Women of American Chamber Music

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Laena Batchelder


On February 20, 2019, Laena Grace Batchelder, with her colleagues, performed a recital of three chamber pieces by American women composers. The first was Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata played with Mr. Edward Newman. The other two pieces were string quartets performed by the Uproar String Quartet, which included Batchelder’s fellow TCU students: Manuel Ordóñez, Ashley Santore, and Manuel Papale. They played Missy Mazzoli’s Death Valley Junction and Jennifer Higdon’s An Exaltation of Larks.

In addition to the performance, Batchelder researched the current status of women in classical music, the history of American female composers, and the three composers she programmed and their pieces. From this research, she wrote detailed program notes for the audience to read.

Comments from Mentors

Laena Batchelder took on a very important project with her exploration of the music of three American women composers. Historically under-represented in the concert hall, women composers have not received the attention of performing artists, concert programmers and even music historians. After researching women composers throughout music history, Laena selected two string quartets by living American composers, Missy Mazzoli and Jennifer Higdon, and inspired her friends to devote their time to the preparation of these very challenging pieces. It was the first concert in many years by an undergraduate string quartet at TCU. She also featured an extremely fine Sonata for violin and piano written in 1897 by Amy Beach. The performance of this work was a revelation to all who heard it; it inspired me to add the sonata to my own performing repertoire. A new edition of the work says it all: "This is a major work which surely would have entered the recital repertoire had it been composed by a central European male.” The research, written materials, and program notes Laena prepared, as well as the live performances that she and her colleagues presented, were first-rate. I particularly appreciated her fearless discussion of the underlying biases about female composers, which are still common today. It was exciting to see her singlehandedly raising the consciousness of the School of Music community, including many faculty members, about this issue. She has many newly-opened minds to her credit.

--Elizabeth Adkins

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