University of Iowa

150th anniversary of pioneering composer Amy Beach observed

As a wealthy Victorian lady, Amy Beach never cooked or cleaned. But she did do a bit of sewing — carefully stitching new musical passages she composed atop older versions.

"What man would've done that?" wonders Dale Valena, museum curator at the University of New Hampshire, which is celebrating the 150th birthday of the pioneering American composer with an academic conference, musical performances and an exhibit of Beach memorabilia.

Born Sept. 5, 1867, in Henniker, Beach startled her family with her musical talents from early toddlerhood. By age 2, she was improvising alto parts to lullabies as her mother rocked her to sleep. At 4, she composed her first piano...