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Maud Powell was recognized as among the best violinists at home and abroad during her lifetime. She believed that women should play the violin and that American women could be professional musicians - performers, educators, and composers. Powell's status as a great artist allowed her the freedom to program and promote music that was not established in the canon of "great works." Her choices in performance impacted important violin repertoire and gave exposure to composers whose works might otherwise go unheard. Powell brought awareness to American music by performing it and labeling it on her programs as "American." As an advocate of American music she was adamant that this music needed to be of the same caliber as European "great works." She did not perform a piece simply because it was American, although she was sure to bring attention to a great work of American music. She performed world premieres of American works, many of which were dedicated to her, as American composers realized the impact that Maud Powell could have. Her influence was justified by her work as a professional performer and the success of her career. Powell was also interested in promoting works by American women. Both Amy Beach's Romance for Violin and Piano, Op. 23, and Marion Bauer's Up the Ocklawaha: Tone Picture for Violin, Op. 6 were dedicated to Powell. Though she was outspoken in written remarks regarding the capability of American women as composers, Powell did not perform these pieces consistently throughout her career. Among her many achievements, Powell is important to our nation's music history because she was the first American-born professional violinist, she was the first instrumentalist to record for the Red Seal Label of Victor Records, she attempted to dissolve gender and racial barriers, and she premiered and recorded many contemporary American works at a time when these works had few advocates of her caliber. The little scholarship on her work as a great artist does not reflect her presence as a celebrated figure in American music during her lifetime. Powell's place in history and the importance of her career resonates beyond herself or individual women performers or composers. It highlights the significance of great performers in music history and their influence on how music history is written.
American music, Maud Powell, musicology, violin, women
Date of Defense
May 9, 2012.
A Thesis submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Denise Von Glahn, Professor Directing Thesis; Michael Broyles, Committee Member; Douglass Seaton, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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