We are always enthusiastic to support the work of student scholars, especially as they increase the knowledge of the work of women composers. Most recently we were delighted to help students in WPA Board Member Beth Denisch’s Women Composers course at Berklee College of Music as they researched and wrote Wikipedia articles on women composers.
One group of students, comprised of Gina Monafo, Christian Betancourt, Rae Kantrowitz, and Laura Salgado greatly improved the article for American composer, conductor, and educator Alice Parker. During the course of their research they had the wonderful opportunity to correspond with Ms. Parker directly through email.
Below is part of their conversation:
Q: What additional information would you like to see on your Wikipedia page?
Parker: I was astonished at the brevity of the entry in the Wikipedia page. It’s good that it links to my website, since that information is up to date. But I would certainly like to change the opening sentence.
Currently: Alice Parker (b. December 16, 1925, Boston, Massachusetts) is an American composer, arranger and conductor. Many of her arrangements were done in cooperation with Robert Shaw.New: Alice Parker (b. December 16, 1925, Boston, Massachusetts) is an American composer, conductor and teacher. Best known for her many arrangements of American folksongs, spirituals and hymns in collaboration with Robert Shaw, she has composed 4 operas, many cantatas and suites for chamber ensembles, as well as hundreds of anthems and songs. Still active in her 90th year, she travels the country leading performances, masterclasses and SINGS. She has published four books on the study of melody, and released 14 CDs with the Musicians of Melodious Accord.
Q: Could you tell us a little more about your musical background/education?
Parker: I grew up in suburban Boston in a family which encouraged my musical interests. I began composing at age 8, wrote compositions for the high school orchestra while I was playing clarinet in it, majored in organ and composition at Smith, and in choral conducting at Juilliard, where I began my 20-year association with Robert Shaw. Since then, I have been busily composing, conducting and teaching at many institutions and festivals in the United States and Canada. I have been awarded some significant honors, among them six honorary doctorates and the Smith College Medal.
Q: Who are your biggest sources of inspiration?
Parker: I have discovered that I belong in the world of vocal chamber music. I take my inspiration from the world’s true folk melodies, and the composers who have written most gracefully for the voice. I find immediate inspiration in lyric poetry, searching always for the music hidden in the words.