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Amy Marcy Beach (1867-1944) is best known as having been a child prodigy who became a successful pianist and America's most prominent female composer of her time. Her compositional education was based on a program of self-study, which emphasized memorization, listening, and a thorough study of masterworks as models. With this auto-didactic education Beach became one of the first American women to be regarded for composing musical works in large forms, when her Mass in E-flat, op. 5, was published in 1890. Beach was also an educator, although not in a traditional manner. At the request of her husband, she never took on students in composition or piano, and she only infrequently coached the students of other teachers. Yet through journal articles, music conference presentations, and contact with regional musical clubs, Amy Beach was able to give advice on piano performance and composition to students throughout the United States, independent of any educational institution or even a private studio. Within Amy Beach's writings, certain recurring ideas surface that represent some of her most strongly held musical values. These concepts may be traced both in the advice Beach gave to readers of her articles and audiences for her speeches, as well as in the subject matter and style of her compositions. Beach repeatedly emphasized that command of technical facility, balanced by musicality and sensitivity to the subject matter, was essential for both performers and composers. She also believed that an American-based musical education could be just as complete as one received in Europe, with the added benefit of nurturing the American identity of the student musician. Additionally, she encouraged American composers to find musical inspiration in American folk tales, historical events, and literature. Beach demonstrated her musical values in the products of her own compositional career, and she set an example for young musicians and composers in her piano pieces for students.
American Music, Amy Beach, Auto-didactic, Mrs. H. H. A. Beach, Pedagogy, Piano
Date of Defense
May 30, 2013.
A Thesis submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Douglass Seaton, Professor Directing Thesis; Charles E. Brewer, Committee Member; Vicki McArthur, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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