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Woman's Work in Music

Harper’s October number printed translations of Mme. Marchesi’s “Reminiscences.”

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In the June number of La Voix, Christine Nilsson published some “Notes on Song.”

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Miss Boulay took one of the two first prizes for counterpoint and fugue at the Paris Conservatoire in July. She is a pupil of Massenet and is blind.

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In a communication received from Mrs. Theodore Thomas some pertinent remarks are made concerning Woman and Music. We quote the following:

“I believe that women should have the same educational advantages in music that men have, and that woman’s work, when of equal excellence, should receive the same recognition as that of man. But the tendency of the present day to bring forward every woman worker simply because she is a woman, I think does much harm. It merely places a premium on mediocrity, and encourages a host of women who are not fitted either by nature or by education to do any valuable work for art, into striving for a species of cheap notoriety, and crowding aside the really gifted women who are able to achieve valuable results, and who would otherwise invest so-called ‘woman’s work’ with dignity, and, by making it stand for art and not for sex, command for it the world’s respect.

“Mrs. Theo. Thomas.”

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A California girl who has scored a great musical success in Europe and accomplished that which no American girl ever did before is Miss Leonora Jackson. She won the prize known as the “Mendelssohn Stipendium.”

Miss Leonora Jackson is a violinist, the daughter of Charles P. Jackson. She was a protégée of Mrs. Grover Cleveland, and was sent to Berlin by her in order to study the violin under Joachim.

This is the first occasion upon which the prize, amounting to 1500 marks, has been captured by an American.

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The women in Danbury, Conn., are a good example of what women can do in music. Of the six principal churches, the music in all but one is conducted by women, and the organists in four of them are also women.

In the city there is a woman’s musical club, which consists of about 75 members. Since its inauguration four years ago by Western impulse it has developed greatly, and has influenced very materially the musical atmosphere of this place, which has about 20,000 inhabitants.

The club has study meetings, alternating with recitals illustrating the subject studied. One year they considered music from what might be called a bird’s-eye view, taking, for only one meeting each, Harmony; Musical Form; The Piano: Its Mechanism, Makers, Composers, and Teachers; The Voice: Singers, and Methods of Teaching; The Opera; and The Oratorio.

The next year, nationalities in music, except the German—leaving the most important for a more thorough study.

In connection with the club is a chorus, which has won many compliments for its work.

There is a school of music and a college of music (incorporated), with departments of piano, voice, harmony, analysis, elocution, guitar, mandolin, violin, sight-singing choruses, and musical clubs. Each is managed by a woman; the majority of the faculty also are women.

Mrs. F. S. Wardwell.

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Old Fogies’ Quartet.

A unique piano quartet is ” The Old Fogies’ Quartet,” of Englewood, N. J. It was formed more than seven years ago by one of its members, Mrs. Julia J. Duncan. Realizing the tendency of women approaching middle life to drop musical interests and practice, Mrs. Duncan hit upon the quartet as a means for the prevention of such deterioration.

Glasses, made necessary by reason of years, were an indispensable condition of membership. One lady, although eligible as to age, had not yet felt the need of glasses; but as she wore a glass eye, it was considered an equivalent.

This original quartet, through the years that have elapsed, has continued faithful to its weekly practice and other obligations.

Meanwhile the idea had taken root in other parts of the town, resulting in three more piano quartets, and still another was formed in Mt. Holly, N. J., by a member of one of the Englewood quartets who had removed to that place.

Noteworthy results of the formation of these quartets have been not only dissemination of music culture in their own community, but substantial aid to the cause of music in one of its largest centers—New York City. Last year, through the patronage and influence of the “Englewood Piano Club,” as the quartet may now be considered, Mrs. Duncan, the president, passed into the New York Philharmonic Society $485, and to one of the opera companies about the same amount. This year the Philharmonic has received from the same source $527.

Philharmonic programmes are regularly studied in advance. Outsiders are permitted to share in this study as audience, and many gladly avail themselves of the privilege of thus familiarizing themselves with the programmes prior to the concerts.

It is highly probable that the inquiries and research of this club had something to do with the establishing of musical circulating libraries by leading music firms of New York City. During its existence the club has studied the works of all the masters and much modern music.

In only the original quartet is age an essential to membership. The younger generation were not disposed to let the “Old Fogies” have the benefits of ensemble practice and associated work all to themselves.

