My renewed exploration of music led me also to Amy Beach. As I sat in a straight-backed chair that fateful night in the mountains with the Songmakers, forcing myself to remember the words and chords to “Motherless Child,” a song I had not sung in over a decade, singing as loudly as I had the skill and courage to do at the time, I was unaware that I had chosen to sing about being without a mother because I was feeling the lack of a mother in my own life:  the absence of the guidance an older woman role model might have given me. I had no idea that one day I would go to someone named Amy Beach in search of that Mother.

In my Masters writing program, I began a deeper search for the meaning of music in my life by collecting and reading all I could about women and music. I “happened" to read and annotate a biography about Amy Beach as part of my reading requirements, and to write about her for a series of essays I was developing about women and music. My writing mentor that semester, Bernadette Murphy, asked me a seemingly simple question: "Why did you go to Amy Beach?" There was no way I could know at that moment that I was once again a driven woman. I thought I had “gone to Amy Beach” simply because I read somewhere that she was the first American woman composer, and it seemed logical that a woman musician like me would want to start at the beginning of women in American music. The following semester, I began this new media book about Amy Beach, and Bernadette’s question lingered. My new writing mentor, Sharman Russell, asked what my role in this book was to be – was I using my life to frame the story of Amy Beach, or would I integrate our lives more than that?

For a brief time, early in the writing, I despaired. I realized that I could not write a book about Amy Beach if I did not have the answers to Bernadette’s and Sharman’s questions. They were not such simple questions after all. Why had I gone to Amy Beach? What did I want to share about her? To be quite honest, I did not fall in love with her "Gaelic Symphony" or her "Mass in Eb" when I heard them. How could I write about a woman whose music I was not a great admirer of? Anyway, I was no music critic, so who would care what I had to say about her music? continued page 5