, researched 18th century Italian composer Camilla de Rossi.
  • Brittany Hayes, who is earning a Bachelor of Music in music education, researched Elisabeth-Claude de La Guerre, the first woman to compose and publish an opera in France.
  • Natalie Brooke Overton, who is earning a Bachelor of Arts in music, researched Louise Reichardt, a self-taught composer who was a working artist in Germany in the late 1700s/early 1800s.
  • Kristin Eiffert Foster, who is earning a Bachelor of Arts in music, researched Alice Mary Smith, an English composer who lived in the 1800s and was an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music.
  • Lily Stavish, who is earning a Bachelor of Arts in music, researched Sophie Eckhardt-Gramatte, a composer, violinist, and pianist who worked in the 1900s.
  • Amanda Bateman, who is earning a Bachelor of Arts in music, researched Felicitas Kukuck, a 20th century German musician and composer who wrote for instruments including the oboe.
  • Alexis Chastain, who is earning a Bachelor of Music in music education, presented about women band directors and women tenor saxophonists.

In their presentations, many of the students said they were inspired by the lives of the women they focused on this semester, even though available information was limited for many of them.

Carter called the project the “challenge of discovering a hidden treasure.”

Hayes said it was “intriguing to study de La Guerre, an artist working during a time when that was very unusual for women.”

Eckhardt-Gramatte was child prodigy who “broke societal boundaries as a woman composing and performing, with proficiency on two instruments,” Stavish said. “She had more than 175 compositions but few were published.”

Chastain, who focused on female band directors, said “It is important to know the history of women in this field, which is still primarily men. It’s important for women to know that they can do this.”

Gravelle praised her students for building expertise on women composers and musicians for whom there are few senior scholars.

“While many questions about these women have been answered, many questions remain unanswered because these voices have been quieted through the retelling of history,” Gravelle said. “The students will take this scholarship with them as they move forward in their studies and into the professional world.”

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Melyssa Allen
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(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330
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