♪♪ -Next on "Great Performances"...
I'm Scott Yoo.
Join me to discover the music of Florence Price, a conservatory-trained virtuoso whose genius went largely unrecognized in her lifetime.
I heard Florence Price played the organ.
She got a job playing in the theaters.
Playing theater organs like this.
-So that was her day job.
-That was her day job.
-That's how she made money.
-But she's finally getting the attention she deserves.
This is really the find of the 21st century in classical music.
-One, two... -Price fled discrimination in the South, like six million other Black Americans.
I'll explore spirituals and blues from the South... -♪ Well, if I feel like tomorrow ♪ ♪ Like I feel today ♪ -...that became gospel and jazz in the North to see how they inspired her and all American music.
Coming up on "Now Hear This," Florence Price and the American Migration.
♪♪ ♪♪ Major funding for "Great Performances" is provided by... ...and by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.
-I'm at the University of Arkansas to get an inside look at the music of Florence Price, an American composer from the early 20th century who has only now been discovered.
-It's like having a birthday party getting to look inside of these boxes.
-The archive here contains all of Price's original manuscripts.
-Violinist Er-Gene Kahng and pianist Karen Walwyn have been studying her works.
So, Er-Gene, I heard that this music was found in the attic of some abandoned house.
So is that true?
-It is true.
All of this music here was found in an abandoned home near Chicago and was acquired by the university.
-The tree had fallen into the roof.
The furniture was -- tables on top of chairs.
The music was scattered all over.
-Can you imagine if fire took the manuscripts?
-That's what's exciting that this music lives.
-Well, let's get our gloves on and take a look.
-How about this one?
Let me see what's in here.
This is one of the first dateable compositions that has been recovered.
-This is one of her earliest pieces.
-One of her earliest pieces.
-It's interesting that she's writing kind of a European form in the Deep South.
-This would perhaps most demonstrate her style as she was influenced by New England conservatory.
♪♪ ♪♪ Tarantellas were composed for pianists, extraordinary vitality, strength, dexterity, which resonates with the fact that if she was considering her utensils, then she definitely had a magnificent hand.
Looks like we're looking at "Wistful," which is from her five preludes.
-It's your music.
-You know, I'm reminded of Chopin and I'm reminded of Schumann.
She writes in such an intimate way, really speaks.
It's almost like a whisper.
-For me, actually, it's the exact opposite.
It's power and harmonic density because my experience with Price is later on in her life.
It's the symphonies and the concertos.
And in fact, I think the violin concerto is in that box.
I'd love to show it to you.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ You know, handwriting and penmanship in itself is a practice and an art.
-You can almost use the score to perform with.
-We were looking at Beethoven's manuscript of his "Ghost" trio.
-Lines and lines and lines of music.
She's gently, gently scratching out an errant mark.
You can see that part of her personality just in her penmanship.
-This really reminds me of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto.
And this and this.
-Even the very opening reminds me of Tchaikovsky.
But for me, the heart of this concerto actually is the second movement.
This is where I feel it is truly Florence Price's voice.
The delicacy that you were speaking of, the soulfulness, the introspection is definitely present in the second movement here for me.
♪♪ -So people knew that there was a second violin concerto.
-But nobody had ever heard it, played it.
-The idea was that the manuscript was destroyed or lost or somewhere just unaccounted for.
-Not to be hyperbolic, but this is really the find of the 21st century in classical music.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Er-Gene and Karen are some of the earliest advocates for Price.
Karen is recording all of her solo piano music.
Er-Gene has taken her violin works to the stage.
They're part of a growing body of musicians and listeners who have recognized the brilliance of Florence Price.
♪♪ Price was born in Little Rock in 1887, the daughter of a dentist and a music teacher.
I went to talk about her early life with Little Rock historian and local celebrity Sybil Jordan.
Do you think this neighborhood looks pretty similar to when Florence Price lived here?
It probably does.
-Her parents were actually pretty well off.
She didn't grow up poor.
-She was a part of the elite of Little Rock.
-Florence Price's mother made sure to have the best of everything, so she had one of the most exclusive and expensive grand pianos in her home.
And so she had lots of parties in the living room.
-And because there were not hotels for African-Americans, they were hosted in homes.
And so Florence's father, Dr. Smith, had the opportunity to host Frederick Douglass.
And when he spoke, he spoke at a theater on Markham, and people from the African-American as well as white community were there.
So we can tell what kind of community existed in Little Rock because it was a part of that larger network of very well-educated African-Americans in America.
