American women saxophonists from 1870-1930 : their careers and repertoire

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Hubbs, Holly J.
Pohly, Linda, 1954-
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Thesis (D.A.)
School of Music
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The late nineteenth century was a time of great change for women's roles in music. Whereas in 1870, women played primarily harp or piano, by 1900 there were all-woman orchestras. During the late nineteenth century, women began to perform on instruments that were not standard for them, such as cornet, trombone, and saxophone. The achievements of early female saxophonists scarcely have been mentioned in accounts of saxophone history. This study gathers scattered and previously unpublished information about the careers and repertoire of American female saxophonists from 1870-1930 into one reference source.The introduction presents a brief background on women's place in music around 1900 and explains the study's organization. Chapter two presents material on saxophone history and provides an introduction to the Chautauqua, lyceum, and vaudeville circuits. Chapter three contains biographical entries for forty-four women saxophonists from 1870-1930. Then follows in Chapter four a discussion of the saxophonists' repertoire. Parlor, religious, and minstrel songs are examined, as are waltz, fox-trot, and ragtime pieces. Discussion of music of a more "classical" nature concludes this section. Two appendixes are included--the first, a complete alphabetical list of the names of early female saxophonists and the ensembles with which they played; the second, an alphabetical list of representative pieces played by the women.The results of this study indicate that a significant number of women became successful professional saxophonists between 1870-1930. Many were famous on a local level, and some toured extensively while performing on Chautauqua, lyceum, and vaudeville circuits. Some ended their performing careers after becoming wives and mothers, but some continued to perform with all-woman swing bands during the 1930s and 40s.The musical repertoire played by women saxophonists from 1870-1930 reflects the dichotomy of cultivated and vernacular music. Some acts chose to use popular music as a drawing card by performing ragtime, fox-trot, waltz, and other dance styles. Other acts presented music from the more cultivated classical tradition, such as opera transcriptions or original French works for saxophone (by composers such as Claude Debussy). Most women, however, performed a mixture of light classics, along with crowd-pleasing popular songs.