March 2021: Women’s History Month

Thea Musgrave (b. 1928)

Thea Musgrave

In a career spanning more than half a century, Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave has evoked a sense of drama with her powerful musical language. Her music has been lauded on both sides of the Atlantic, earning her awards and tenures at a number of Universities including our very own CUNY Queens College.

Thea Musgrave

Born in Edinburgh, she originally intended to study medicine before she changed directions to pursue a degree in music. For a final assignment from the University of Edinburgh, she was to submit an original composition. She ultimately substituted her original submission for a less adventurous work. Following her studies at the University of Edinburgh, she trained under Nadia Boulanger at the Conservatoire in Paris, where Musgrave was taught to follow through on her ideas. This led to a number of impressive works that married theatrics and instrumental works, exemplified by her Concerto for Clarinet.

Musgrave married American opera conductor Peter Mark. In 1972 , she relocated to the United States and a year later debuted her first opera, The Voice of Ariadne, telling the story of the Cretan princess of Greek mythology. Her second opera, Mary, Queen of Scots, also featured a prominent female lead.

Excerpt from Mary, Queen of Scots by T. Musgrave

In addition to her awards and honorary degrees, Musgrave has been a guest lecturer at a number of universities and held a tenure as Distinguished Lecturer at Queens College for 15 years. As an educator, she follows in the steps of Boulanger, teaching the importance of technique while imploring her students to write from their hearts. You can hear Thea Musgrave describing her journey in this interview from Wise Classical Music. Be sure to also visit her website at