Friday brought another exciting day of conversation, connection, and potential for future collaboration!

After a day of papers and conversations the WPA team had the opportunity to visit the historic Cabildo – which was the title of and setting for Amy Beach’s only opera which incorporates Creole tunes.

The evening brought us through Louis Armstrong Park and to the George and Joyce Wein Jazz & Heritage Center for a concert of piano works and songs performed by Peter Collins, piano, and Sarah Jane McMahon, soprano.

A celebration of the historic and contemporary music of New Orleans, the program included several works by women composers.  These included works for piano by Bessie Shearer, Marguerite Elie-Samuel, and Genevieve Pitot, and arrangements of traditional Creole songs for piano and voice by Clara Gottschalk Peterson and Camille Nickerson.

Camille Nickerson (1888-1982) was a pianist, singer, arranger and composer who was known as the “Louisiana Lady.”  Nickerson was a professor at Howard University and devoted her work to preserving and sharing the works of traditional creole music.


Genevieve Pitot (1901-1980) received her musical training in Paris and spent much of her career composing and arranging for musical theater, working closely with choreographers.  Her papers, including scores, are held at Tulane University.

Clara Gottschalk Peterson, sister of Louis Moreau and a self-appointed protector of Louis’s works.  Though she was herself a composer and pianist little information is readily available about her life.

Unfortunately very little information is widely available for Bessie Shearer or Marguerite Elie-Samuel, and what I can find of the other composers only leaves me asking for more – and wanting to hear more works.  All of which serves as a reminder of the work left yet to do to make sure that their voices are heard and remembered in the rich history of American music.

Now on to Day 3!