Florence Price

Florence Price was one of three children in a mixed race family. Despite racial issues of the era, Price’s family was well respected and did well within their community. Her father was a dentist and her mother was a music teacher who guided Florence’s early musical training. Price had her first piano performance at the age of four and went on to have her first composition published at the age of 11. By time she was 14, Price had graduated Capitol High School at the top of her class and was enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music with a major in piano and organ. Initially, Price pretended to be Mexican to avoid the stigma people had towards African-Americans at the time. While in college, Price was able to study composition and counterpoint with composers George Chadwick and Frederick Converse. She wrote her first string trio and symphony in college and graduated in 1907 with honors and both an artist diploma in organ and a teaching certificate.

Price taught in Arkansas briefly before moving to Atlanta, Georgia in 1910, where she became the head of Clark University’s music department. In 1912, Price married Thomas J. Price, an attorney, and moved back to Little Rock, Arkansas. After a series of racial incidents in Little Rock, particularly a lynching that took place in 1927, the family moved to Chicago where Price began a new and fulfilling period in her compositional career. She studied composition, orchestration, and organ with the leading teachers in the city including Arthur Olaf Anderson, Carl Busch, Wesley La Violette, and Leo Sowerby, and published four pieces for piano in 1928. While in Chicago, Price was at various times enrolled at the Chicago Musical College, Chicago Teacher’s College, Chicago University, and American Conservatory of Music, studying languages and liberal arts subjects as well as music.