The last composer of the week is Amy Marcy Cheney who was born in Henniker, New Hampshire on September 5, 1867 and died on December 27, 1944. She was an American composer and pianist and was as the first successful American female composer of large-scale art music. As a pianist, she was acclaimed for concerts she gave in the United States and in Germany. A child prodigy, she was able to sing forty songs accurately by age one; by age two she could improvise a counter-melody to any melody her mother sang; she taught herself to read at age three, and began composing simple waltzes at age five. Amy's mother was herself an "excellent pianist and singer". She sang and played the piano for Amy. Despite this, her family struggled to keep up with her musical interest and demands. Young Amy often commanded what music was to be played and how. She was very particular and often became enraged if the music did not meet her demands. In addition, her mother forbade Amy from playing the family piano despite the child's wish to play, believing that indulging her would damage parental authority. At age four, she composed three piano pieces (waltzes) while spending the summer at her grandfather's farm in West Henniker, NH. There was no piano near the farm; Amy composed the pieces mentally and eventually played them at home.
Amy began formal piano lessons with her mother at age six. In the social milieu of the time, "middle and upper class women gifted in music were turned away" from a career in it "because of the stigma attached to those who appeared as performers on the public stage." In Europe, Fanny Mendelssohn, sister of the composer Felix Mendelssohn, and herself a pianist and the composer of hundreds of compositions, encountered a similar stigma. But at age 7 Amy gave some public recitals, playing works by Handel, Beethoven, and Chopin, as well as her own pieces. One recital was reviewed in The Folio, an arts journal, and two or more agents proposed concert tours for the prodigy pianist, but Amy's parents declined, for which she was later grateful.
In 1875, the Cheney family moved to Chelsea, a suburb just across the Mystic River from Boston,[where they were advised to enter Amy into a European conservatory. Her parents opted for local training, hiring Ernst Perabo and later Carl Baermann as piano teachers. Baermann had been a student of Franz Liszt, the "most brilliant" European pianist, at the Munich Conservatory]. At age fourteen, Amy received her only formal training in composition with Junius W. Hill, with whom she studied harmony and counterpoint for a year in 1881-82. Other than this one year of instruction, Amy was self-taught as a composer; she often learned by studying much earlier works, such as Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier.