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K-State Today

April 23, 2012

Violin professor publishes anthology of violin music by women

Submitted by Cora Cooper

Cora Cooper, professor of music, has finished a nine-year labor of love resulting in a four-volume anthology of violin music by women composers.

Struck by the fact that few if any of her university students had ever played a piece written by a women, in 2003 Cooper began a hunt for music to fit all developmental levels of violin students.

“Each volume of the anthology targets one level of player, from beginning to advanced, so there is always material available,” Cooper said.

The violin parts alone total over 70 pages of music, with all but two pieces long unavailable for purchase. The hunt for music took her to the British Library several times, and fostered a deep respect for K-State’s Interlibrary Loan workers. For the last volume (Advanced), Cooper commissioned a work by noted composer Libby Larsen as a tribute to all her violin teachers.

“The longer I worked on the anthology, the more I wanted to honor what these special people had done for me,” she said.

Both Larsen and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (the first female composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for music) were early supporters of the project.

“I emailed the two of them on a lark, thinking I’d never hear back, and a day or two later the phone rang and it was Ellen Zwilich! I tried to be cool.”

Zwilich contributed a movement from her "Partita for Violin and Piano." The anthology features a wide variety of styles and composers, including previously unpublished works by Rebecca Clarke and Marga Richter, a jazz “novelty solo” by Audrey Call, the “Kansas Memories Suite” by K-State composition graduate Hannah Bartel-Groening, and a wild mambo by New Zealand composer Claire Scholes.

“My criteria was that the pieces had to be fun to play, but also had to have a pedagogical point behind the music,” Cooper said. “I’m really pleased with the way it turned out, both musically and visually.”

The covers were designed by Robyn Bramlage Yates, a graphic design graduate of K-State, who studied violin with Cooper and played the in orchestra during her time in school. The anthology is published by Prairie Dawg Press, and is being considered for distribution by Shar Products Company, North America’s largest string retailer.