Meet the Composer: Florence Price

CN thumbnail Florence Price

Age Range: Elementary

Introduction: Composers write music, just like authors write books. In the Class Notes “Meet the Composer” series, we will learn a little bit about the achievements, backstory, and influences of a variety of composers. Get ready to learn about these influential composers and listen to some of their music.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan and Visual Aids: Florence Price


Florence Beatrice Smith Price was born in 1887 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her father was a dentist, and her mother was a music teacher who gave her piano lessons as a child. At age fifteen, she went to study at a well-known music school in Boston where she was the only Black woman in her class. When she graduated, she came back to the South to teach. She and her family later relocated to Chicago. 

Chicago at that time had a community of Black musicians, artists, and writers that Price joined when she moved there. She taught composition and piano, played organ for silent films, and wrote a lot of music, from spiritual arrangements to symphonies. She became the first Black American woman to have a symphony performed by a large orchestra in 1933. Price died in 1953 in Chicago at the age of 66.  

Though Florence Price had been well-known during her lifetime, for the next several decades after her death, her music was not well-known in many orchestras because of racial and gender discrimination. Thanks to the work of Price’s family and Black music scholars, Price’s music has recently become popular in concert halls again.


Florence Price wrote over three hundred pieces for a variety of different instruments and group types. Here are five pieces to get you started. 

  1. Florence Price often incorporated musical practices from Black American culture into her compositions. In the third movement of her first symphony, she uses a juba rhythm, also known as “hambone.” Juba refers to West African-descended rhythms that are tapped on the body to keep the beat during group dances.

  2. Florence Price wrote a lot of songs for vocalist and piano, including arrangements of spirituals. This spiritual arrangement was performed by Florence Price’s friend Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial, in a concert Anderson gave for a huge, televised audience.

  3. Price also wrote songs based on poetry by Black poets. This song is a setting of a poem by Langston Hughes.

  4. In addition to teaching and composing, Florence Price played the organ, and a lot of organists today enjoy playing her music. Here is one of her pieces for organ.

  5. An important part of Florence Price’s life in Chicago was her community, especially her student and friend, fellow pianist/composer Margaret Bonds. Price wrote the first piano piece in this series for her; this is a later piece in that series.


  1. Price used the music of her heritage in her composition. Use our Music & Geography: Around the World lesson to think more about the music of where you’re from. 

  2. Price wrote a lot of music set to poetry. Listen to the pieces in our Music & Literacy: Poetry lesson and try composing your own music inspired by poetry. 

  3. Learn more about one of Florence Price’s main instruments, the organ, with our Instrument Exploration: How the Pipe Organ Works lesson. 

Related Lesson Plans

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