America the Beautiful is a beloved patriotic song -- written by a woman! Women have contributed to the field of music as singers, songwriters, composers, and conductors. Match the woman with her accomplishment:
____ 1. A jazz vocalist and blues singer, her "Downhearted Blues" recorded by Columbia Records, sold 800,000 copies in the 1920s.
____ 2. In 1976, she became the first woman conductor at the Metropolitan Opera.
____ 3. The first African-American woman to have her composition played by a major orchestra.
____ 4. Famous operatic soprano who began singing on the radio at age three.
____ 5. She wrote a poem titled Pike's Peak that became the patriotic song America the Beautiful.
A. Katharine Lee Bates
B. Florence Beatrice Smith Price
C. Bessie Smith
D. Beverly Sills
E. Sarah Caldwell
"For purple mountain majesties, Above the fruited plain!" These words from America the Beautiful were written by Katharine Lee Bates as part of a poem titled Pike's Peak. The poem, published originally in 1895, was inspired when Bates stood on Pike's Peak surveying the beauty she saw around her. Bates was in Colorado for part of a summer lecturing at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. A professor of English at Wellesley College, she wrote poetry and books and specialized in the study of William Shakespeare. The music for America the Beautiful is from Samuel Ward.
As a teenager (and after the death of both of her parents), Bessie Smith performed as a street singer. This jazz vocalist and blues singer who would be nicknamed "Empress of the Blues", had a powerful voice and was mentored by legendary Ma Rainey. In 1923, Smith was discovered by Columbia Records. Her recording for them titled "Downhearted Blues" sold 800,000 copies. By the end of the 1920s, Smith was the highest paid African-American performed of her day. Smith has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
A music prodigy, Florence Beatrice Smith Price gave her first piano recital when she was four years old. She published her first compositions while in her teens and before she had graduated from high school. Price studied at the New England Conservatory of Music (camouflaging her African-American heritage) and eventually settled in Chicago. There her "Symphony in E Minor" was performed in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra after having received the 1932 Wanamaker Prize. Until her death, her works were played nationally and internationally by orchestras, sung by such luminaries as Marian Anderson, and Price performed with those orchestras as well. Price composed over 300 works in her lifetime and was inducted into the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
Conductor and opera director Sarah Caldwell also broke barriers for women. In 1976, she became the first woman conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. Caldwell was the founding director of the Opera Company of Boston. Featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1975, she was dubbed by them "Music's Wonder Woman" and called "the single best thing about opera in America." Like Price, Caldwell was a musical prodigy, giving her first violin recital at age six and studying at the New England Conservatory of Music.
Operatic soprano Beverly Sills sang in operas conducted and directed by Sarah Caldwell. Like the other women profiled in this article, she was a musical prodigy, singing on the radio at age three as Bubbles Silverman. She began singing with the New York City Opera in 1955 and debuted with the Metropolitan Opera in 1975. When her operatic career was completed, she ran the New York City Opera. Sills received many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These women who make beautiful music are profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. We celebrate their accomplishments and benefit from their significant contributions to our arts and culture.
(Answers 1-C, 2-E, 3-B, 4-D, 5-A )