The Kennedy Center

Ruth Crawford Seeger


Composer Ruth Crawford Seeger was a pivotal figure in American modernist music as well as a leading ethnomusicologist. Born in East Liverpool, Ohio, in 1901, Ruth Crawford learned to play piano from her mother. In 1921 she moved to Chicago to pursue her training at the American Conservatory of Music, where she studied musical composition under Adolf Weidig and Djane Lavoie Herz. There she also collaborated with Carl Sandberg, setting his poems to music.

In 1929, Ruth Crawford moved to New York and became a pupil of Charles Seeger. In March 1930, she won a Guggenheim Fellowship in music composition, the first woman to do so. The following year, she produced her most famous work, String Quartet 1931.

The Seegers married in 1932; and with the responsibilities of family and social activism Crawford Seeger stopped composing around 1934. In 1936, the Seegers moved to Washington, D.C., to collect and transcribe field recordings for the American folk-song archive at the Library of Congress. The Seegers also transcribed Our Singing Country and Folk Song USA by John and Alan Lomax. In 1948, Crawford Seeger published her own innovative book, American Folk Songs for Children, which was designed for use in the elementary grades.

Crawford Seeger returned to composition in 1952 with her Suite for Wind Quintet. By the time the composition was completed, Crawford Seeger learned she had cancer. She died in 1953.
Ruth Seeger


  • Andante for Strings