Featured Music Members


The Pen Woman, Summer 2019:
The Creative Life

By Kathy Pate, National Music Chair

Over the past 100 years, women have made great strides in independence, legally as well as on the home front. This has created new opportunities, as evidenced by Pen Women music members such as Amy Beach, Gena Branscombe, and Evelyn Swensson. Greater numbers of women are now professors, independent artists, successful composers, and performers in their own right. We can marry or remain single. We can also reinvent ourselves as new opportunities arise. Evelyn Swensson, of the Wilmington Branch, Delaware, is a contemporary example of a vibrant, creative life.

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The Pen Woman, Spring 2019:
Gena Branscombe: Renowned Composer Back in the Spotlight

By Kathy Pate, National Music Chair

Gena Branscombe

Pen Woman Gena Branscombe (1881-1977) was a Canadian-born composer, pianist, music educator, and choral conductor who spent her adult life and career in the United States. Her music career was well under way prior to her marriage, at a time when women were not encouraged to have a music career. Branscombe actively supported many American musical organizations and provided strong support for equal recognition for women composers. She was renowned in her time, yet like many composers, was falling into obscurity until a contemporary mezzo-soprano named Kathleen Shimeta decided to champion her music and bring it back into public awareness — much as Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn brought about a revival of Bach’s music in the 19th century.

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The Pen Woman, Winter 2019:
Stephie Rae Grenier: Soothing with Harmonic Frequencies

By Kathy Pate, National Music Chair

 

Music has always been central to Stephie Rae Grenier’s life. She has been singing since she began talking; took up piano at 7, clarinet at 10, guitar at 12, and sax in high school and college; and majored in voice performance at University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. She also played clarinet and percussion in the orchestra, and clarinet and tenor sax in the marching band and the alumni band.

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The Pen Woman, Fall 2018:
The Heart of a Composer: Melissa Gordon Rhine

By Kathy Pate, National Music Chair

Melissa Gordon RhineComposers fall into a unique class of creatives. A bird singing, humpback whales singing, crickets chirping, the sound of wind blowing, or a tragedy can inspire a melody to be sculpted into a symphony, a sonata, a song to be sung, or a hymn.

While drawing from knowledge of musical form and theory, music must be inspired by a deep, mystical source for the finished composition to be original and appealing. Composing involves translating this unseen force into the language of music to convey a sound, a feeling, a dynamic, a story.

A visual analogy of this dynamic can be seen in Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where God is touching Adam’s hand to give him the spark of life. The resulting, inspired music can provide lyrics to be sung, or it can simply use instruments to tell the story and evoke a certain response in the listener or performer.

Pen Woman Melissa Gordon Rhine (Atlanta Branch) recently finished a musical that was inspired by Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel’s memoir titled “Night.” She was deeply moved to compose a suite of seven songs after reading his book.

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The Pen Woman, Spring 2018:
Dr. Joan Cartwright: The League’s Next Chapter

By Virginia Franklin Campbell, Music Editor

NLAPW's Joan Cartwright

Dr. Joan Cartwright, our newest music member, Boca Raton Branch, Florida, lights a path on our horizon. A quote from Dr. Diva JC expresses the feeling that is conveyed when speaking with her, “When you are a joy to yourself, it is easy to be a joy to others.” Dr. Cartwright presently is a professor of speech communication at both Keiser University in Pembroke Pines and Southeastern College in West Palm Beach, Florida. She is a composer, lecturer, poet, author, and historian, primarily on women musicians and composers.

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The Pen Woman, Fall 2017:
Celebrating Amy Beach

By Margaret Mills, Greenwich Branch

Amy Beach

 

This fall, we are celebrating the 150th birthday of this renowned American composer and Pen Woman. My recently issued recording, “A Celebration of Early American Composers: Beach-Crawford-Ives,” has been one way of my celebrating Amy Beach. Celebrating her invites one to look back at the Victorian era, into which she was born, as Amy Marcy Cheney. 

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The Pen Woman, Summer 2017:
Phyllis Fergus and Pen Women Composers at the White House

By Marian Wilson Kimber
Professor of Musicology, University of Iowa

Phyllis Fergus (1887–1964) was the first musician president of the National League of American Pen Women. Energetic and ambitious, Fergus wanted to organize concerts of music by women composers all over the country. She believed that national recognition for women’s music could be achieved through performances at governor’s mansions in every state. While she was not successful in achieving this aim, Fergus did arrange two historic concerts of music by Pen Women at the White House.

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The Pen Woman, Winter 2016:
Dr. M.J. ‘Sunny’ Zank: A Radiance of Accomplishment and Service to Music

By Virginia Franklin Campbell, Music Editor, and Verne D. Campbell

 

Dr. M.J. “Sunny” Zank, national music chair, is an inspired composer, a gifted violinist who has played in orchestras on several continents, an acclaimed university professor, and a highly skilled administrator who has held many diverse positions. It is impossible  to fully capture in a single, brief article the breadth and depth of study and the multiplicity of experiences that she has had.

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The Pen Woman, Fall 2016:
Nancy Bloomer Deussen: Determined, Devoted, Distinguished

By Virginia Franklin Campbell, Music Editor, and Verne D. Campbell

Nancy Bloomer Deussen

Nancy Bloomer Deussen, whose composition for orchestra, “Trinity Alps,” won first place in NLAPW’s first conferring of the Vinnie Ream Awards, is a woman of incredible talent, a survivor, and a devoted wife and mother, all while being a humble and engaging woman.

Nancy was born and raised in New York City. Although very poor, her father was a musician and worked in the recording industry. That would play significantly in Nancy’s early years, as he offered free recordings to her music teacher in return for piano lessons.

Nancy’s mother, Julia Van Norman, was also a friend of George Gershwin, which undoubtedly left an impression on Nancy’s young life. Her father also taught her music notation, and she wrote her first composition for piano at age 11.

“I always knew I was a composer; I was born with perfect pitch*, which is inherited. I started playing melodies by ear on the piano at about age 4 or 5, and started ‘official’ piano lessons at age 6 or 7,” she says.

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