Sound of Charlotte Blog

Spotlight On: Composer Gabriela Lena Frank | Using Music to Break the Glass Ceiling



Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, Brahms--all  well-known composers, all male. It is so rare we hear about the achievements of female composers in the classical music era, especially nowadays. That's not to say they do not exist, there are just far fewer female composers than there are male in the realm of contemporary classical music. That, however, is changing.

Meet Gabriela Lena Frank, one of the five composers that will be featured in the Rodrigo Guitar Concerto played by your Charlotte Symphony Orchestra on October 6 and 7.

Background
Gabriela Lena Frank is an American composer from Berkeley, California. Although born in the US, her roots also align with the nationalities of her parents: her father, a Jewish Lithuanian, and her mother, who is of Peruvian and Chinese decent. The two met during Frank's father's visit to Peru with the Peace Corps in the 1960s.
Frank received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Rice University and a doctorate in Music Composition from the University of Michigan. She has studied composition with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, Michael Daugherty, and Samuel Jones.
 
Style and Inspiration
Frank's compositions often draw from her multicultural background--particularly her mother's Peruvian heritage. Frank is admired for using sounds of Latin American instruments (such as Peruvian pan flute or charango guitar) throughout her compositions, though her works are typically scored for Western classical instruments and ensembles such as the symphony orchestra or string quartet. "I think the music can be seen as a by-product of my always trying to figure out how Latina I am and how gringa I am," she has said. This striking mixture of sounds can be found in her work Three Latin American Dances, which will be performed at the Rodrigo Guitar Concerto on October 6 and 7.
 
Accomplishments
Not only is Frank known for her interesting work, but she is also  one of the most awarded female contemporary composers of our time. In 2009, Frank received her first Guggenheim Fellowship as well as a Latin Grammy Award for best Contemporary Classical Music Composition for Inca Dances. She has also won a Joyce Foundation award, United States Artists Fellow award, and a Medal of Excellence from Sphinx Organization.
In addition to these accolades, Frank's music has been commissioned and performed by the Kronos Quartet, pipa virtuoso Wu Man, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Symphony, Chanticleer Ensemble, the Chiara String Quartet, the Brentano Quartet, Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, the Marilyn Horne Foundation, guitarist Manuel Barrueco with the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, the King's Singers, directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Wu Han and David Finckel, soprano Dawn Upshaw and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, among others. She has also received multiple commissions from Carnegie Hall.
Frank is a Grammy Award-nominated pianist and a member of the prestigious roster of G. Schirmer, exclusively published and managed.



Want to learn more? Check out the following sites:
1.      http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/gabriela-lena-frank-composite-identity
2.      "Carnegie Hall Commissions". Carnegie Hall website. Carnegie Hall. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
3.      http://articles.philly.com/2012-10-27/news/34765471_1_yannick-n-zet-s-guin-leonard-bernstein-s-serenade-gabriela-lena-frank
4.      http://www.sfcv.org/article/joint-interview-with-berkeley-symphonysbrnew-director-and-its-creative-advisor
5.     United States Artists Official Website Archived November 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
6.    
http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/54thgrammyawards/a/54th-Annual-Grammy-Awards-Nominees-For-Classical-Music-2012.htm

Image source: http://www.screecher.com/schedule/2017/3/19/creative-academy-for-music

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