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Masterson receives national award for Schuyler album

November 8, 2023


DANBURY, Conn. — Dr. Sarah Masterson, associate professor of piano and music theory at Newberry College, has won Third Prize in the 2023 Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music. The award was presented by the American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts.


The award, which recognizes the best performances of American music by ensembles and individual artists worldwide, was for her recording of Philippa Schuyler’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.” Masterson released the album in 2022 after she reassembled, transcribed and recorded the late composer’s lost work. The album, released by Centaur Records, is available on all streaming platforms and music retailers.


Masterson’s research focuses on the work of 20th-century American women composers. Schuyler was a mixed-race concert pianist, composer and freelance journalist, who began her career as a child prodigy. She was performing Mozart at age five, and by 10 she had earned national fame as a young composer. She left the United States and toured more than 80 countries as a concert pianist, and then became a published writer and correspondent during the Vietnam War. She died in 1967, at the age of 35, while on a helicopter rescue mission. Her music has been largely unheard since her untimely death.


“Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” inspired by T.E. Lawrence’s book of the same title, was written in 1964-65. Though performed by Schuyler, the composition was never published nor recorded, until Masterson revived the work.


In January, Masterson will record more of Schuyler’s solo piano music for a second Centaur album, “Travelogue: Philippa Schuyler’s Music for Piano.” Featured works will include Schuyler’s folk song arrangements, “Carnival in Languedoc,” “African Rhapsody,” “Uganda Martyrs,” and “White Nile Suite,” as well as a recently uncovered untitled piece, likely Schuyler’s final composition. Schuyler’s music traverses the globe with inspirations from Haiti, France, Chile, China, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique and more.


The project is funded in part by the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts, and also by a generous award from the John & Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina. The project is also partially funded by Newberry College.


Since she joined the Newberry College faculty in 2014, Masterson has become coordinator of music theory, director of the music department’s social media, and founding artistic director of the W. Darr Wise Piano Competition.

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