A comparison of St. Olaf’s contribution to the oppression of marginalized composers

From the perspective of St. Olaf, our institution has supported the oppression of marginalized composers, and it is evident when looking through the archives of the Manitou Messenger. For example, when searching Amy Beach’s name, only one article comes up: Month showcases women’s work. The 2008 article discusses a student recital of works by female composers as well as a faculty recital honoring Amy Beach’s work.

Extending the search to female composers, 3 articles appear, only 2 of them holding relevant information in support of female composers. The 2002 article Cecilia’s Circle visits discusses the four-woman ensemble Cecilia’s Circle, who came to St. Olaf for a week-long visit in order to honor female composers from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque eras. St. Olaf was lucky to have the opportunity to have a group like this come to give recitals, masterclasses, and guest lectures, but it’s also very disappointing that there has only been one other major occasion in which female composers have been celebrated on our campus in 15 years. In addition, the Halvorson music library only has six LPs that feature her works, five of them compilations with other composers and just one focusing on her piano works (The Piano Music of Mrs. H. H. A. Beach).

On the other hand, there are no results in the Manitou Messenger archive when searching “William Grant Still,” and only one article from 1979 when searching “black composers.” The article Lecturer to appear for Black History Month discusses St. Olaf guests William Nelson (Ohio State University political scientist) and Raymond Jackson (pianist) and Jackson’s recital of piano music by black composers. To me, this seems like an enthralling event that is long overdue to be done again on this campus. The article also cites the composers whose pieces Jackson played, so it is possible to use that as a starting point when searching for music by black composers. When turning to Halvorson’s LP collection, we only have two compilation albums that feature Still’s work, and no albums of only his works.


Mitchell, Elizabeth. “Month showcases women’s work.” The Manitou Messenger, No. 14, Vol. 121 (2008): 1.

Dion, Laurie. “Cecilia’s Circle visits.” The Manitou Messenger, No. 13, Vol. 115 (2002): 14.
Unknown. “Lecturer to appear for Black History Month.” The Manitou Messenger, No. 12, Vol. 92 (1979): 3.

1 thought on “A comparison of St. Olaf’s contribution to the oppression of marginalized composers

  1. Fascinating research! It would be interesting to know all the search terms you used (did you try all female composer names, or just the phrase “female composers?”) and it would be interesting to know how often the Mess reported on music as compared to other things. It could be that St. Olaf’s tradition of performing music by marginalized composers is richer than the Mess lets on – but to answer that question, we’d have to go to work in the concert program and recordings archives, most of which has not been catalogued/indexed/searchable. Thanks for inspiring this research question! I guess we’d better get to work . . . 🙂

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