This vibrant new recording features art song literature by five American Women composers. The composers represented on the disc are Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Lori Laitman, Ruth Schonthal and Libby Larsen. The first two composers were African-Americans whose accomplishments are not generally well known beyond the African-American community, but whose contributions to music are significant. Ruth Schonthal is an exile from Germany whose family fled the Nazi party in 1934. Both Lori Laitman and Libby Larsen are native-born Americans actively composing and promoting their music today. In this group of women, there is a wonderful representation of the "melting pot" of the United States of America. Similarly, the music these women write and the texts they set vary as widely as human emotions, ranging from the piety of "Feet O' Jesus" to the indignation of gender descrimination experience by impressionist painter, Mary Cassatt. It is time to celebrate this diversity of American women in song!
Sonya Gabrielle Baker, Soprano
Vicki Berneking, Piano
Jeannie Little, Trombone

Featuring Art Songs of American Composers Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, Lori Laitman,
Ruth Schonthal and Libby Larsen

1 Song to the Dark Virgin (1:45)
2 Feet O’ Jesus (2:41)
3 Night (1:43)
(pub. Edward B. Marks)
(pub. Southern Music Company)
(pub. Edward B. Marks)
Florence Price

Three Dream Portraits
4 Minstrel Man (1:48)
5 Dream Variations (2:04)
6 I, Too (1:37)

From Days and Nights
7 Along with Me (2:48)
8 They Might Not Need Me (2:08)
9 The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (2:50)
10 Over the Fence (1:53)
11 Wild Nights (2:24)
12 - 17 Six Times Solitude (9:50)
(pub. Edward B. Marks)

(pub. Merion Music, Inc.)

(pub. Furore Verlag)
Margaret Bonds

Lori Laitman
b. 1955

Ruth Schonthal
b. 1924
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)
18 To Be a Painter (1:51)
19 Travels (3:57)
20 Europe Again (1:46)
21 Early Work (5:35)
23 Maturity (4:44)
22 Degas (4:16)
(pub. Oxford University Press) Libby Larsen
b. 1950
Sonya Gabrielle Baker, soprano, noted for her performances of American music, has been heard in concert both nationally and internationally, including recent appearances in Newfoundland, Canada, Charleston, West Virginia, and New York City. In 2003, Dr. Baker made her Carnegie Hall debut with renowned conductor Michael Tilson Thomas singing music of Aaron Copland, and she appeared as soloist on the Yale Alumni Chorus tour to Moscow singing at the Kremlin. Highlights of Dr. Baker’s operatic roles include Elisabetta in Verdi’s Don Carlo, Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Monisha in Joplin’s Treemonisha, and the title role in the U.S. premiere of Mascagni’s Pinotta. Dr. Baker is currently a member of the voice faculty at Murray State University in Kentucky. Along with a Doctor of Music from Florida State University, she holds a Master of Music degree from Indiana University and a Bachelor’s of Arts in American Studies from Yale University. Her voice teachers have included Yvonne Ciannella, Rita Patanè, Lili Chookasian, and Virginia Zeani. Dr. Baker has also worked with well-known teachers, coaches and directors such as Frank Corsaro, Evelyn Lear, Jerome Hines, Douglas Fisher, Michael McConnell and Craig Rutenberg. Dr. Baker’s lecture recital on Marian Anderson’s historic 1939 Easter concert has been presented at several universities and conferences and is often performed in celebration of Black History Month. Her newest project, a lecture recital entitled “Creating the Best of all Possible Worlds” features songs by Ruth Schonthal and Libby Larsen. Dr. Baker has received numerous academic and vocal awards and is a frequent guest artist and teacher, having taught at Governor’s School for the Arts programs in both Kentucky and Virginia. This recording was made possible in part by grants awarded from Murray State University and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.
Vicki Berneking is Professor of Music Emeritus at James Madison University in Virginia and was formerly in charge of the accompanying program. She studied piano and coaching with Wesley True, Thomas Mastroianni, John Wustman and Dalton Baldwin. for its dynamic, deeply inspired, and vigorous contemporary American spirit. Her music has been commissioned and premiered internationally by major artists and orchestras including soprano Benita Valente, the King’s Singers and the Minnesota Orchestra. In April 2003, the Library of Congress announced Libby Larsen’s appointment as the first holder of the Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education and Technology in the John W. Kluge Center. Larsen’s awards and honors are numerous including a 1994 Grammy as producer for the CD The Art of Arleen Auger, a recording featuring Larsen’s Sonnets from the Portuguese. Larsen is an active advocate for contemporary music and musicians. In 1973 she co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer’s Forum. The first woman to serve as a resident composer with a major orchestra, Larsen has held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony and the Colorado Symphony. Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) is a portrait of the impressionist artist. The cycle, commissioned by the Keller Foundation was originally set for voice, trombone and orchestra with fifteen projections of Cassatt’s paintings. The chamber reduction heard on this recording was created later by Larsen. The libretto was compiled from Cassatt’s letters, articles written by her contemporaries and some material Larsen wrote based on her own research. About the cycle, Larsen writes, “What I am drawn to in Mary Cassatt is her extraordinary paintings and her strong voice. Here is a Victorian woman who painted, wrote and spoke with a clear, single-minded purpose—to paint...I have combined the mezzo-soprano as the embodied character of Cassatt with the trombone as Cassatt’s spirit to created a fuller understanding of the artist.”
Jeannie Little received her degrees from Northwestern University and Florida State University. Her principal teachers include Jay Friedman, Frank Crisafulli, Charles Vernon, Arnold Jacobs, John Marcellus and William Cramer. Ms. Little has served as principal trombonist of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, Charlottesville Symphony Orchestra, the Illinois Chamber Symphony, Chicago Sinfonietta, and the Elgin Symphony orchestra. In addition, she has performed with the Detroit, Honolulu, Alabama, and New Mexico Symphony Orchestras, and has toured and recorded with the Chicago Symphony under Leonard Bernstein. Ms. Little was a founding member of the highly acclaimed, award-winning trombone quartet, PRISMA, which toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe, and has been featured at International Trombone Workshops, the International Women’s Brass Conference. As a clinician, Ms. Little is active presenting recitals and master classes throughout the country. She has also appeared as guest conductor and performer in the International Women’s Trombone Choir at the International Trombone Workshops in 1992 and 1995. Having served as the trombone professor at James Madison University, the Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Hawaii, Ms. Little is currently a free-lance artist and elementary orchestra teacher in Los Angeles, California
Recorded at the Performing Arts Hall on the Campus of Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky. Recording Engineer and Graphic Design: John Whitmer, Angelus Productions, Birmingham, Alabama. Photography: David Celaya, Wells Studio, Mayfield, Kentucky. This recording copyright © 2004 Sonya Gabrielle Baker, Murray, Kentucky. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or broadcast is a violation of federal copyright law.

© 2015 Sonya Gabrielle Baker, Harrisonburg, VA
Wayne Bates