Music faculty and library staff produce hub of research on Florence Price

Music faculty and library staff are partnering to define Vanderbilt as a hub in the field of research on composer Florence B. Price. Most recently, a new thematic catalog capturing Price’s work draws upon dozens of scores recently acquired by Heard Libraries in collaboration with Associate Professor of Musicology, Douglas Schadle. Shadle has emerged as a leading expert on the music of fellow Little Rock, Arkansas native Florence B. Price (1888-1953), the first African American woman composer and pianist to achieve international recognition. Working together, faculty and library staff are setting the standard for scholarship and discovery in this area, and pairing these collections with an engaged and curious user community at Vanderbilt. These scores, in conjunction with the new thematic catalog, are intended to inspire and captivate students and faculty in their research, learning, and ultimately performance.

A thematic catalog contains an individual entry for each work by a composer, with each entry including the opening notes of the work. While this type of reference work was traditionally issued in print, Shadle is embracing digital humanities technologies to design an online catalog for Price. Shadle has collaborated with Music Librarian for Cataloging, Jacob Schaub, to use Music Encoding Initiative to generate the musical incipits for Price’s thematic catalog. Schaub’s expertise with MEI has been an invaluable asset to this project, and when asked about the work, Schaub said “As a music cataloging librarian, my daily work often revolves around consulting authoritative editions and thematic indexes of musical works. MEI is becoming a game-changer in many ways, not least since it can enable access to the most up-to-date scholarship in a form that easily exceeds the capabilities of the thick and expensive physical volumes that typically reside in the reference sections of music libraries. I anticipate Dr. Shadle’s work on the music of Florence Price is only among the first of a wave of such efforts that will transform the field.”

Acclaimed artists who will perform include noted musicologist-pianist Samantha Ege; author, activist and performance artist Caroline Randall Williams; acclaimed countertenor, Patrick Dailey; flutist Valerie Coleman; Nokuthula Ngwenyama, viola; and Hannah Lash, harp.

These performances will grace multiple venues, including the National Museum of African American Music, Tennessee State University, the state’s largest Historically Black University, and the W.O. Smith School, a community music school offering high-quality, affordable music lessons to more than 650 low-income students from the area.

In partnership with the Anne Potter Music Library at the Blair School of Music, Shadle has also been a key collaborator between the Vanderbilt music community and the National Museum of African American Music. He was the faculty sponsor in 2021 for the first collection approved for purchase with the Academic Archives Purchasing Fund.  Highlights from this collection: The John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie Collection, include Gillespie’s personal scrapbooks from his State Department-sponsored tour as the first “Jazz Ambassador” to the Middle East, thousands of photographs and recordings. This acquisition engaged students in experiential learning last spring through the Buchanan Library Fellowship, Archives and Storytelling: Exploring the Life of Dizzy Gillespie through Photographs. This semester, Lecturer Robbie Fry’s Global Jazz class is using the scrapbooks for a story-mapping project with support from Librarian for Geospatial Data and Systems, Stacy Curry-Johnson, Music Librarian for Education and Outreach, Sara Manus, and Jacob Schaub.

Douglas Shadle came to Vanderbilt in 2014. He currently sits on the Boards of Directors of the American Musicological Society and the International Florence Price Festival. In addition to creating a thematic catalog for Price’s work, Shadle is co-authoring a new biography of Price for Oxford University Press’s signature Master Musicians series with noted concert pianist and Anniversary Fellow at the University of Southampton, Samantha Ege.