Janelle Monáe (b. 1985) is an
award-winning musician and actress. She has released three studio albums and
starred in two highly acclaimed films, Moonlight and Hidden Figures.
Among her many awards are a VMA, 2 Black Reel
Awards and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Additionally, she has been nominated
for a Grammy 6 times. In 2018 she was named “Trailblazer of the Year”
at the Billboard Women in Music event.
Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847) was a prolific German pianist
and composer. Even though she composed almost 500 musical pieces throughout her
life, many of them were originally published under the name of her brother
She showed great musical talent from a young age;
her teacher praised her piano skills as by saying that “she plays like a man”. Even
while recognizing her talent, her father stated that, while music would become
Felix’s profession, it would always be just a pastime for her. Therefore, her
brother published several of her works under his own name in order for them to
be released to the world.
Camilla Williams (1919-2012) was a soprano
who paved the way for African-American musicians in opera. She was the first
African American to receive a contract from a major opera company in the United
States, and the first to sing a major role with the Vienna State Opera.
She was born
in a poor family, but went to study music education at Virginia State
University. She received numerous awards for her performances, and made her debut
with the New York City Opera in 1946. She was appointed Professor of Voice at
Indiana University in 1977, the first African American in the position.
Domna Samiou (1928-2012) was a Greek folk musician and
researcher. She not only performed traditional Greek music, but collected and
recorded it for over 50 years.
in the folk section of the National Radio Foundation and started her musical
career in the early 1970s. A foundation was established in her name in 1981,
aiming to preserve and promote the traditional music of Greece.
Caccini (1587-1641) was an Italian musician during the early Baroque era. Her
only surviving stage work, La liberazione
di Ruggiero, is likely the oldest opera in the world by a female composer.
She was part of the Medici court as a teacher and singer, and quickly
became the highest paid musician there. Although very little of her music
survives, there is evidence she was a very prolific and talented composer.
Pauline Viardot (1821-1910) was a
French-Spanish composer and mezzo-soprano. She enjoyed a highly prolific and successful
musical career in 19th-century France.
Along with singing, she was also a
proficient piano player, often performing duets with Frédéric Chopin. She spoke
6 languages and composed music in as many national traditions. Additionally, she taught at the Paris
Conservatory and held a popular music salon in the city.
Wanda Landowska (1879-1959) was a
Polish-French harpsichordist. She was very influential in the revival of harpsichord
music in the 20th century.
She studied at prestigious
institutions such as the Warsaw Conservatory and the Berlin University of the Arts.
In 1933, she recorded Bach’s Goldberg
Variations on the harpsichord, the first person to do so.
Lena Horne (1917-2010) was a singer
and actress with a career spanning 70 years. She was also actively involved in
the Civil Rights Movement.
She became a nightclub performer at
the age of 16, but became so popular that she eventually ran a one-woman show
with more than 300 representations on Broadway. She became involved with civil
rights at first by refusing to perform for segregated audiences, later
participating in the March on Washington and campaigning for anti-lynching
Hazel Dickens (1925-2011) was a pioneer of bluegrass music, regarded as one of the first female artists to record in the genre. She is best known for her songs which promoted feminism and workers’ rights.
She was the first woman to receive the Merit Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. In addition to this, she was also awarded a National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honour that can be awarded to folk musicians in the United States.