HY Blog: Who is Amy Beach?

Born Amy Marcy Cheney in 1867, this little lady was not like other children. Composer Amy Beach had prodigy-like attributes that certainly made her stand out, singing and harmonizing at age 2. Most uniquely was her ability to compose three waltzes while away over a summer, without a piano. She composed in her head, memorized all the parts, and then played them out on the piano once she returned home to her parents — impressive! By age 7, she was playing Beethoven and at age 16, she had made her concert hall debut at Boston’s Music Hall. A critic had even said it was “hard to imagine a more positive critical reaction to a debut” and yet, she was never sent to Europe to further hone her skills, like her fellow male pianists and composers. At the time, it was not common practice for women to dedicate their lives to music. A determined and persistent Amy continued her studies on her own. In 1896, at age 29, composer Amy Beach became the first American woman to publish a symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Over her lifetime she was best known for writing songs for voice and piano, as well as magnificent chamber works. She was eventually able to perform throughout Europe and used her position in the US, as one of the country’s best known composers, to empower and encourage other women of her time. Although Amy Beach’s music may have been neglected then, today it is not only recognized, but highly regarded.

Read more about Amy Beach here.