-Sybil and Karen took me to West 9th Street, what's known as the Black Broadway of Little Rock.
-This was just the center of life.
There were doctors, lawyers, dentists, my father's barber, and there were beauty shops and restaurants and The Gem movie theater.
-So this was almost like a city within a city.
-A little bit.
One of the important reasons that we're standing here also is to reflect on an incident that took place in 1927, where an African-American man was lynched, and that group of lynchers brought him five miles all the way down Broadway as a way of making sure that fear was instilled in this community.
His body was taken and hung in front of the Mosaic Templars building right here and then taken over to Bethel Church.
And he was burned using pews from the church.
-Florence Price's husband, who was an attorney, was working in that building.
It is quite possible that he was a witness to this absolutely horrifying experience, and he and his family were among the families, the many families that left Arkansas at that period of time.
-As discrimination increased in Little Rock, West 9th declined.
Eventually its great buildings were torn down.
One of the few remaining is Taborian Hall.
That night, I met Jeffrey Allen Murdock, director of the University of Arkansas Choir.
So you're going to be singing a spiritual tonight?
-I heard a little bit of the rehearsal.
I can't wait to hear the real thing.
So where did the spiritual come from?
Is it -- Is it essentially American folk music?
With slavery, when Christianity -- white Christianity was incorporated into the everyday lives of these people, they leaned back into the music of their homeland.
And they combined that with some of the scriptural references that they learned, and the spiritual was born.
Spirituals existed in the form of call and response, work songs, field hollers, all of those things.
The spirituals also had coded messages quite frequently.
Again, in West Africa, a lot of music was used as a form of communication, and it was no different in the United States.
Many of these songs, which ostensibly were used in praise and worship to God, were actually used as a means of escape.
-What were they saying to each other?
-Songs like the one that you're about to hear, "Wade in the Water," as the oppressors, as the captors would be closing in, "Wade in the Water" would be a clarion call to say, "Hey, it's time to get into the water so that the dogs won't catch your scent.
Wade in the water because this is the last body of water that we will cross before we go to freedom, be it the Ohio River that borders the North or the Mississippi to the West, or the Rio Grande to the South."
And so these slaves, these singers, these early musicians used this music to sustain themselves, but also as a means of escape to freedom.
♪♪ -♪ See that man all dressed in red?
♪ -♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ -♪ Must be that man that Moses led ♪ -♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ -♪ If you don't believe that I've been redeemed ♪ -♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ -♪ Then follow me down to the Jordan stream ♪ -♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ -♪ Oh, I stepped in the water ♪ ♪ And the water was cold, y'all ♪ -♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ -♪ Oh, it chilled my body ♪ ♪ But not my soul, y'all ♪ -♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ ♪ Oh, children, wade ♪ ♪ Wade in the water, children ♪ ♪ Wade ♪ -♪ In the water ♪ -♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ ♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ ♪ God's gonna trouble the water ♪ -♪ Water ♪ -From 1910 to 1970, six million African-Americans left the South seeking equality and opportunity in the North and West in what's been called the Great American Migration.
Many, like Florence Price, settled in Chicago.
Here I met gospel legends Vernon Oliver Price and Lou Della Evans-Reid to learn how these new arrivals helped create gospel music.
What was it like being a female gospel choir director?
-There weren't too many female directors around.
Some of the male directors had said, because I didn't have a degree, they really wasn't accepting me too much.
Knowing that, then, I knew where my help had to come from.
I was dependent on Jesus.
-And that's what brought me up and out.
-Same question, Vernon.
-Well -- -You must have faced a lot of resistance.
-I did, but I didn't stop.
I kept going.
Any time I got a chance, I -- "Ah!"
I break out in a song.
Like they'd be saying up there, "Will somebody give us a song?"
And I'd be looking for somebody to bring a song.
And there ain't nobody.
I'd sing, ♪ Take the Lord along with you everywhere you go ♪ I gave it to 'em.
And then when I get to singing, I'm ready to shout.
[ Laughter ] I'm just telling it like it is.
-Do you want to sing something for us now?
-Oh, if you want me to.
-Oh, I want.
♪♪ -♪ Oh, Lord ♪ ♪ Hold to His hand ♪ ♪ God's unchanging hand ♪ -With us were opera singers Rod Dixon and Alfreda Burke and Aretha Franklin's music director, Fred Nelson III.
