A University of Arkansas at Little Rock pianist and professor traveled to Europe in May to share the works of some of the great female American composers of our time.
The U.S. Embassy in Vienna, Austria, invited Dr. Linda Holzer, professor of music, to perform a recital at Amerika Haus entitled, “Masterpieces by American Women Composers,” on May 17 as a cultural diplomacy initiative.
“The U.S. Embassy in Vienna hosts a variety of kinds of outreach intended to promote the sharing of ideas, the arts, and to bring people together promoting mutual understanding. This is part of the mission,” Holzer said.
The composers included Florence Price, Gwyneth Walker, Margaret Bonds, and Missy Mazzoli.
“Although the audience in Vienna was unfamiliar with these composers and their music, they responded very enthusiastically,” Holzer said. “What the composers have in common is passion, and I would say lyricism, and a good sense for using the piano expressively well, but the styles vary. It was a special pleasure to share music by Arkansas composer Florence Price. Her Sonata in E Minor was an audience favorite.”
Price was a Little Rock native who became the first African-American woman composer to have a symphonic composition performed by a major American orchestra and one of the first African-American classical composers to gain international attention. Price applied and was denied entry to the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association sometime between 1917 and 1927 because of her race.
Related: Arkansas Composer Florence Price honored by organization who denied her entry due to race
Holzer was instrumental in making sure Price was recognized after all these years. In March, she attended the Music Teachers National Association conference in Orlando, where Price was honored as an MTNA Foundation Fellow. Holzer donated the conference program and Price’s certificate and pin to the UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture so that it can be preserved for future generations. Holzer’s recitals in Austria and Slovenia represent the first time Price’s music has been performed in these locations.
“Florence Price, unfortunately, died right before she was to embark on a trip to Europe herself in 1953,” Holzer said. “I felt like I carried the torch for her, introducing her music to new audiences in 2018. Hopefully, people who enjoyed the music will purchase recordings and scores and share it with others.”
Through a partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Austria, the U.S. Embassy in Slovenia also invited Holzer to perform in Maribor, Slovenia, on May 21. In the morning, she led a workshop on iPad performance technology, and performed the recital for students and faculty at the Maribor Conservatory for Music and Ballet. In the afternoon, she gave a lecture-recital, “American Women Composers: Challenges and Opportunities,” at Maribor University, which was sponsored by the College of Education.
Holzer’s program and notes were even translated into Slovenian, and the students and teachers at the Maribor Conservatory were given PDF copies of her iPad Technology slideshow so they can refer to her iPad performance tips.
“The use of the iPad performance technology wasn’t widespread,” she said. “Only a few faculty and students were using it. The head of their piano program was supportive, and curious to learn more, so this was a good chance for me to encourage other Slovenian musicians to explore this technology.”
Holzer said the best part of the trip was seeing the expressions on the faces of the people who truly enjoyed the music.
“When I asked an older Austrian gentleman after the concert what his favorite piece was, he remarked, ‘They were each so different. I couldn’t pick one favorite; I enjoyed them all.’ He didn’t want to have to pick a favorite. He enjoyed the diversity of musical expression.
There are plenty of Americans who play music by famous Austrian composers like Mozart. Wouldn’t it be great if there were Europeans who decided to play music by Florence Price and the others? I think that would be wonderful.”
The U.S. Embassy in Vienna created a video featuring an interview with Holzer and video from her performance.
In the upper right photo, while visiting Slovenia, Linda Holzer is pictured with Ivanka Ponikvar and Mateja Juric from the U.S. Embassy in Slovenia; Helena Meško, the principal of the Maribor Conservatory for Music and Ballet; and Lidija Maletic, the head of the piano program.