UMKC Doctoral Student To Study Influential Composer

Photo by Janet Rogers, Strategic Marketing and Communications

DAAD Scholar brings new life to forgotten songstress

The story of a gifted artist being lost to history is a common one. Laura Lowry, University of Missouri-Kansas City doctoral voice student, is about to set the record straight for one 19th century German composer, Emilie Zumsteeg.

Lowry, a UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance student, received a Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) Scholarship for intensive study in a German language immersion program. Lowry is studying this summer in Munich at the Carl Duisberg Centrum München. Her doctoral research focuses on the life of Zumsteeg, a nearly-forgotten composer who was overshadowed by her famous father, Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg.

“I spent a semester abroad at Karlsruhe when I was an undergrad,” Lowry said. “That gave me to chance to improve my German, which was crucial in translating Zumsteeg’s biographies and songs which are all in German.  My time in Munich will further prepare me to research Zumsteeg’s handwritten materials in Stuttgart, the city where she lived all her life.”

In Zumsteeg’s lifetime, women were never afforded the same formal education as men; but because her father died when she a child, she worked in the family’s music shop alongside her mother. Zumsteeg’s musical interests and talents grew there, as did her skills as a pianist and singer.

Zumsteeg was an excellent musician and composed numerous ballades and Lieder; and some of her songs enjoyed widespread popularity. She and noted composer Franz Schubert modeled the compositional style of her father in their works, but later her style evolved more to the sophisticated style of Robert Schumann. Her music was published during her lifetime – a feat that was almost unheard of for a woman.

Lowry plans to return to Germany to gather biographical information, work with the manuscripts, and reintroduce Zumsteeg to her own countrymen as a vital contributor to German music history.

In addition to the DAAD scholarship, Lowry also received a Women’s Council Grant, covering the expenses of a recording of Zumsteeg’s songs. Staff from the International Academic Programs and the Conservatory, particularly Dr. Natalia Rivera and Dr. Aidan Soder, helped Lowry prepare her application materials that focused her scholarly research on a worthwhile subject.

“The DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) awards provide support to a broad spectrum of scholarly and language study in Germany. Since we started promoting the DAAD, UMKC students have done well, receiving 10 awards. We’re glad to add Laura to the list,” said Linna Place, Director of International Academic Programs.

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