-♪ You better hold ♪ ♪ Hold to God's ♪ ♪ Unchanging hand ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Time is filled ♪ ♪ With swift transition ♪ -I forgot to mention that Mama Lou and Vernon are 90 years young.
Clearly, the spirit moves them.
-♪ Oh, build your hopes ♪ ♪ On things eternal ♪ ♪ Eternal ♪ ♪ You better hold ♪ ♪ Hold to God's ♪ ♪ Unchanging hand ♪ ♪ Ohh ♪ ♪ Yeah ♪ ♪ Oh, yeah ♪ -Thank you.
[ Laughter ] -That's some good ol' singing there.
-So that's gospel.
-What we just heard.
-Hallelujah-good-stuff gospel music there.
You could hear the spirit behind what she was saying, and that's what gospel music is all about.
-And that comes from spiritual.
-So what was the significance of Tommy A. Dorsey?
-He's the father -- -Well, he's the father -- considered the father of gospel music.
-He's the father of gospel music.
-Thomas Dorsey really represented where gospel music was on its way to.
He took the spiritual and made it palatable to a new and up-and-coming people and younger people, you know?
And it's still that way.
-Tommy Dorsey had blues in his fingers because he used to play for Ma Rainey.
And when he would play blues, he also used to play for his church.
And when he came to Chicago, he mixed the two.
So the hymns that he heard, he put the form of the blues to that.
And when it was published, when they were writing the music down and they were publishing "Precious Lord" in 1938, that started the golden age of gospel music.
-♪ Oh, Precious Lord ♪ ♪ Take ♪ ♪ Take my hand ♪ ♪ Lead me on ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Let me stand ♪ -[ Speaks indistinctly ] -♪ Please, sir ♪ -Please, sir.
-♪ Take my hand ♪ -♪ Oh, yeah ♪ -♪ Precious Lord ♪ ♪ And lead ♪ ♪ Mmm ♪ ♪ Lead me home ♪ -Yes.
-♪ Precious Lord ♪ ♪ Take my hand ♪ ♪ Lead me on ♪ ♪ Let me stand ♪ ♪ I am tired ♪ ♪ I am weak ♪ ♪ I am worn ♪ ♪ Through the storm ♪ ♪ Through the night ♪ ♪ Lead me on ♪ ♪ To the light ♪ ♪ Take my hand ♪ ♪ Precious Lord ♪ ♪ And lead ♪ ♪ Me ♪ ♪ Home ♪ -[ Laughs ] Yes, sir.
-Alright, alright, alright.
Where's that lady at your church, used to throw her hat?
[ Laughter ] ♪♪ -At the Music Box Theater on Chicago's North Side, they still play silent films.
♪♪ ♪♪ They can do this because they have organist Dennis Scott to accompany them.
♪♪ ♪♪ I heard Florence Price played the organ.
She came to Chicago in 1927 from Little Rock, and she got a job playing in silent film theaters.
The Regal Theater on the South Side in Bronzeville opened in February of 1928, and I'd like to think that that's where she probably played the organ.
It was a big deal when it opened, and it opened primarily for Black audiences.
So she played the silents.
That was her day job.
-That was her day job.
-That's how she made money.
-It was very good money.
Yeah, in those days, the organist was a huge part of the show.
Everyone had a different way of playing.
Some people played totally from music sheets.
There are things like this.
-So these are the templates for when the organist sees the -- the burglar crawling into the window, you play that.
-And then other people improvised.
I'm sure Florence probably improvised because she had that quality to her compositions.
You can visualize things going on in the music.
It's not just the playing of notes, it's the telling of a story.
-I wonder if this wasn't just a gig for her.
I wonder if she got something, if her composition developed.
I'm sure that they fed off of each other.
Her silent film playing probably helped her with her composition, and then her training and her talent contributed to what she added to the film scores.
-So are you going to play something?
I'm going to accompany a film by Oscar Micheaux.
-Oscar Micheaux was a very prolific Black filmmaker, and when I say filmmaker, he wore all the hats.
He was the director, the producer, he wrote most of his, if not all of his stories.
He was like the predecessor to Spike Lee.
He made 27 silent films.
That's a lot of them.
-That's a lot.
-I'm guessing that his films played the Regal Theater, where I'm guessing that Florence Price was the organist.
She probably played all 27.
-Looking forward to it.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Hearing Dennis play, I'm reminded that silent films were never really silent.
They had music to bring them to life.
We'll never know what magic Florence Price brought to them.
♪♪ But we can hear clues in the virtuoso concert music she wrote while playing silent films like this sonata.
