LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — According to the Dunbar Historic Neighborhood Association (DHNA), the organization kicked off a week of activities on Sunday, April 3, 2022 to celebrate the life, legacy and music of the late Florence B. Price. Price is the first African American woman composer to have her music performed by a major American orchestra and one of the first African American classical composers to gain international acclaim.
In celebration of Price’s birthday, DHNA scheduled several activities that are free and open to the public.
The first planned event was the Florence Price “Community Garden Party” which featured Price’s music and compositions along with a jazzy keyboardist and singer, poetry readings, a chess contest, and light refreshments.
According to the organization, a week of scheduled activities by DHNA will culminate on April 9 with the “Music From the Heart” event featuring concert pianist Julia Buckingham. It will be held from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center located at 501 W. Ninth Street in downtown Little Rock.
DHNA Executive Director Angel Burt said since Price is garnering newfound recognition globally and across the U.S. for her symphonic compositions, DHNA is highlighting Florence’s accomplishments to those who have never heard her music or knew that she was born in Little Rock’s Dunbar Historic District.
“In the past several years, there have been Florence Price festivals and celebrations, in cities like Chicago and Baltimore; smaller communities like South Bend, Indiana, Bowling Green, Ohio and Sequin, Texas; and even as far away as England and France,” Burt said. “Although she could not perform her works in Arkansas because of racism, it is now time to recognize her as one of the greatest composers in American history.”
Burt noted that in August 2021, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in partnership with DHNA, held a world premiere of the Little Rock native’s own orchestration of her Piano Concerto. That free event was sponsored by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust.
In November of 2021, Governor Asa Hutchinson proclaimed April 9, 2022, as Florence B. Price Day.
At this year’s event, Hutchinson will give a video birthday tribute to Price and a welcome to concert attendees at the historic downtown African American museum and cultural center. Mayor Frank Scott Jr. will also be in attendance at the historic celebration and will give closing remarks.
The Mosaic Templars concert will feature an assortment of Price’s compositions by Buckingham, who has performed a variety of styles at concert series and festival programs across the U.S. The University of Arkansas graduate is noted for her perfect pitch and has been called a music prodigy since her first instructor recognized her talents at the age of four. Other featured musical guests at the upcoming event will include Linda Holzer, a music professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; local opera singer Nesheeda Golden, a mezzo-soprano; and baritone Ronald W. McDaniel ll.
Price herself was a child prodigy in piano who attended the prestigious New England Conservatory in Boston. Following graduation, she worked as a music teacher in Arkansas for four years and then worked as the chair of the music department at Atlanta’s Clark University.
After returning to Little Rock in 1912, Price was active as a teacher, organist, composer and founder of the Little Rock Club of Musicians. However, she was denied entry to the Arkansas State Music Teachers Association between 1917 and 1927 because of her race.
Besides the gathering at the Community Garden Party and Monday’s press conference, below are the schedule of other events that will be held in honor of Price:
- On April 5, a “Do You Hear What I Hear” Florence Price Listening Party will be held at Dunbar Magnet Middle School, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary and Gibbs Elementary School. The students at those local schools in the Dunbar Historic District will be listening to Price’s music and giving an impression of how the music makes them think and feel. School lesson plans through the month of April will also include historical information on Price’s music and works.
- On April 6, University of Arkansas at Little Rock Music Professor Linda Holzer will give a Florence Price lecture to Little Rock Central High students. That lecture will be broadcast on UA Little Rock’s public television network.
- On April 7, the winners of the Florence B. Price art and essay contest from Dunbar, MLK, Gibbs and Horace Mann Middle Magnet School will be announced. The top three winners will all receive cash awards and recognition on April 9 at the Mosaic Templars concert, where their art and essays will also be displayed. During the day’s activities, elementary school students will watch a three-minute short film on Price’s life. Middle and high school students will also watch a 14-minute documentary about the Little Rock native, who was also music teacher, church pianist and organist at Allison Presbyterian Church.
- On April 9, Little Rock public radio station KUAR, 89.1 FM, will celebrate the African American composer’s birthday with “Florence Price Music Day.”
For more information concerning the marker ceremony and fundraiser, please contact DHNA at DunbarHNA@gmail.com, or (501)-690-9869. To reserve your seat RSVP by April 7, as space for this event is limited. To make reservations click here.
According to DHNA, sponsors include:
- Arkansas Humanities
- Little Rock School District
- Pyramid Art
- Books and Custom Framing
- City of Little Rock
- Mosaic Templars Cultural Center