Photographer LeXander Bryant captures the legacy of Florence B. Price in the Curb Center’s latest exhibition

LeXander Bryant, Untitled (Samantha Ege). © LeXander Bryant, 2023.

For the Curb Center’s latest exhibition, The Glory of the Day: LeXander Bryant Meets Florence B. Price, Bryant turned his attention to another kind of community: the communities of musicians and audiences that took shape around the performance of classical music composed by Florence Price. The Curb Center commissioned Bryant to document Florence Price: A Celebration, a Vanderbilt Blair School of Music initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Arts that honors the legacy of Price, a groundbreaking 20th-century American composer and the first African American woman to have a composition performed by a major orchestra. The resulting photographs surpass mere documentation; they are standalone works of art that capture the energetic, ephemeral nature of performance and illustrate Bryant’s artistic engagement with Price’s music.

Florence Price: A Celebration, a multi-event music festival hosted in venues throughout Nashville in fall 2023, was spearheaded by Douglas Shadle, associate professor of musicology at Blair and leading scholar of Florence Price. Shadle is currently co-authoring a biography of Price for Oxford University Press’ signature Master Musicians series with musicologist-pianist Samantha Ege, who performed as part of the festival and is featured in several of Bryant’s photographs in the exhibition. Subjects in the photographs also include Dashon Burton, assistant professor of voice at Blair, Patrick Dailey, faculty in Tennessee State University’s music department, and Titus Underwood, principal oboe of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Several Blair ensembles also performed in the celebration, including the Blair Woodwind Quintet, of which Molly Barth, associate professor of flute and associate director of the Curb Center, is a member.

LeXander Bryant, Untitled (Blair Woodwind Quintet). © LeXander Bryant, 2023.

Barth first worked with Bryant in 2021 as he photographed rehearsals of the Blair Contemporary Music Ensemble in conjunction with the Engine for Art, Democracy and Justice. She envisioned the potential of Bryant’s inspired photography to capture the faces and places of the Florence Price project. “This collaboration exemplifies the Curb Center’s mission to elevate art as a mode of inquiry, a way of understanding, and a celebration of the human spirit,” Barth said. “Creative documentation of the Florence Price concerts by a photographer as notable as LeXander Bryant is a key component in preserving these historic events for future generations to experience.” Following the exhibition, the photographs will be housed in the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library at Blair, allowing Bryant’s vivid documentation of these performances to be accessible to all.

The exhibition title references James Weldon Johnson’s poem, “The Glory of the Day Was in Her Face,” for which Price composed an accompanying score in 1935. Johnson (1871–1938) was a writer, lawyer, organizer, and leader in the NAACP who in 1899 penned the poem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” which came to be known as the “Black National Anthem.” An influential figure in the Harlem Renaissance and tireless advocate for the advancement of the African American artistic tradition, Johnson edited several important collections, including the landmark anthologies The Book of American Negro Poetry and The Book of American Negro Spirituals. A frequent collaborator with composers, Johnson wrote “The Glory of the Day Was in Her Face” in 1915 as a lyric for a song by Harry T. Burleigh.

The Glory of the Day exhibition will be on display Feb. 9–March 8, 2024, at the Curb Center, 1801 Edgehill Ave. Viewing hours for the Vanderbilt community and the wider public are Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment. The Curb Center is hosting a gallery talk and open house with a discussion between LeXander Bryant and Douglas Shadle, moderated by Tamara Reynolds, lecturer in art at Vanderbilt, on Feb. 27 at 4:30 p.m. Faculty interested in arranging course visits to the exhibition may contact Rachel Thompson, program manager at the Curb Center.