I met pianist Michelle Cann in a Chicago ballroom from the period.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ Sounds like the beginning of a Hollywood movie.
It's so grand and big.
-It is, yeah, it's very, very epic.
-This is one of my favorite pieces of hers.
It's just great.
I feel like there's something for everyone in this sonata.
There's a little bit of Rachmaninoff in it.
You know, where I really hear Rachmaninoff actually is in the beginning of the allegro, the first section.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Wow, the left hand could have been written by Rachmaninoff himself.
Yes, especially in the bass, you hear it.
I even hear -- I even hear a little bit of Saint-Saens.
It's this beautiful -- It's very magical.
It's towards -- towards the beginning.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Wow, it really sounds French, doesn't it?
Oh, very much.
If you told me that was written by Saint-Saens, I would totally buy it.
-I mean, how -- how is that possible?
-No, it's absolutely amazing.
And what really amazes me is that embedded into these Romantic idioms, you hear music of America and of Black America.
You just hear folk music, and it's just mixed in.
Actually, in the excerpt that I showed you of Rachmaninoff, of course, with the bass, you hear that Rachmaninoff sound.
But if I take away the bass and just play the melody -- Listen to this.
I mean, you absolutely hear just in that melody, and there's another part in the piece where when you hear it with all of the chords and everything else, you're thinking, "Ah, Romantic music."
♪♪ These wonderful -- These wonderful harmonies.
But again, if I take away the harmony and just play the melody, here's another folk song.
♪♪ -It sounds very American, -Very American, and it's constantly making these kind of appearances throughout this whole sonata if you're really listening for it.
-Can I hear more?
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -The same year she wrote this piece, 1931, Florence Price also wrote her first symphony, which the Chicago Symphony Orchestra selected for one of their 1933 World's Fair concerts.
We met symphony archivist Frank Villella in the Auditorium Theater where it happened.
How did they choose Florence Price's symphony?
-So Florence Price entered the Wanamaker competition, and her Symphony in E Minor won the top prize.
And so it was the centerpiece of the second of the four concerts.
-The first concert actually featured George Gershwin.
-I mean, he was fairly famous.
-He was relatively well-known at that time, yes.
So Gershwin was in attendance for the premiere of Price's E Minor Symphony.
-I mean, Michelle, can you imagine being Florence Price, sitting down there watching the first performance of your symphony?
And it's not by some community orchestra, it's by the Chicago Symphony.
-I mean, honestly, it's overwhelming.
I'm just imagining how proud she must have been, just like all the emotions that had to have been going through her, considering that she was 46 when this finally happened.
-The 35-year overnight sensation.
-So after the symphony was over, how did the audience respond?
-Frederick Stock invites her to the stage.
The audience responds.
She's called back for multiple curtain calls, but I can only imagine what it must have not only looked like, but it felt like for her on stage with 100 white men, but it must have been a tremendously striking image in 1933.
-What was the critical reaction to the piece?
-Actually, we have newspaper clippings from several newspapers, and all of them are extraordinarily favorable.
"It's a faultless work."
"It is a work that speaks its own message with restraint and yet with passion."
"Miss Price's symphony is worthy of a place in the symphonic repertory."
♪♪ ♪♪ -One, two, three, four.
-This is as Florence Price continued to compose and work to get her music performed, thousands of Southern blues and jazz musicians were bringing their music north.
In a converted church, I went to see legendary Chicago blues man John Primer.
♪♪ -♪ Well, if I feel like tomorrow ♪ ♪ Like I feel today ♪ ♪ I'm gonna catch that old train and make my getaway ♪ ♪ I been troubled ♪ ♪ I been all worried mind ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Well, I just can't be satisfied ♪ ♪ Just can't keep from cryin' ♪ ♪♪ -Here, jazz musicians Marqueal Jordan and his band would explain the connection between blues, jazz, and the Great Migration.
♪♪ ♪♪ [ Applause ] So, Marqueal, tell me about jazz.
-Where do I start?
Blues is super important to it because that's where the feeling comes from.
That's where the emotion comes from, that's where the heart comes from.
And all the other intellectual stuff just add on top of it.
But without that blues, it wouldn't sound the same, it wouldn't feel the same, it wouldn't move you in the same way.
I can probably speak for most of us up here -- it's the reason why we wanted to start playing, either to play the blues or to play jazz.
-So is New Orleans still the center of jazz?
-If you start to think about the soul of it, where it was created, the feeling of it, the emotion of it, absolutely New Orleans is that, even though in 1918 the music left there.
