The Life and Music of Philippa Schuyler

One of the always interesting and exciting parts about doing research on women’s work in music is that you often come across a name that you may have never encountered before. While this can be truly exciting – it is also another reminder of just how many names and histories have fallen completely by the wayside waiting to be rediscovered.

As I was reading through blog updates this past week I came across the name Philippa Schuyler in a post at The Overgrown Path. Philippa was a pianist and composer, a child prodigy, and, in many unfortunate ways, the (dare I say) victim of experimental parenting and a dysfunctional home life. As she grew and became more fully aware of the inequality she faced, both as the child of a mixed race marriage (her mother was white, her father was black), as well as the expectations for the roles of women, Philippa became an outspoken feminist and eventually left music for the world of journalism. She died as the result of a helicopter crash while working as a journalist in Vietnam.

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It is truly unfortunate that her musical career is largely forgotten from common knowledge. She performed and toured extensively and internationally, was the student of Antonia Brico, and an acquaintance of Leonard Bernstein. Her compositions included many works for piano which were published, and works for orchestra which were performed in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

I highly encourage you to read the two articles at the Overgrown Path, the first provides a wonderfully detailed history of her life, and the second details her piano compositions and tonal and harmonic language.

For even more information about Philippa, you can read Kathryn Talalay’s biography, Composition in Black and White: the life of Philippa Schuyler. Her papers are held at Syracuse University.