I wondered why I had not seriously tried to become an accomplished guitarist or musician when I was young. Music had come easy, but I had never pushed myself to be a great musician. Why had I finally just set my music aside? I could not place all the blame on myself or my family’s lack of encouragement and support. The answers had to be bigger than that. As a “girl” singer and rhythm guitarist in high school rock bands, I had grown up aware of the dearth of females playing electric guitars. Surely the scant number of female musicians had impacted my pursuit of music. I knew one great female guitarist, Muriel Anderson, and I had only “discovered” her a few years prior when I was invited to join the Association of Fingerstyle Guitarists (afg.org).

I wondered why I had never attempted to learn to compose “serious” music, either. I had grown up in a world of male composers of symphonic music, male conductors, male symphonic players. I knew of no symphonic women composers or conductors. The jazz world was populated by men. The rock world, too. Sure, then, as now, I knew about sexism, but where did that come from, really? How did it become the norm in music? Why had my society accepted it? Why had I accepted it?

Then there were the more timeless, global and less personal questions that provoked me: What is the purpose of music? What does music have to do with the lives of women?

When I first went to Amy Beach my questions were simple: how on earth did she mange to become a composer, and a recognized one, in the gender-inequitable nineteenth century? As is often the case with great life lessons, though, my study of Amy Beach’s life did not give me the answers to the questions I first asked, but it did give me the answers I needed.

The context of my own life gave me a perspective about this woman, who grew up one hundred years before me, that earlier writers and those who were not women musicians could not have had. I held a mirror to Amy Beach and her world and saw her reflections in me, but I also saw myself reflected in her. continued page 7