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University of Southampton welcomes concert pianist

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A musicologist and concert pianist has joined the University of Southampton as a research fellow where she will continue her ground-breaking research into black history in music.

Dr Samantha Ege, who is one of the most sought after musicians of our time, has joined the University on a three-year Anniversary Fellowship to mark its 70th year. She will be continuing her life-long studies of music, as well as further her exploration into how black women music intellectuals have shaped music and society for generations.

A globally recognised expert on the music of the African American pianist-composer, Florence Price (1887-1953), Dr Ege started learning the piano at aged three, but said it wasn’t until she became an exchange student at McGill University in Montreal, that Dr Ege noticed black history was being taught differently to the way she was used to in the UK.

She said: “When I was younger, I was used to being the only black child in my piano and music lessons. Even in my early adulthood and moving through study, I didn’t really feel like I fitted in. Then I went to Canada and discovered a whole new way of learning that seamlessly exposed us to many different, inspirational musical composers – it revealed a whole new world of the importance of black female composers in the development of the music that we know and love today.”

She added: “It was more naturally taught in Canada, whereas my studies in the UK only seemed to focus on the contributions of European men in music.”

It was her discovery of Florence Price, the first black woman composer to have a symphony performed by a major American orchestra, that inspired her research.

Dr Ege continued: “I didn’t realise how influential Florence Price was in the history of music. She became a role model of mine, and I went on to devote my PhD research to her.”

In fact, Dr Ege went on to write several papers on pioneering black women, from Florence Price to Josephine Baker, and even Beyonce and Lizzo. This all feeds into her mission to shed an important light on composers and performers from underrepresented backgrounds, both through her writing and through her own musical performances. Dr Ege’s first book celebrates these hidden histories and is called South Side Impresarios: Race women in the Realm of Music, which is due out next year.

As concert pianist, Dr Ege made her Barbican debut in 2021, and her London debut at the 2021 London Festival of American Music, where she gave the world premiere of Florence Price’s complete Fantasie Nègre set for solo piano. She has also just released her fourth album ‘Homage’, which presents a variety of from the African continent.

Talking about her fellowship with the University of Southampton, she said: “It is an honour to be recognised in this way by Southampton’s Anniversary Fellowship scheme.

“I will now be part of a Music department with a long-standing tradition of multifaceted scholarship, highlighting women’s unsung contributions. This is a very exciting time.”