The Heralded Sounds of Educator and Composer, Undine Smith Moore

The musical celebration of Black History Month continues with Virginia-born music educator, composer, pianist and vocalist, Undine Smith Moore. Inspired by the Black spirituals and folk music of her youth, Moore embraced a musical calling at the age of 7, when she started playing the piano. 

Nicknamed the Dean of Black Women Composers, Moore was a heralded recipient of accolades from notable colleges and universities, and taught piano, organ, and music theory – a topic of such devotion, she earned a reputation as a champion of African American music. And although Moore often wrote her own music to cater to the needs of her students, she never thought herself capable of becoming a composer – this, she believed, was due to the many vile effects of racism and the limits placed upon the aspirations of Black people. 

Moore wrote more than 50 choral works, 21 compositions for solo voice and accompaniment, 18 instrumental pieces, and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her musical piece based on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.; only a quarter of these works were published during her lifetime. Moore is credited with co-founding and co-directing the Black Music Center at Virginia State College, which teaches about the musical contributions of Black people in the U.S. and around the world. To hear some of Moore’s music, be sure to tune in to the playlist we created in her honor:

Orchestra is only one tiny slice of the vast global landscape of artistic experiences, and while it has a history of exclusion, at Inside the Orchestra, we are committed to building a more equitable path in the world of the orchestra, to include and create space celebrating and honoring arts and artists from diverse cultures. For more educational content celebrating notable composers, musicians and educators for your personal knowledge, school, or classroom, or to learn about Inside the Orchestra’s in-person programming for metro Denver schools visit

About Inside the Orchestra Inside the Orchestra brings music to children, cultivating music appreciation and enhancing their education through engaging, interactive experiences with orchestral music. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Learn more about our values and our work in the community.

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