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Rae Linda Brown (1953–2017) 


Americanist musicology was shaken by the news that Rae Linda Brown, musicologist and administrator, had died suddenly on 20 August, at the age of 63, after a valiant struggle with a rare and particularly virulent form of sarcoma. She was a dedicated scholar of American music and a champion in particular of the music of Florence Price, the first African-American woman to be recognized as a composer of symphonic music and the first to have a composition performed by a major orchestra. Brown spent most of her scholarly career writing about Price and editing her music. Probably her most significant contribution was an edition (with Wayne Shirley) of her Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3, in the Society’s MUSA series. She also published Price’s Sonata in E minor for Piano and various of her smaller works for voice and piano. 


Brown taught for many years at the University of California, Irvine, where she became the Robert and Marjorie Rawlins Chair of the Department of Music. During that time, she began increasingly to move into university administration, a trajectory she continued as Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education at Loyola Marymount University (2008–16) and subsequently as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. In her short time at PLU she had already made a mark as a champion for student access and a role-model as a woman from humble beginnings who had risen to a high administrative rank. 


Brown was a native of Hartford, Connecticut, the product of a musical family whose members performed in the 1940s as the “Musical Browns.” She earned a BS in music education from the University of Connecticut and graduate degrees (MA, American Studies; PhD, Musicology) from Yale University. She was a long-time AMS member (serving on the Council in the early 1990s) and prominent in the Society for American Music. In the late 1990s she played a pivotal role in an important (but controversial) decision by the Board of SAM (then known as the Sonneck Society) to recommend that the organization change its name. Brown became the first President of the renamed Society for American Music, and was the Society’s first (and still only) African- American President. 


Rae Linda Brown was a gentle woman but a strong champion of African-American music. She was also a vibrant and warm friend, a beautiful woman, and a fiercely devoted mother. She played an important role in Americanist musicology—first as a scholar and a promoter of undeservedly forgotten American composers, and later as a visionary administrator and who fought for the under-represented in higher education. She had much more to contribute, and died too young. She is sorely missed. 


Katherine K. Preston 

AMS Newletter

The American Musicological Society

February 2018

Other tributes:

UC System Academic Senate

Pacific Lutheran University

Women's Philharmonic Advocacy

Bill Banfield Interview

Guthrie Ramsey on Willis Patterson and Rae Linda Brown

LA Times

In tribute to Rae Linda's legacy, please donate to the Dr. Rae Linda Brown Access Scholarship at PLU by clicking this link, selecting "other" and typing her name in the given field. Contact this page with any further questions!

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