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Andrea Ramsey

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Dr. Andrea Ramsey enjoys an international presence as a composer, conductor, scholar and music educator. Before leaping into full time composing and guest conducting, Andrea held positions at The Ohio State University and the University of Colorado Boulder, respectively. An award-winning composer with approximately 100 works to date, she believes strongly in the creation of new music. A native of Arkansas, Andrea has experienced in her own life the power of music to provide a sense of community, better understanding of our humanity and rich opportunities for self-discovery.

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Commissioned Repertoire:
Suffrage Cantata


Suffrage Cantata
Premiered at the 2020-2021 concert, Shout the Revolution

Lyric Excerpt from Movement 3: A Woman's Place

A woman's place is the ballot box

And we're marching steady to win it

And when the people try to tell us we belong in the house

We say yes, the house and the senate

Eight thousand women marching 

To take a stand

For the right to vote, afforded every other man

A woman needs a ballot

Far more than a petticoat

Standing tall we are marching steady

For the right to vote


Co-commissioned by VOX, National Concerts, and a consortium of other treble choirs, this 5 movement work explores themes of gender equality and racial justice.

Words from Andrea Ramsey:

"Suffrage Cantata represents well over a year of research, planning, and composing. The journey took me places I never imagined. When I began this, I had no idea the 19th amendment represented seventy-two years of struggle. Walking through a bookstore, have you ever noticed how little of the history section is comprised of women? In working through this project, I have dwelled with women who were American heroes, but in many cases dismissed or outright silenced by the major authors of history. Even within the women's suffrage movement, women silenced other women. Leading white suffragists were dismissive of and in some instances intentionally omitted the efforts of suffragists of color from historical records.

My personal commitment to include diverse perspectives from the movement intensified the process in ways I hadn't anticipated. For every scrap of information I could find on Mary Church Terrell or Mabel Ping-Hua Lee, I could find 50 to 100 more documents on Susan B. Anthony or Alice Paul. Instances like this challenge us to critically examine the history we are presented. Who is telling the story? How do their experiences impact the story? And, if we are fortunate enough to write a story ourselves, are we sharing all the voices we can?

History is immensely messy. Many of the very suffragists who fought so hard to end slavery were deeply racist and classist (e.g. Elizabeth Cady Stanton). Others (even the Quakers like Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul) were permissive of racist thinking when they felt it would expedite their efforts (i.e. how Alice Paul handled segregation in the 1913 parade). It is easy for many to dismiss this as simply being "how things were" or an unfortunate condition of the times. However, if women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton could be revolutionary enough in independent thought to see that women should be treated as equal to men, it stands to reason those same women could think radically and independently regarding Americans of color as well.

When I began the work, I naïvely thought, "I'll only include the ‘good suffragists.'" While touring the Belmont-Paul Equality House in Washington, D.C. (former headquarters of the National Woman's Party), I arrived early and had a moment to talk with the guide before the tour. In our conversation, I told her of my project and said something to the effect of: "I know some of the white suffragists were racially problematic…" She stopped me and said, "Oh, they were all racially problematic." As I moved through the tour, I saw women who had been arrested, jailed, beaten and tortured for the right to vote— but who were also deeply flawed.

Planning for this work began in May of 2019. In less than a year, our own history was shifting dramatically with the arrival of a global pandemic, sustained protest, and racial upheaval. We are influenced by our environments and I know this work is different, and likely stronger, as a result of composing in this season of self-examination. I have tried to craft a work that is honest about the heroism of these figures while also acknowledging their flaws.

The music for the work is original, with the exception of a brief portion of movement 3, which quotes "Fall in Line," a Suffrage March by Zena S. Hawn. Published in 1914, it is quite possible this march was performed at or inspired by the 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. 

While movements 1 and 3 include some original lyrics, the bulk of the texts used in the work are historically sourced. Apart from these original lyrics, the rest of the texts were pulled from historical content: banner messages, programs, speeches, writings, and letters of suffragists."

Suffrage Cantata

Premiered at the 2016-2017 concert, Women on the Rise


My roots are earth

Muddy river and honeysuckle 

Sturdy and rigid

Like farmhouse planks

I shared a sisterhood with the amber grasses

My dreams climbed endlessly like the kudzu in July

I shared a sisterhood with the amber grasses

My dreams climbed endlessly, no fear in sight

In nature, a naive youth,

All the forest was possible

All the pasture was my own

My mother told me I was beautiful

And I believed her then.

Why shouldn't I?

There is no doubt in a pond

Insecurity does not grow in a meadow

It will not spout beneath the southern pines

It is planted by the boys on the school bus

Tended by the words of small minds,

And words may hurt you,

But are they true?

You are beautiful,

You are enough,

You must believe in that, believe the truth.

My roots are earth

Muddy river and honeysuckle

My roots are beautiful

My roots are strong


Commissioned by the American Choral Directors Association, including VOX Femina, this piece describes a story about overcoming insecurity.

Words from Andrea Ramsey:

"This work feels especially personal for me, both in its familiar southern references (having grown up in Arkansas) and in how it evokes memories of my mother. She was a constant encouragement~ always believing in me, always telling me I was beautiful and strong. Every young woman should have a force like this in her life~ whether it is her own mother or someone else. There is a great power in 'You are beautiful. You are enough.'"

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