We all could learn a lesson or two from Mary Louise Miller Spang, Class of 1933.
She overcame great adversity in her life, forging her own path after divorcing her husband in 1946, at a time when divorce was still a damaging social stigma for women, and working to support two young children on her own while pursuing her passion for music at Juilliard.
From 1946 until around 1959, Spang, who was an art major at Wheaton, was a prolific composer and published poet. Her musical career was cut short in 1959 when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which led to her decline and death in 1975 at age 64.
On Dec. 6, 2013, she had her long-overdue chance in the spotlight. The Great Woods Chamber Orchestra honored her during a concert by performing one of her musical compositions for the very first time. The orchestra debuted Spang’s “The Selfish Giant,” a musical interpretation of the children’s story by Oscar Wilde, in the Weber Theatre.
“Each section in ‘The Selfish Giant’ corresponds to a scene in Wilde’s story,” noted Delvyn Case, assistant professor of music and orchestra director. “The music is very colorful, depicting the giant by using the timpani and brass, and the children with the piccolo and other woodwind instruments. The composition uses beautiful, rich harmonies reminiscent of jazz, though the style of the piece is certainly classical.”