Southampton Researcher's Work on Race, Gender and Music Earns International Accolade

woman sat at piano smiling
Dr Samantha Ege. Image courtesy of Ash Sealy

Pioneering Southampton music research fellow Dr Samantha Ege has won an international award for her work to unravel the influence of race and gender on music.

Dr Ege, a concert pianist and globally recognised researcher into black history in music, has won the prestigious Irving Lowens Article Award from the Society for American Music, recognising her contribution to the study of American music.

Dr Ege joined the University of Southampton in October 2022 on a three-year Anniversary Fellowship to mark the institution's 70th year. She picked up the award for her research on two composers – Florence Beatrice Price and Theodora Sturkow Ryder – whose experiences in interwar Chicago in the early 1900s were shaped by racism and racial segregation.

Price worked in Chicago's Black classical music scene, while Sturkow Ryder belonged to the white mainstream. Today, Sturkow Ryder's work is much less well known.

Dr Ege said: "Theodora Sturkow Ryder was a composer of European background who achieved great fame in Chicago during the 1920s and '30s. I was curious to compare her experiences with those of the prolific African American and Chicago-based composer Florence Price, who operated around the same time. Unlike Sturkow Ryder, who mostly thrived in Chicago's white classical mainstream, Price's rise to prominence was largely the result of her predominantly Black classical music network on the South Side, which is the where neighbourhood Michelle Obama grew up. I compared the two women's lived experiences, their networks, and their musical output, showing how factors of race, gender, and geography played out in their artistic lives.

"I feel so proud to join the long list of inspirational scholars who received the Irving Lowens Award before me. I am honoured to be recognised alongside them."

Black and white head and shoulders photos of two women
Theodora Sturkow Ryder (left) and Florence Price

Presenting Dr Ege with the award, Society for American Music board member Dr Kristen Turner said: "In this article, Ege performs with the same precision and care and linguistic acuity that she utilises in her pianistic performances. We had 20 amazing submissions, but this one was almost immediately right at the top."

Professor Thomas Irvine, Head of Music at the University of Southampton, added: "We are delighted that Samantha has won this prestigious award, which further cements her place as one of her generation's leading music scholars, and continues our department's long tradition of ground-breaking work on often hidden histories of women in music."

Dr Ege's article, entitled Chicago, the 'City We Love to Call Home!': Intersectionality, Narrativity and Locale in the Music of Florence Beatrice Price and Theodora Sturkow Ryder, is published in American Music.

Portrait of Theodora Sturkow Ryder, ca. 1930, used with permission from the Newberry Library. Portrait of Florence Price taken by R.D. Tones, ca. 1933, used with permission from the University of Arkansas Libraries.

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