It left because they closed down the area where all the jazz was taking place.
It was an area called Storyville.
-So where did everybody go when they were pushed out of Storyville?
-Everybody went to Chicago.
-Everybody went to Chicago.
They followed a young trumpet player by the name of Louis Armstrong.
-And actually, Louis Armstrong was just following his mentor, King Oliver.
-So King Oliver came up to Chicago.
Louis Armstrong followed a little after.
-But Louis Armstrong kind of is jazz, right?
From the way he played, the way he phrased his music, the vocal techniques you use, he was an amazing singer, an amazing showman.
Everything that you want to be to be a great musician, he embodied it.
-How about some music?
Let's do it.
Come on, Louis.
Give me a little bit, man.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -It sounds like jazz has lots and lots of blues in it.
You know, if there's one great thing that we can take from the absolute horror of slavery, it is the music and the art and the joy that came out of it, from the blues to jazz, which birthed rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues and all the music that we love to this day.
Can the blues musicians and the jazz musicians come together and play a number?
-Piece of cake.
-Yeah, let's do it.
-One, two, three.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -On Chicago's South Side, Rod and Alfreda took me to meet Darrell Green, owner of Pearl's Place, to eat soul food.
-Beautiful ham hocks.
-Look at those big boys there.
-And they're huge.
[ Laughter ] -So, what do you think?
-Oh, my goodness, this is a work of art.
-So we had to have fried chicken here, but we also brought out some of our favorites.
-We've got neck bones that we can go to Alabama with.
We've got blackened shrimp and catfish that's gonna take you all the way back down to the Gulf Coast.
-But then we've got Mississippi -- shrimp and cheesy grits.
-Yes, you have Mississippi.
-So, Darrell, what I see here is fried chicken, blackened shrimp, collard greens.
This is kind of the culinary embodiment of the Great Migration.
-This is the South that now lives in the North.
-The magic about soul food is how all of these different flavors, all these disparate recipes came together as people came together, learning new things and now learning how to survive in a new area.
And we talk about this area here, Bronzeville area as a melting pot.
-It truly is the embodiment of that migration where we have different cultures getting to know each other, getting to blend their flavors, the same as with soul food.
Well, what do you say we eat?
-Turns out, Chicago's food, like Chicago's music, like all of America's popular music, exists because Black Americans from across the rural South brought their ideas together in the urban North.
Southern and popular music were starting to appear more in the work of Florence Price and her protégé Margaret Bonds, as Michelle showed me at Chicago's Symphony Center.
So Florence Price in the 1930s, she wins the Wanamaker Prize twice.
Piano sonata, first symphony.
She's writing in a very Romantic style.
-What happens after that?
-Well, Black American music is becoming very popular.
Now you're hearing a lot of jazz, you're hearing the blues, gospel music, and people are really embracing spirituals.
They want to hear spirituals.
It's amazing because for Florence Price, as you can imagine, she grew up in Little Rock.
She really connected to the music of her people, and she wanted to put that into her writing more.
She now had the confidence to take a spiritual and just put it directly into one of her pieces.
Her student, Margaret Bonds, also really embraced these popular styles, and there's a piece I'm going to play by Margaret Bonds.
And you'll hear jazz, you'll hear blues, and a very literal presentation of a well-known spiritual will also appear.
-Which one is that?
-Well, I think you'll know.
Just wait until you hear it.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -In an old Black church on the South Side, Alfreda and Rod showed me how Price brought spirituals into her music.
So what are you going to sing for me, Rod?
-"My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord" by Florence Price.
She took the European art style of art songs like German lieder, French chanson, and Italian art songs, and applied that formula to arranging this great spiritual.
-So when you say Florence Price arranged it, it's not something she actually originally wrote.
The tune she didn't write herself.
-No, the tune comes from the tradition of Negro spirituals, and then she pianistically found a way to use that, and then we sing the actual melody from the spiritual that's part of our old tradition.
-So it's like half Schubert, half slave song.
-That's exactly right.
-That's amazing, isn't it?
Well, she's trained.
-Wait till you hear it.
She had in mind Marian Anderson, African-American contralto.
She was one of the greatest voices of the century.
And April 9, 1939, it was sung by Marian Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial... -Wow.
-...in front of 75,000 people.
-Can you imagine?
-She closed her eyes and she began to sing "My country, 'tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee we sing."
She changed it.
-She changed it to include all 75,000 people.
And one of the pieces she ended with was "My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord."
