Today would have been American composer Julia Perry’s 92nd birthday.
Perry was one of the first African American composers to gain acclaim – and establish a career in composition. Her music was largely neoclassical, but also included experimentation with dissonances.
She won two Guggenheim fellowships and studied with Nadia Boulanger (who, reportedly, felt that she didn’t need further instruction). Her works, which ranged from chamber pieces to twelve symphonies, were performed but not recorded during her lifetime.
After suffering a stroke in 1971 Perry, determined to continue with her work, taught herself how to write with her left hand. She died in 1979 at the age of 55. We can only imagine what other works she may have completed in later years.
Here is one of Perry’s most remembered works, Stabat Mater for contralto soloist and string orchestra: