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Van de Vate, Nancy (1930—)

Van de Vate, Nancy (1930—)

American composer. Born in Plainfield, New Jersey, on December 30, 1930; received Rochester Prize scholarship and George Eastman scholarship to attend the Eastman School of Music; graduated with a degree in music theory from Wellesley College; master's degree in composition from the University of Mississippi; doctorate in music from Florida State University.

Awarded six American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers awards; premiered Six Etudes for Solo Vila at Lincoln Center; challenged the granting procedures of the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which she felt were biased against women; served as chair of the International League of Women Composers; was a professor of music at the University of Mississippi, Memphis State University, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Hawaii.

"Most of the standard avenues for obtaining performances of their works have not been open to women," wrote Nancy Van de Vate. "In the past every city and town had its music club of genteel ladies who would listen to sentimental songs by women or works for solo piano…. But serious compositional aspirations have been about as welcome in women as beards and for the same reason." As a composer and active member of the League of Women Composers, Van de Vate sought to challenge musical stereotypes.

The birth of her child in 1955 led Van de Vate to composing; the constraints of time, energy, and financial resources made her realize that performance was no longer a feasible outlet for her ambitions. "I changed to composition, then became so totally engrossed in it that I never again wished to direct the major part of my time and energy to any other aspect of music." During the early part of her composing career, Van de Vate lived in the Southeast, which was also a drawback. "Music composition is really an urban occupation, you must be where there are performers and audiences to hear your music. My own style was hampered by being in a rural environment…. There simply are few composers from places like South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Nevada; it is just too rural." Despite the drawbacks of gender, location, and prejudice, Van de Vate continued to compose and gained increasing recognition for her work, which included pieces for chorus, orchestra, and chamber works, among others.


Cohen, Aaron I. International Encyclopedia of Women Composers. 2 vols. NY: Books & Music (USA), 1987.

Morton, Brian and Pamela Collins. Contemporary Composers. Chicago, IL: St. James Press, 1981.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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