Characterized by classical Finnish composer Jean Sibelius as “a conductor and an artist who understands how to exalt the music and the listeners,” Antonia Brico was an uncommonly gifted conductor.
Born in the Netherlands, Brico came to America as a child and graduated with a degree in music from the University of California at Berkeley. She went on to become the first American student to attend the Master School of Conducting at the Berlin State Academy of Music of the University of Berlin.
She made her conducting debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra at the age of 28, then returned to California to conduct the Hollywood Bowl and the San Francisco Symphony. An exceptionally talented interpreter of masterworks, she started the New York Women’s Symphony Orchestra, consisting entirely of female musicians in 1934.
Eight years later, Brico moved to Colorado, where she continued to work as the full-time conductor of the Denver Businessmen’s Orchestra, which was renamed the Brico Symphony in her honor, and was guest conductor with the Denver Symphony Orchestra. She spent much of her time in Denver, however, devoted to teaching and lecturing.
She died in 1989. Her memory lives on through the inspiring 1974 documentary made by Jill Godmilow and folksinger Judy Collins, “Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman.”