Contemporary Flute Solos by Black Women Composers

In the classical flute repertoire, music by women of color starts appearing in the mid-late 20th century. However, skilled BIPOC women composers absolutely did exist before then – this is more of an indication of when we begin to see more of them accepted into institutions of Western classical music. (That’s also not to say that classical music is by any means a better form of music – many BIPOC composers engage with a wide range of musical traditions that inform their work).

Headshots of 7 Black women composers, with text in the middle that reads "7 Flute Solos by Black Women Composers."  Clockwise from top left, the composers shown are: Tania Leon, D. Antoinette Handy, Joyce Solomon Moorman, Allison Loggins-Hull and Nathalie Joachim of the Flutronix duo, and Valerie Coleman.

Clockwise from top left: Tania Leon, D. Antoinette Handy, Joyce Solomon Mooreman, Allison Loggins-Hull and Nathalie Joachim (Flutronix), Consuela Lee, and Valerie Coleman

Intersectionality can show up not only in composition styles, but also through wider impacts on the careers of women musicians. In such a white- and male- dominated industry, marginalized gender and ethnic identities can both create additional obstacles. I am SO impressed by the collective achievements of the composers below, and the ones I’ve noted only scratch the surface – but it’s also a reminder of how much harder women from underestimated demographics often have to work in order to receive the same considerations as people privileged by Western society.

So without further ado, here are 7 contemporary flute solos by Black women composers – complete with videos and links to sheet music in the titles. None of the links are from affiliates or sponsors, and go directly to the composer or publisher’s site where possible – so let’s order some music in support of these amazing musicians! 🙂

Dorothy Antoinette Handy (1930-2002) was born in New Orleans and began playing flute at a young age. She went on to study at the New England Conservatory of Music, the Northwestern University School of Music, and the Conservatoire de Paris. Handy was one of the first African-American members of the Richmond Symphony, where she played from 1966-1976. She was also a member of Trio Pro Viva, an ensemble dedicated to the performance of works by Black composers.

D. Antoinette Handy’s Hommage à Haute Savoie, performed by Liz Marshall

Handy served as the director for the National Endowment of the Arts from 1990-1993, and her legacy lives on in several pieces of literature documenting the musical achievements of women and African-Americans. She composed this piece the same year that she earned her artist’s diploma from the Conservatoire de Paris. It consists of 5 short impressions for unaccompanied flute, and was published by ClarNan in 1998.

Consuela Lee was a 20th century pianist, composer, arranger, and music educator. She was a trailblazer for women jazz pianists, and throughout her career, worked to emphasize African-American contributions to creative arts, music, drama, and dance.

Lee taught theory and composition at Alabama State, Hampton Institute, Talladega College and Norfolk State University, and performed with her siblings in the group The Descendants of Mike and Phoebe. She also founded the Springtree/Snow Hill Institute for the Performing Arts in Snow Hill, Alabama, where she served as artistic director until 2003. 

Lee wrote this piece during her graduate studies at Northwestern University for composition and music theory; however, it wasn’t published until 2023. It consists of a 4-minute movement with an exposition, development, and recapitulation in traditional sonata form. However, Lee also incorporates bebop harmonic forms alongside contemporary classical techniques.

Joyce Soloman Moorman was born in Tuskegee, Alabama during the 1940s. After attending Vassar College, Rutgers University, and Sarah Lawrence College, she earned her PhD from Columbia University in 1982. She is a retired Professor from the Music and Art Department of the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Joyce Solomon Moorman’s Three Pieces for Solo Flute, performed by Rose Khorsandi

Moorman’s composition style includes 12-tone melodies, jazz rhythms, and settings of poetry, and she has written music for orchestra, opera, and chamber ensemble. She wrote two flute solos, though Three Pieces is the only one with a full preview online. This piece, along with her Jazz Sonatina, is available through the JW Pepper catalog.

Tania León is a Cuban-American composer and conductor whose compositions include orchestral works, chamber music, and opera. She’s received a ton of awards over the years (including a Pulitzer Prize in 2021), and is currently a composer in residence with the London Philharmonic.

Alma is an advanced level piece inspired by Carmen A. Vega Schimmenti’s poem Bailando con mi angel, and the title is Spanish for “soul,” or “spirit.”

Tania León’s Alma, performed by Marya Martin and Colette Valentine

Valerie Coleman is a flutist, composer, and entrepreneur whose works have become pretty well-known among flutists in the U.S. She was also the founder of Imani Winds, a GRAMMY-nominated quintet whose programming promotes the works of contemporary composers from underrepresented demographics.

Valerie Coleman performing Fanmi Imèn

Fanmi Imèn is a poem for flute and piano, and takes its name after Maya Angelou’s poem, Human Family. Coleman incorporates French, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African influences, with a theme of diversity coming together, and our humanity uniting us as a whole. The (U.S.) National Flute Association originally commissioned Fanmi Imèn for their 2018 High School Soloist Competition, but it was also a finalist in their Newly Published Music Competition the following year.

Our next two composers are also known as the flute duo Flutronix. Allison-Loggins-Hull is a flutist, composer, and producer whose compositions explore social and political themes and pop/classical crossovers. She’s released two studio albums with Flutronix and played in Disney’s 2019 remake of The Lion King; her 2022-2023 season also included eight world premieres. Loggins-Hull currently serves as the Cleveland Orchestra’s Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow.

Allison Loggins-Hull’s Homeland, performed by Tyler Martin

Homeland explores the meanings of home and patriotism in times of crisis and global unrest – a conversation that’s still just as relevant in 2024. If you’re into modern composition styles and extended techniques, this unaccompanied flute solo is a good choice for you – techniques this composition calls for include slides, pitch bends, and timbral trills.

Nathalie Joachim is a Haitian-American flutist, vocalist, and composer who received a GRAMMY nomination in 2020 for her album Fanm d’Ayiti. Whether writing for orchestra, voice, chamber ensembles, or theatre, her works center storytelling, human connection, cultural awareness, and advocacy for social change. Joachim is currently the Assistant Professor of Composition at Princeton University.

Additional Resources

This is the largest database dedicated specifically to flute music by Black composers that I’ve come across.  It contains both flute solos and chamber music featuring the flute, and direct links to websites for modern composers.  There are about 750 pieces here  – so while it takes some time & energy to search through, it’s totally worth it – there’s something here for everyone!

This is a big database for music by BIPOC composers that I hear a lot of people recommend. If you’re looking for more classical music by Black composers (especially for large ensembles), this is a great place to start. However, I’ve found that depending on what you’re looking for, their search menu can be difficult to navigate.

This is one of my favorite social media creators – I follow him on Instagram, but he’s also on YouTube and TikTok if that’s where you prefer to hang out.  Following Babatunde is a great way to learn about the history of Black achievements in classical music year-round!

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