Magnificent Women in Music


108 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-897187-02-5
DDC j780'.02'2





Reviewed by Desmond Maley

Desmond Maley is the music librarian at the J.W. Tate Library,
Huntington College, Laurentian University, and editor of the CAML


The grandiose title of this book belies its slender proportions, the
narrative portion of which clocks in at 86 pages. Nevertheless, it turns
out to be a surprisingly nuanced and thoughtful read. Toronto author and
editor Heather Ball has chosen 10 women from the past and present who
have made exemplary contributions to the musical world. They range from
the 19th-century pianist Clara Wieck Schumann to the contemporary fusion
violinist Vanessa-Mae.

Each life story is recounted almost like a fable, with “To thine own
self be true” being the moral. We find out how these women have in
different ways cultivated their artistry. Some have also been animated
by political and social concerns. Opera composer Dame Ethel Smythe was a
suffragette, singers Marian Anderson and Ella Fitzgerald fought racial
segregation, while k.d. lang has publicly disclosed her homosexuality as
well as advocating vegetarianism. There are some slips in editing and
one factual error was noticed (bebop jazz did not originate in the late
1930s), but the concluding list of print and online resources is
helpful. This fine publication, while intended for young readers, will
appeal to all ages. Highly recommended.


Ball, Heather., “Magnificent Women in Music,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,