The original quartet, however, should be widely emulated, particularly by matrons and all women in middle life, as these have not the many other incentives to musical interest and practice that exist for their younger sisters. A. Marie Merrick.

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A prominent educator, one who has had many students under him, both men and women, says that his experience has shown him that women, as a rule, make better harmony students than men; they are more faithful and accurate in the observance of rules. When they take up counterpoint and the higher studies that demand judgment and discrimination, he thinks they fall back, and still more so in the study of form and practice of composition.

He does not say that this is due to incapacity, only the statement is made, and it remains for the women students of the art to take up the gage, flung down as it were, and by concentrated effort and firm endeavor disprove the statement.

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Mrs. Theodore Sutro, President of the National Federation of Women’s Musical Clubs, presided at a meeting held at her residence, 320 West One Hundred and Second Street, on Saturday afternoon, November 20th. The object of the meeting was to decide on the place and time for the annual convention. It was determined to hold the convention in Chicago in the second week of January, that point being looked on as the most central.

It is expected that about 300 clubs will join the Federation at its convention, as 230 clubs have already signified their intention of becoming members. Mrs. Sutro spoke on “Women’s Compositions” before a meeting of the Women’s Club of Brooklyn in the Young Women’s Christian Association Building, lately. The subject was illustrated by Mme. Renard.

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Music clubs have come into existence for the same reason that other culture-clubs are organized, and the worth of such work is incalculable. The results are felt not only in the musical culture of the women themselves, but in the support, direct and indirect, of the professional musicians, the development of public taste, and the improvement of music teaching, because parents—mothers, at least—know better what to demand.

It is not many hundred years since men began to write what we moderns call music, and for centuries after they began to feel their way along the path a few men have made so brilliant by flashes of creative genius, women were denied more than the merest rudiments of education. It is hardly a hundred years since higher education began to be offered to women, and thirty years ago it was difficult for women to obtain what was urged upon their brothers.

There have been instances in the past of woman’s creative power in the realm of music, but they are few. Now that the mass of women is being better educated these instances are increasing in number, until to-day it is not uncommon to give whole programmes of women’s compositions.

There seems to be a tendency in some minds to make a great deal of the fact that a piece of music is written by a woman. It must be because the novelty has not worn off. Or is it possible that it is a remnant of the old chivalry—“womanship” of the middle ages?

Our brothers, God bless them! are sometimes prone to make much of us still because we are women, despite the ”new woman” hue and cry.

In some quarters there is a bitterness in the comment on Woman (with a capital) in music, and scathing criticism of the “pretty” and “tuneful things” which she is trying to call music. One feels tempted to ask if the critic is afraid of being overtaken and beaten in the race for fame.

What we really want, and will eventually have, is unprejudiced, and therefore fair, treatment. There are many men who write poor and fairly good music—a few who write masterpieces. So there are many women who do poor and fair work in literature, and a few who write masterpieces. It is not so much a question of sex, except for those who wish to speculate; it is a question of achievement. The women who are able to transmute fancy and imagination into music will do it, and will do it better as they have more experience. The ability of women to interpret music is no longer questioned.

There is a great movement in education quite outside of schools, in which women are active, and in which music study is taking its place with other means of culture. To this work, if to any, might be given the appellation, “Woman in Music,” for perhaps this embodies the quality which the world has called womanly,—that of inspiring and nurturing, which has been the mark of woman’s work on all lines in the past. But woman’s field of activity has broadened with civilization, and any good work she shows she can do is “woman’s work.”

To me there is nothing so foolish as this antagonism of sex. Male and female are simply the currents from opposite poles of the same dynamo; instead of pitting them against each other, let them be gathered up and sent along over the wire together—there will be more light.

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There is one field of musical work that women ought to do, and do well as experience and the resultant confidence is gained, and that is, the organization and training of small vocal clubs, made up entirely of women. There is so much beautiful music that can be rendered only by women’s voices, and the charm of artistic rendering is so delightful, that the labor involved will be amply repaid.

A teacher of singing can easily form the nucleus of such a club from her own pupils, and, by good musical work, coupled with tact, she should make herself a factor in the social and artistic life of her community.

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Mr. John Towers has lately issued a small pamphlet on “Woman in Music.” It is a vindication of woman’s character as a creative musician, a defense of her position as a factor in musical art, and a prediction as to the sphere in which she will take her stand. It also contains a list of nearly 1000 names of women musicians, and a mention of their specialty. Send to office of The Etude for copy. Price 25 cents.


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