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Composed: 2019

Length: c. 15 minutes

About this Piece

When the New York Philharmonic reached out to me about writing for this project celebrating the 19th Amendment, I confess I only knew about it generally. I started doing research, reading Susan B. Anthony’s biography, her statements. It was tremendous to see the inner force that she had. Then I started looking for a title before starting the piece — not the way I usually do it. The word “stride” reflected how I imagined her way of not taking “no” for an answer. She kept pushing and pushing and moving forward, walking with firm steps until she got the whole thing done. That is precisely what I mean by Stride. Stride has some of what, to me, are American musical influences, or at least American musical connotations. For example, there is a section where you can hear the horns with the wa-wa plunger, reminiscent of Louis Armstrong, getting that growl. It doesn’t have to be indicative of any particular skin tone; it has to do with the American spirit. When I discovered American music, Louis Armstrong actually was the first sound that struck me. When I moved here, the only composers I knew anything about were Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin. The night I arrived at Kennedy Airport, I was picked up by a Cuban couple from the Bronx, who allowed me to stay on their sofa. I looked at the stairs outside of their building, and I started crying “Maria!” They were confused, and I explained that in Cuba I’d heard the song by Leonard Bernstein. I later worked with Bernstein, and we were very close in his later years. When I first arrived here I couldn’t speak English ... but I knew how to say “Maria.” —Tania León