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The photographs and newspaper clippings in Mira’s slideshow are taken from this Facebook page dedicated to Betty Jackson King. This page actively shares recent performances of her music.
About the composer and piece
Betty Jackson King (1928-1994) was born in Chicago. She came from a musical family — her mother Gertrude Jackson Taylor was her first teacher, and Betty, her mother, and sister Catherine frequently performed together in the Jacksonian Trio (pictured in Mira’s slideshow). After attending Roosevelt University in Chicago, King worked as a school and university teacher, pianist, composer, arranger, choral conductor, and church musician. She notably served as the president of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. from 1979 to 1984 and was based in New Jersey for the later part of her life.
King’s Four Seasonal Sketches (1955) open with the innocent joy of spring but end in the forceful darkness of winter. Its four movements follow in the Romantic tradition of structuring a multi-movement piano work around the changing months and seasons, such as Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Das Jahr (The Year) and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons. The Four Seasonal Sketches were published in 1973 by Jacksonian Press, a company dedicated to furthering King’s legacy. The first movement, “Spring Intermezzo,” was included in the seminal anthology Black Women Composers: A Century of Piano Music (1893-1990) from Hildegard Publishing Company. Hildegard also publishes the volume Art Songs and Spirituals by African-American Women Composers, which includes numerous art songs and spiritual settings by King and other composers who will be featured later in this series.
More recently, pianist and musicologist Samantha Ege has championed this work. Ege programmed it in a lecture recital in March 2021 in honor of International Women’s Day. (Her performance of the Four Seasonal Sketches begins at 24:09.) Ege remarks on the significance of King’s dedication of the Four Seasonal Sketches to Dr. Geneva Handy Southall, a pianist and Black music researcher who was King’s friend and colleague. Ege’s work highlights the importance of these relationships and community in the lives of many Black Chicago musicians of the time.
About the performer
Mira is a Jacobs School of Music MM student from Birmingham, Alabama. She began piano lessons with her mother at age 5, and has been an avid music lover ever since, performing and competing successfully across the country and abroad. Mira is also passionate about teaching and community outreach through music.