It's been a while...

I pop on here to post the occasional update, but I do apologize for my delay in responding to many emails. I used to live with my personal computer almost surgically attached to my fingers. I don’t anymore. And that’s a good thing. But it means that I didn’t notice many emails coming in over the last year or so on the account associated with this website. I have recently logged in and replied to as many as I could right away. Please keep them coming, and I will make a resolution to schedule some time to come to my website on a regular basis and stay in touch. Please also send me your Easter Sonata performances - I just made an events page for them. Even if it happened in the past, I can enter it as a past event to add to the record.

The Big Reason I stepped away from my personal computer was that I took a job in private industry about a year ago, as an analyst. It was an enormous personal and professional transition, and it wasn’t easy. But it has been wonderful. I ended up at a great company with a fantastic boss. I never knew just how many of the skills I learned in grad school and in my four years as a professor would come in handy in the corporate world. The post-ac career path can be incredibly rewarding, and I am glad I made the leap. I still stay in touch with my music/academic colleagues, and I am even still publishing occasionally. I am very grateful for the opportunities to keep contributing not only to Fanny Hensel’s continuing story, but also to keep contributing to the recognition of women in all walks of life and all kinds of careers.

More and more graduate programs are recognizing the need for education and coaching around post-ac options, and I believe that is a very good trend. Individuals with advanced degrees in pretty much anything demonstrate a massive amount of stick-to-itiveness, creativity, writing skills, public speaking skills, mentoring and leadership skills - the list goes on and on. And companies are looking for those skills. When anyone asks me (which they often do these days), I always say - go for that dream. Become the best musician you can be, the best writer, the best [insert humanities degree here] you can be. (And some sciences degrees too! Jobs don’t magically appear for STEM graduates, either.) But keep your options open, take some quantitative research and/or data science courses, plan for the future, and be aware of your own value and how to communicate it. Michelle Obama, in her autobiography Becoming, said it perfectly:

I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child - What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.
— Michelle Obama

Happy Women's History Month!

Well, Women’s History Month is pretty much over now, but that doesn’t meant the celebration can’t keep going! That’s also essentially the point of a short invited post I wrote for the Oxford University Press blog. You can read that on their site, at this link.

The social media team did a wonderful job! I hope you enjoy. I’ve included links to some amazing women who are doing amazing things in music today. I hope you will explore, maybe discover something new, and share it with your own peer group. Everyone can be a part of writing our history for the next generation!

Now Available: Full article + Works List for Fanny Hensel on Grove Music Online / Oxford Music Online!

Now available, free of subscription for a limited time at the link below, is my new, full-length article and works list on Fanny Hensel! This article was a labor of love: it is the product of 12 years of getting to know Fanny through her music, diaries, and letters - and, of course, all made possible by the work of the incredible individuals in the Mendelssohn scholarly community. A special tip of the hat to Marcia Citron, who wrote the first Grove article on Hensel in the ‘90s, and who provided early access to Hensel’s letters. And, as always, a special thanks to my Doktorvater, R. Larry Todd, whose work on his critical biography of Fanny Hensel sparked my own life-long interest in Hensel’s life and music.


Also, it was featured on the homepage for a while as a new article! *fistbumpfanny*

International Women's Day 2017!

While International Women's Day (IWD) doesn't garner as much attention as it should in the USA, it is quite a phenomenon overseas; a quick perusal of the IWD website yields hundreds of events around the world - including in America - with the theme "be bold for change." I did just that and chose a few cities at random to see what they were up to on March 8.

For example, in Maun, Botswana the community could attend an event called "Bold Women, Inspiring Stories." The description reads thus:

Are you ready to #BeBoldForChange?

Join us at Kamanga Lodge in Maun to commemorate the International Women’s Day. Five (5) BOLD WOMEN have taken bold action to forge women’s advancement in their community. Come and be inspired and challenged by these women as they share their bold moments and what they did to break through their limits to improve their lives, careers and businesses.

I most definitely want to hear those stories! The Facebook page for the event reported that "The women were inspired and challenged to take bold action towards their goals and dreams. It was a night of laughter and inspiration!" The photos posted there show a room packed with energy as these women grew bolder together to face the challenges of their lives.

Most smaller cities like Maun (ca. 60,000 people) had only one or two events. London, UK, however had no fewer than 100 events, and those were only the ones advertised on the site. These events ranged from international involvement in hashtag campaigns (for example, the #Smashshame campaign) to teas, sports events, business development events, film screenings, and a march. And music! 

OK, I admit, I didn't choose London at random. As most visitors to this website probably already know, I was part of London's IWD events with BBC Radio 3, and had a wonderful time visiting the city for a few days! The indefatigable great-great-great granddaughter of Fanny Hensel, née Mendelssohn, Sheila Hayman, helped to organize and splendidly pull off the UK premiere of Hensel's "Easter Sonata" in partnership with BBC Radio 3, the Royal College of Music, and me. (My role in finding the manuscript and making an edition can be read here.)

Hayman and I were interviewed together - live! - on BBC Radio 3's program "In Tune" on Tuesday, March 7. The interview had a bit of a comical start as the host, Sean Rafferty, accidentally identified Fanny as Robert Schumann's sister, instead of Felix Mendelssohn's sister! We put him immediately to right, though, and even though he apologized for the error later, it really served as quite a good ice breaker for the interview. I think the fault lay with the lead-in: the work that was playing as we took our seats in front of the microphones was by Robert Schumann. Oops! Otherwise, though, the interview went very well and I felt I was able to say what I wanted to say and help share the story of Fanny's perseverance with a worldwide audience of over 1.5 million listeners - that's more than she ever had the chance to do for herself!

The next day, on IWD proper (March 8), the Royal College of Music hosted a Women in Music concert, which was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3's Lunchtime Concert. The program included new works by two local women in music - one even inspired by the "Easter Sonata"! - and the UK premiere, and world broadcast premiere, of the "Easter Sonata" by pianist Sofya Gulyak. I have never before heard Hensel performed with such grit and intensity - almost even a "no nonsense" practicality. These are the same words we use to describe Hensel's personality, so I absolutely enjoyed Gulyak's interpretation. Hayman and I spent the rest of the day doing some filming about my rediscovery of the "Easter Sonata" and capped off the day with some delicious chicken tagine at a Lebanese restaurant in Kensington. The weather was unusually balmy, and sunny, for March in London and I enjoyed strolling through Hyde Park to admire the spring flowers and the Prince Albert memorial, as well as a couple of hours in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

It was a fitting tribute to Fanny Hensel's story. It was music written by women, performed by women (Gulyak was the first female top prize winner of the Leeds Competition in 2009), and organized (mostly) by women. A wonderful moment that occurred just as I arrived in London for the events put a smile on my face the whole week: as I was going through immigration, the immigration officer asked, as usual, what business I'd be conducting in London while I was there. When I told her I'd be on BBC Radio 3 and attending a concert of women in music, she asked if it were for IWD, and, when I confirmed it was, she said "Good on you!"

Good on everyone who participated in these richly varied IWD events around the world! And good on everyone who continues to #beboldforchange!

Spring Flowers in Hyde Park (photo by Angela Mace Christian)

Musical Quarterly article

Exciting news! My article on the "Easter Sonata" will appear in the journal Musical Quarterly. This is a wonderful opportunity for Hensel's work to be featured in such a prominent, peer-reviewed, publication. The article traces the documentary trail I followed to discover the manuscript and provides the details of the manuscript itself that confirmed the attribution to Fanny. I also provide an initial formal and hermeneutical analysis. 

The full title:

“Authorship, Attribution, and the Historical Record: Solving the Mystery of the Easter Sonata by Fanny Hensel geb. Mendelssohn Bartholdy”

No word yet on which issue the article will appear in, but I will post an update to this space once I know!