(9 April 1887-3 June 1953)
Price was born to Florence Gulliver and James H. Smith in Little Rock, Arkansas, one of three children in a mixed-race family. Despite racial issues of the era, her family was well respected within their community. Her father was a dentist and her mother was a music teacher who guided Florence's early musical training. By the time she was 14, Price was enrolled in Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music, with a major in piano and organ. Initially, she pretended to be Mexican to avoid the stigma people had towards African Americans at the time. She graduated in 1906 with honors. In 1912, she married Thomas J. Price, an attorney, and moved back to Little Rock. 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. Financial struggles led to a divorce in 1931, and Florence became a single mother to her two daughters. To make ends meet, she worked as an organist for silent film screenings and composed songs for radio ads under a pen name. During this time, Price lived with friends and eventually moved in with her student and friend, Margaret Bonds, also a black pianist and composer. This friendship connected Price with writer Langston Hughes and contralto Marian Anderson, both prominent figures in the art world who aided in Price's future success as a composer. Though her training was steeped in European tradition, her melodies were often blues-inspired. Her compositions reveal her Southern roots and, at the urging of her Boston mentor George Whitefield Chadwick, she incorporated elements of African-American spirituals. Her music was widely performed during her life but her output, comprising of over 300 compositions, remains largely unpublished. The critical edition of the work on our concert was compiled by Anthony R. Green.
Shelter Music Boston will play Florence's composition titled Shortnin' Bread. Click below to hear an arrangement of the piece.
Shortnin' Bread. Allegro