Premiere of “A Few Brave Souls”

Anna DeGraff and student artist Sanjeeda Tazrin Shutrishna use their artistic talents to emphasize the value of gender equity.
Posted on February 11th, 2022 by

On Saturday, November 20, 2021, the Gustavus Adolphus Fine Arts Department showcased the world premiere of “A Few Brave Souls.” The showing consisted of performances by Anna DeGraff, mezzo-soprano, and Szu-Ling Wu on piano. The premiere also contained art-work by student artist Sanjeeda Tazrin Shutrishna ‘22. 

“A Few Brave Souls” celebrates the 100-year ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Anna DeGraff and composer Catherine Dalton created this piece in honor of the women who fought and continue to fight for gender equity in politics. The piece consists of musical pieces and poetry solely created by feminist figureheads. 

Composers include Juliana Hall, Florence Price, Lori Laitman, Emma Lou Diemer, Catherine Dalton, Nadia Boulanger, Lili Boulanger, Undine S. Moore, Rosephine Powell, and Maria Grever. The combination of composers showcases the different representations and perspectives of women throughout history. For instance, “Godiva” by Juliana Hall discusses the legend of Lady Godiva in the 11th century. Lady Godiva’s story highlights the blatant sexualization of women, especially when it comes to political involvement. Aspects of the legend of Lady Godiva can be seen through Florence Price’s “The Heart of a Woman.” Price’s musical talents expressed her personal experiences in the Harlem Renaissance. As a woman, she was encouraged to stay at home, rather than writing poetry and music for this monumental time in history for black americans. “The Heart of a Woman” and “Godiva” are used as both a form of awareness and a call to action for the need of feminism in politics. 

Poets include Caitlin Vincent, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Margaret Atwood, Dorothy Parker, Harriot Stanton Blatch, Mary I. Nolan, Mary Church Terrell, Nadia Boulanger, B. Galeron de Calone, Sappho, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Angeline W. Grimké, Maria Grever, Mary Rolofson Gamble, Louise C. Wallace, Fannie Carter Woods, and Florence Hynes Willette. The poems tell the often silenced stories of women and their suffering for equality. The titled poem “Only the Few Brave Souls” by Mary Church Terell expresses how only a handful of people are willing to risk their lives for the greater good of their sex and non-white identity. Terell spent her whole life dedicated to the rights of women and black people in America, in the hopes of improving and achieving equality. As a founding member of the NAACP, Terell used her words and actions to elevate women like herself and to uphold the failed promises made at the founding of this nation. 

In order to visually express such timeless and ever-present messages, Gustavus student Sanjeeda Tazrin Shutrishna ‘22 used her artistic skills to portray the overwhelming emotions associated with women’s suffrage and equality. Pieces such as “What to Cover When to Cover How to Cover” (featured on the right) and “Identity, Color, Design” are used to evoke universally shared experiences amongst women. Tazrin Shutrishna’s use of charcoal, acrylic, and ink on Canvas showcase a nuanced sense of identity. “Some themes that encompass my work are inquiring about my own identity, questioning of spatial limitations through geometric and non-representational forms, and searching for a sense of balance in composition through observation and sensitivity.” Tazrin Shutrishna’s talents boosted the purpose of “A Few Brave Souls” forward and the Fine Arts Department will continue to collaborate with talented students, like Sanjeeda Tazrin Shutrishna in the future.  

“A Few Brave Souls” is a testament to the necessity of artistic expression, especially in the political and cultural space. From composers, to poets, to artists, every creative holds the utmost potential to resist, inspire, and enforce change. 

  “In all great reforms it is only the few brave souls who have the courage of their convictions and who are willing to fight until their victory is wrested from the very jaws of fate.” 

-Mary Church Terrell, adapted


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