-Okay, now I really can't wait to hear it.
[ Laughter ] -Maestro.
♪♪ ♪♪ -♪ In the Lord, in the Lord ♪ ♪ My soul's been anchored in the Lord ♪ ♪ In the Lord, in the Lord ♪ ♪ My soul's been anchored in the Lord ♪ ♪♪ ♪ I'm going to pray and never stop ♪ ♪ My soul's been anchored in the Lord ♪ ♪ Until I reach the mountaintop ♪ ♪ My soul's been anchored in the Lord ♪ ♪ Oh, yes, my soul's been anchored in the Lord ♪ ♪ Mm, my soul's been anchored in the Lord ♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪ In the Lord, in the Lord ♪ ♪ My soul's been anchored in the Lord ♪ ♪ In the Lord, in the Lord ♪ ♪ My soul's been anchored in the Lord ♪ ♪ God knows my soul's ♪ ♪ Been anchored in the ♪ ♪ Lord ♪ -Back in Little Rock, I had one more conversation with Sybil Jordan.
Though a few generations younger than Florence Price, in a way, she carries on her legacy.
Is this the same high school that was the Little Rock Nine with the National Guard and all that stuff?
That's this building?
-On the stairs with bayonets.
-This was the site of integration in Arkansas.
-The attempted desegregation.
-What is your connection to this place?
-In September 1959, I became the first African-American graduate of Little Rock Central High School.
The only student in my class who was African-American in our class numbered 544 who graduated.
-How did your parents feel about sending their -- their baby into this sort of a situation?
I mean, were they scared?
-No, my parents could not have done this if they were frightened.
My parents were very much involved with the NAACP.
In fact, they would, even if they were frightened, they would not have conveyed that to me because they wanted me to be confident.
-Were people nice to you?
-I was shunned so that I had the experience of maybe being spoken to over three years by no more than two people.
Our forefathers and foremothers from slavery have always believed that the promises of democracy could be ours and that what you have to do is you have to stay alive and that you have to do well, that you have to be prepared.
And so I was laser focused on the fact that if I did well here that there would be endless possibilities and that perhaps I would be prepared to be the first of my people to have opportunities in society that had been denied us before.
And so I smile when I come here because how could I have known that that would come true?
That that would be true in my life?
-What came next for you?
-I went away to college.
I got my doctorate at Teachers College at Columbia, and then I worked at the GTE Corporate Foundation in Stamford, Connecticut.
I went off to the University of Wisconsin Madison, went to Georgetown, Texas, and worked at a private college there.
And then after 30 years, I came home to Little Rock in 1996 because I became the president of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation here.
-It seems like you've had a really storied career, Sybil.
I mean, your life turned out probably greater than your parents would have ever dreamed in a way that, sadly, Florence Price never really got to that point.
And I stand on Florence Price's shoulders.
Because it was timing, it was timing in a society, it was timing in what happens for women, it's timing for what was unfolding for African-Americans so that she was a woman before her time.
♪♪ ♪♪ You know, I've been thinking a lot about Florence Price and her music.
And, you know, it's so great that everyone is playing her music and she's getting so many performances and people love it.
-But the flip side of that is it really is sad that she didn't get to experience so much of her own success.
-I think what's really difficult, too, is that she had the one premiere with the Chicago Symphony and such a great orchestra, but then, how many chances she get for an orchestra of that caliber?
So few, too few to count.
And there's letters where she'd written conductors, where she said, "If you can forgive the handicap of my race and my gender..." -Mm.
-And I think of the two of us.
I mean, if we were living during that time -- -It would have been hard.
-We would have had the same kind of struggles, and I-I just feel if everybody could have looked past this handicap that she mentioned and just listened to her music and embraced it, then this -- we wouldn't have had to wait until now to be blessed by it.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Florence Price gave us the first truly American classical music.
Based in the Romantic tradition, but influenced by the music of Black America, the spirituals, gospel, blues, and jazz that shaped the popular music of all America.
She and we would not be who we are without it.
♪♪ I'm Scott Yoo, hoping that you will now hear this.
♪♪ ♪♪ -To order this program on DVD, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-Play-PBS.
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♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Next time on "Great Performances," I'm at a teaching festival where the pros help guide the next generation.
This year, we're playing the music of Aaron Copeland to find out how he defined the American sound.
-And he advocated writing in a more lean, strong style.
-More Copeland, right.
-In the next episode of "Now Hear This," get to know Copeland, dean of American music.