Award Date

December 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



First Committee Member

Alfonse Anderson

Second Committee Member

Linda Lister

Third Committee Member

Stephanie Weiss

Fourth Committee Member

Nate Bynum

Fifth Committee Member

Dave Loeb

Number of Pages



Once I was a classical pianist, then I was a jazz pianist, but now I’m a pianist – No label. And in my writing, I’m not concerned with any particular style. I’ve found that if you have musical groundwork and some idea of the emotional impact the music should have, the musical style will hang together.

—Valerie Capers

Primarily known as a renowned jazz pianist, Valerie Capers is a blind, African-American woman composer who defied all odds by becoming the first blind graduate of The Juilliard School. Dr. Capers also became valedictorian of the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind, the Chair of Bronx Community College, and her jazz curriculum was used as a model for schools to implement jazz programs at colleges throughout the United States. While her base is in New York, she continues to make strides as a composer and performer on the national and international level.

The purpose of this document is to provide a stylistic analysis of the text, musical setting, and overall form of Valerie Capers’s Song of the Seasons, a song cycle of four songs for soprano, cello, and piano. Although Capers wrote pieces for various mediums, her love for words and music inspired her to write for the voice, which she proclaims as “powerful.”

Song of the Seasons is the first large-scale classical vocal work written by Capers, for which she also wrote the text. The work was commissioned in 1987 by the Smithsonian Institute and received rave reviews by the Washington Post.

According to Capers, Song of the Seasons is “a celebration of life” and was inspired by Japanese Haiku, a Japanese poetic form that illuminates the human condition through imagistic themes of nature, love, and death. The cycle of revolving seasons is connected through figurative language of the composer’s own text, European art song, opera, and African-American Jazz. Like other great American composers of her time, the incorporation of multiple influences--such as Wagner, Beethoven, Monk, and Ellington—helped establish her unique style which has culminated into what I refer to as Valerie Capers’s “American Art Song Aesthetic.” Specifically, her style is a post-modern hybrid that combines impressionism and African-American jazz. Therefore, because of Capers’s uniqueness, I will explore and analyze her contribution to the development of post-modern American song cycles in the English language and show why Valerie Capers’s songs deserve to be included in American art song anthologies.


Art Song; blind composer; Solo Vocal Work; Song Cycle for soprano; cello and piano; Song of the Seasons; Valerie Capers


African American Studies | American Studies | Fine Arts | Music | Race and Ethnicity

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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