Rediscovering Liza & Clara: A Research Grant Adventure - Part 1

How it began...

Back in February 2020, mere weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the entire world to a standstill, I was fortunate enough to receive a wonderful honor from the Presser Foundation while studying at the University of Miami Frost School of Music. Every year the university hosted an annual competition, wherein graduate students would submit proposals and compete for a Presser Graduate Music Award, totaling the amount of $10,000... a generous and hefty sum for doctoral and masters students who really need to watch their finances!

Liza and Clara were the subject of my DMA Lecture Recital - this was my flashy poster

I submitted a proposal for an idea that had been brewing for nearly a year: to research and record works by two women composers that I had stumbled across during a bibliography seminar: Liza Lehmann and Clara Kathleen Rogers. Both British (and one of them a subsequent American immigrant), they were international singers, exceptional teachers, and composers active during the early twentieth century. The more I read about them, the more intrigued I became. It turned out that both had published several books on teaching singing (my main wheelhouse), wrote sprawling catalogues of music, one of them even studied voice with disciples of Manuel García II (my voice nerd people will know who I'm talking about!)... why had I never heard of them before?!

Well, and I'm sure you guessed it, this story is not a new one: Liza and Clara were most likely "forgotten" because they were women... and so my raging feminist roots blazed to life and I was off on my crusade. Fortunately for me, the committee that reviewed the applications also thought it a worthwhile cause :) I was awarded the grant and sought to complete the project in three parts:

  1. A research trip to the Houghton Archives at Harvard University where the Rogers Memorial Collection is housed - including Clara Rogers' music, the majority of which has never been heard by modern audiences

  2. A trip to London, UK to the British Library and Guildhall School of Music to seek out and collect music by Liza Lehmann for the same purpose

  3. A recording project to bring these compositions to life

Dr. Harts triumphantly sporting the traditional regalia

What happened next? No sooner had I been awarded the Presser, the world shut down and all plans for travel (especially international) were halted. But now, approximately a year and a half later, after a doctorate, writing my dissertation on these two ladies, and because of several generous extensions from the Presser Foundation, I am now finally getting the opportunity to see this project through!

Chronicling my journey...

I have decided to keep track of this project by way of a few blog postings, writing about my travels and sharing exciting discoveries along the way. I hope you enjoy (I certainly will!) and leave me a few comments! The kickoff comes this Monday when I hop a flight up to Boston, MA and begin to explore the newly renovated Houghton Archives at Harvard University in Cambridge.

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