Antonia Brico

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Antonia Brico
Antonia Brico,1940
Antonia Brico,1940
Background information
Born(1902-06-26)June 26, 1902
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Died3 August 1989(1989-08-03) (aged 87)
Denver, Colorado, United States
Occupation(s)Conductor, Pianist
Antonia Brico conducting at the Philharmonie in Berlin, 1930

Antonia Louisa Brico (Rotterdam, June 26, 1902 – Denver, August 3, 1989)[1] was a Dutch-born conductor and pianist.[2][3]

Early life and education[edit]

Born Antonia Louisa Brico to a Dutch Catholic unmarried mother[4][5] in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Brico was renamed Wilhelmina Wolthuis by her foster parents. She and her foster parents migrated to the United States in 1908 and settled in California. On leaving Oakland Technical High School[6] in Oakland in 1919 she was already an accomplished pianist and had experience in conducting. At the University of California, Berkeley, Brico worked as an assistant to the director of the San Francisco Opera. Following her graduation in 1923 she studied piano under a variety of teachers, most notably under Zygmunt Stojowski.

In 1927, Brico entered the Berlin State Academy of Music and in 1929 graduated from its master class in conducting, the first American to do so. During that period she was also a pupil of Karl Muck, conductor of the Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom she studied for a further three years after graduation.[2]


Following her debut as a professional conductor with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in February 1930, Brico worked with the San Francisco Symphony and the Hamburg Philharmonic, winning plaudits from critics and the public. Appearances as guest conductor of the Musicians' Symphony Orchestra in Detroit, Washington, D.C. and other sites soon followed. In 1934, she was appointed conductor of the newly founded Women's Symphony Orchestra which, in January 1939 (following the admission of men), became the Brico Symphony Orchestra.[2]

In July 1938, Brico was the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic, and in 1939 conducted the Federal Orchestra in concerts at the 1939 New York World's Fair.[7] During an extensive European tour, in which she appeared both as a pianist and a conductor, Brico was invited by Jean Sibelius to conduct the Helsinki Symphony Orchestra.[7]

Brico settled in Denver, Colorado in 1942.[2] Here she founded a Bach Society and the Women's String Ensemble.[7] She also conducted the Denver Businessmen's Orchestra, which in 1968 became the Brico Symphony Orchestra, and in 1948 she became conductor of the Denver Community Symphony (later the Denver Philharmonic).[8] She was conductor of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra from 1958-1963.[9][10] She taught piano or conducting to such students as Judy Collins, Donald Loach, James Erb and Karlos Moser.[2] Brico continued to appear as guest conductor with orchestras around the world, including the Japan Women's Symphony.[7]

A documentary film about Brico's life, entitled Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman, by director Jill Godmilow, with help from Brico's former student Judy Collins, appeared in 1974. In it, Brico candidly described her career-long struggle with gender bias that kept her from conducting more frequently. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and its popularity was partially responsible for invitations for Brico to conduct the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra in sold-out concerts recorded by Columbia Records in 1975, and the Brooklyn Philharmonia in 1977.[11]

Death and legacy[edit]

Brico died in 1989 after a long illness at the age of 87. She had lived at the Bella Vita Towers, a nursing home in Denver since 1988.[7]

History Colorado, formerly the Colorado Historical Society, holds a large collection of her personal papers. She was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1986.[12]

Dutch director Maria Peters' movie De Dirigent ('The Conductor') about the life of Brico, starring Christanne de Bruijn as Antonia Brico, was released in 2018.[13]

Children's picture book 'In One Ear And Out The Other: Antonia Brico And Her Amazingly Musical Life' by Diane Worthey and illustrated by Morgana Wallace was published by Penny Candy Books in 2020.[14] The book is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ware, Susan (2004-01-01). Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century. Harvard University Press. pp. 77–79. ISBN 9780674014886.
  2. ^ a b c d e Macleod, Beth Abelson (2000). Women performing music: the emergence of American women as classical instrumentalists and conductors. Jefferson, NC [u.a.]: McFarland. pp. 124–39. ISBN 0786409045.
  3. ^ Macleod, Beth Abelson (2000-12-01). Women Performing Music: The Emergence of American Women as Classical Instrumentalists and Conductors. McFarland. pp. 124–139. ISBN 9780786409044.
  4. ^ Rowell, Margaret. "Master teacher of cellists, and humble student of nature : oral history transcript / and related material, 1982-1984". Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  5. ^ "The Brico Requiem". Westword. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
  6. ^ "Wilhelmina Wolthius '19". Oakland Technical High School Historical Archive. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Antonia Brico". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved August 29, 2013.
  8. ^ "Denver Philharmonic Orchestra".
  9. ^ Kozinn, Allan (August 5, 1989). "Antonia Brico, 87, a Conductor; Fought Barriers to Women in 30's". New York Times.
  10. ^ Blomster, Wes (October 5, 2007). "Musical milestone: Boulder Philharmonic celebrates 50 years". Daily Camera.
  11. ^ Blau, Eleanor (1977-03-04). "Antonia Brico Wields Baton in Brooklyn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-07-29.
  12. ^ Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, Antonia Brico
  13. ^ Zagt, Ab (16 October 2018). "Maria Peters: De Dirigent komt echt uit mijn tenen" [Maria Peters: A Conductor Really on Her Toes] (in Dutch). Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  14. ^ Worthey, Diane (6 October 2020). In One Ear And Out The Other: Antonia Brico And Her Amazingly Musical Life. Oklahoma: Penny Candy Books. p. 48. ISBN 978-1734225914.


  • Jane Weiner Lepage, "Women Composers, Conductors, and Musicians of the Twentieth Century", (Scarecrow Press, New Jersey, 1980). ISBN 9780810820821

External links[edit]