Frequently Asked Questions
As a part of our mission to promote historically ignored voices in the arts, ONEcomposer launched our speaker series: an opportunity to sit, listen, and learn from accomplished artists, teachers, and composers with special connections to Florence Price. Below is a collection of frequently asked questions from those listening sessions, and answers from our guests.
Listen to our speaker series guest Michelle Cann discuss the importance of music education in supporting Black musicians:
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If students are interested in learning Price's music, what resources would you direct them to?
ONEcomposer Team: We have gathered a list of resources for accessing sheet music and other published materials under the 'Resources' tab of our website in 'Links'. For additional resources, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What are your favorite teaching pieces by Florence Price?
Tamara Acosta: Florence Price’s vocal pieces are not easy! They require access to a wide vocal range, large interval movement and are often quite dramatic! Many of the pieces are also musically complex. Given that little to no recordings exist of this music, it has been challenging for some of the younger, less experienced singers. “A White Rose” is a lovely piece that is quite accessible. It is only 24 measures of singing and the range is not too challenging. It’s also very beautiful. Students have been enjoying that piece.
Michelle Cann: The truth is, because of what we were just talking about [in this session], she is kind of a new discovery in a way for myself as well. I’m just getting around to starting to share some of her music with interested students. At the moment, the only thing I’ve really worked on is the [Sonata in E minor’s] second movement. I was actually teaching a student that particular movement this summer, and it’s a great, great, great movement, the one you heard me play. I think it’s, out of all three movements it’s not just my favorite, but also
Q: What do we know about Price's career as a performer, and what performers collaborated with her?
Michelle Cann: Florence Price, the first thing about her that was significant was that she went to the New York Conservatory of Music and had studied with very great professors and therefore did connect with some bigger names. On one side, Margaret Bonds, who was also a wonderful Black pianist, they had quite a connection because Margaret Bonds was family. Margaret’s parents were friends with Florence Price, and at one point Florence Price lived with them, and she taught Margaret Bonds, who was a young, black female pianist who also turned out to be another amazing performer, and a composer. And I’m
Q: What's the most important thing white music educators can do for their students, both white and students of color to advance this work?
Dr. Baruch Whitehead: Oh, I could talk about that forever. I mean there’s so many things. I think number one is to make sure to examine who you are. Your experiences, your white privilege. But also look at what’s displayed in your classroom. What types of music are you looking at? There’s some songs that we’ve been singing for years that have racist undertones, and overtones if you will. To bring in people of color into your classroom, make sure they are represented on the walls, and the kinds of lesson plans that you’re doing, to make sure there’s a balance there, I think that’s one small way we can do it.
Q: Can you say more about music education in grades K-12? How do you encourage your students to diversify what they will be teaching kids?
Dr. Baruch Whitehead: I think we need to plant the seeds early. Because number one, Children have to be taught to be prejudiced. And I think planting that seed and making sure that you have a balanced curriculum, being able to go into a- I remember when I was in West Virginia teaching and I would go into these very rural communities, and I remember vividly walking into a classroom and a little girl going “Oh teacher, there’s a Black man” because they had never seen a Black person up close. But I tell you those were some of the most enriching times I had teaching, because we related
Q: What are your thoughts on cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation of African-American styles music and popular music?
Dr. Baruch Whitehead: Well cultural appropriation is going to happen because when people come together we are going to mix and match. But it’s interesting, that question, I often turn it back on the person and say “You don’t have to be German to sing a German Lied or you don’t have to be French to sing a French art song, so why is it that you feel like you have to be Black to sing Black music?”. I think that people want to be sensitive towards cultural appropriation but I think that if you took the time to understand, even educating your audience about the pieces that you’re presenting, to let them know
Dr. Baruch Whitehead: Well I think Beyoncé for sure, she just did Black is King. That was really, if you have not seen that you should really look at that because that’s a lot in there. But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about Paul Robeson. I mean those who have come before the contemporary artists whose shoulders we are standing on. See a lot of people paid a big price for us to even be, over zoom or in the same room together or even going to school together so, I think a lot of times the young people don’t have that history to walk in, and they need to understand, like people died to get the right to vote- Black people and white people so it was just, for us to be cavalier and say “Oh I’m not going to vote” I think is a tragedy and it doesn’t serve us well as a nation or a people.
Allen Porterie: Lizzo, Janelle Monae, Kendrick Lamar, Blood Orange, Common, John Legend are a few artists I think of as embodying the contemporary model of artist-activist.
Q: Can you pinpoint any contemporary musicians who are carrying the legacy of Florence Price as activists and artists today?
Q: Should majority white ensembles be prevented from singing African-American styles of music?
Dr. Baruch Whitehead: No. Anybody, hear again this music is open to all. It’s like “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” is called the negro national anthem, but the first words out of James Welsen Johnson’s mouth was lift every voice and sing. Here again, if we were living in Atlanta, Georgia maybe the DCJS singers would be majority Black. I’m thankful for every single person who comes each week to hear about these songs but here again, we’re all human. If you really think about it, it’s really one of the only authentic American musics that we have. That acculturation of Black and white