One of Claire's students, by the name of Hannah, was the spark behind her adoption of violin music by women into all her student's lives. Claire was having a competition in which students could earn earn points by reading about composers. Six-year-old Hannah came to her lesson and asked, "Why are all the composers we read about men?" Excellent question!
In this video from last June, Claire's student Jiening is playing "A Picture," a movement from a suite by Edith Lynwood Winn titled From the Carolina Hills. Winn (1867-1933) was a pioneer in American music education. She studied violin in Boston with Julius Eichberg, and in Germany with Bernard Listemann. Should you go into a library with a good section on violin pedagogy, you'll likely see some small and well-used books whose titles start with the words, "How to Study..." and go on to name Kreutzer, Rode, Fiorillo, and Gavinies. Those are the works of Ms. Winn. She wrote a number of teaching pieces like this suite. "A Picture" and two other movements can be found in volume 1.
The grand finale of the Allen Violin Studio's #WomenWriteMusic recital was a group performance of "The Ice Skating Pond," the fourth movement of Kansas native Hannah Bartel's Kansas Memories Suite (also in vol. 1). Students love this suite! Hannah, now Hannah Bartel Groening, was a student of mine at Kansas State University. She was a composition major and violinist, and writes very beautiful and playable music. A full-time mom now, Hannah has caught one of her toddlers sitting at the piano "composing" already! I think of Hannah as one of the new generation of composers, but maybe her two-year-old is ahead of us already.
In February I gave a presentation to string teachers at our state music teachers convention on the anthologies, and in preparation I asked both Claire and Amy Beth Horman for reactions from their students to the pieces. One of Amy's students, ten-year-old Risa, wrote an incredibly beautiful response:
"Playing well-known wonderful pieces written by male composers always makes me feel great, but playing unknown still beautiful pieces written by female composers makes me feel special.
After listening to the piece titled A Sketch, I instantly fell in love with it. Its delicate, graceful and poetic melody touched my heartstrings and it was hard to believe that such a beautiful piece went unappreciated.
I could easily connect with the piece probably because it is written by a woman. I felt proud and privileged whenever I performed the piece because I was pretty sure that no one there had ever heard it before and I felt like being an ambassador for the piece.
Working on the piece was more than just learning a piece but a more special experience to me.I am fortunate to be able to have such an experience. Thank you so much."
Risa was a winner of the American Protege competition, and got to play in Weill Recital Hall last summer. She chose to play Ellicott's A Sketch for the occasion (and I was able to go and hear it!) She also performed it on Potter Violins' Classical Open Stage-- check out their Facebook page and YouTube channel for lots of great videos!
Also in volume 3 is New Zealand composer Claire Scholes' delightful Knee's Up Mambo. Scholes (born in 1980) is a mezzo soprano based in Auckland, where in addition to composing she works as an arranger, and teaches voice and piano privately. She is known for her vocal and choral writing, but I think her string writing is fantastic!
Kayleigh, another student of Amy Beth Horman, also performed this piece on Potter Violins' Classical Open Stage. It is such a fun work, and in a style we violinists don't get much chance to explore in the standard literature! Spoiler alert-- for the third volume of the viola anthology, I've commissioned a new piece by Scholes, which is Bollywood-inspired! Dust off your C-strings, because you're going to want to play it!
Two historical and two contemporary women composers played by a bunch of young violinists-- a great way to celebrate Women's History (and future!) Month. Do you have videos of students playing anthology pieces? I'd love to see them and share them with the world!