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The Legacy of Elise Hall

Contemporary Perspectives on Gender and the Saxophone

Kurt Bertels (Editor), Adrianne Honnold (Editor),

Category: Artistic Practice, Diversity and Equity Studies, Gender Studies, History 1800-present, Music

Language: English

ISBN: 9789462703971

Publication date: March 11, 2024

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Number of pages: 180

Size: 234 x 156 x 10 mm

Number of illustrations: 14

Illustrations and other content description:
Illustrated, black & white Guaranteed Peer Reviewed Content

Funded by: KU Leuven Fund for Fair Open Access

Stock item: 159376

Standard delivery time for print books:

For Belgium: 5 to 8 working days

For EU: 2 to 3 weeks

For other countries: 4 to 5 weeks

Category: Artistic Practice, Diversity and Equity Studies, Gender Studies, History 1800-present, Music

Language: English

DOI: 10.11116/9789461665478

ISBN: 9789461665478

Publication date: February 22, 2024

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Number of pages: 180

Number of illustrations: 14

Illustrations and other content description:
Illustrated, black & white Guaranteed Peer Reviewed Content

Funded by: KU Leuven Fund for Fair Open Access


On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of Elise Hall, a pioneering musician in the history of the saxophone.

The saxophone is a globally popular instrument, often closely associated with renowned players such as Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, or more recently, Kenny G. Less well known, however, is the historical presence of women saxophonists in the nineteenth century, shortly after the instrument’s invention. Elise Hall (1853–1924), a prominent wealthy socialite in Boston at the turn of the twentieth century, defied social norms by mastering the saxophone, an unconventional instrument for a woman of her time. Despite her career’s profound impact, Elise Hall remains relatively obscure in broader music communities. Her untiring work as an impresario, patron, and performer made a significant mark on the history of the instrument. Yet these contributions have been historically undervalued, largely due to gender bias.

This collection of essays, written by mainly women saxophonists/scholars, re-evaluates Elise Hall’s legacy beyond a discrete history, updating the narrative by highlighting the ways in which her identity and the saxophone itself have influenced historical accounts. By analyzing the sociocultural factors surrounding this innovative musician through a contemporary lens, the contributors challenge previously held narratives shaped by patriarchal structures and collectively affirm her place as one of the pioneers in the history of the saxophone.

Contributors: Andrew J. Allen (Georgia College & State University), Kurt Bertels (LUCA School of Arts – KU Leuven), Adrianne Honnold (Lewis University), Sarah McDonie (Indiana University Bloomington), Sarah V. Hetrick (University of Arkansas), Holly J. Hubbs (Ursinus College).

Ebook available in Open Access. This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).

9 List of Figures, Music Examples, and Tables

11 Acknowledgments


15 Rethinking Elise Hall’s Legacy
Kurt Bertels & Adrianne Honnold

PART I. Histories

29 “Incomparable Virtuoso”: A Reevaluation of the Performance Abilities of Elise Boyer Hall
Andrew J. Allen

57 Paying and Playing? Elise Hall and Patronage in the Early Twentieth Century
Kurt Bertels

PART II. Critical Organology & Social Identity

81 Exhuming Elise: Rehabilitating Reputations
Adrianne Honnold

105 Instruments Telling History: Engaging Elise Hall through the Saxophone
Sarah McDonie

PART III. Beyond Elise Hall: Gender, Media & Culture in the 1920s

127 “He puts the pep in the party”: Gender and Iconography in 1920s Buescher Saxophone Advertisements
Sarah V. Hetrick

153 Intersections of Gender, Genre, and Access: The Enterprising Career of Kathryne E. Thompson
Holly J. Hubbs


177 Elise Hall and the Saxophone: Updated Narratives and Future Considerations
Kurt Bertels & Adrianne Honnold

185 About the Authors

187 Index

Kurt BertelsORCID icon

Kurt Bertels is a postdoctoral researcher at LUCA School of Arts (KU Leuven), Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel, and Royal Conservatoire Antwerp, Belgium, where he works on nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century saxophone history and performance practice.

Adrianne Honnold

Adrianne Honnold is an assistant professor of Music at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, USA where she teaches saxophone and music history courses.

“This text is a much-needed reevaluation of saxophonist Elise Boyer Hall and her contributions to our field. It isn’t a hard stretch to imagine and understand how a female-identifying saxophonist would’ve been viewed differently than a male-identifying saxophonist at the beginning of the 20th Century, and these authors collectively find evidence to overturn half a century of misinformation about her ability and potential misjudgments of her work ethic. This is a timely collection of research to help all saxophonists and musicologists rethink the cultural assumptions of the past, and opens up many new ideas and methodologies for future research. I highly recommend this text make its way onto every saxophonist’s bookshelf.” -Matthew Younglove, Tennessee Technological University

This book features multi-faceted, scholarly investigations into Hall’s life and legacy. Well-documented evidence and well-reasoned arguments support the claims of Elise Hall’s stature as a musician and her unique role at the turn of the twentieth century. As noted in the introduction, the value of this publication rests “not with the discrete history of Hall or the saxophone, but with the myriad questions raised from a constellation of factors surrounding this innovative musician” and by placing all within the context of her time from the perspective of the twenty-first century, one hundred years after her death. Primary and secondary sources are drawn from the era of Hall’s lifetime as well as later articles, including very recent scholarship and methodologies. All work together to illuminate Hall both within historical context and through the lens of twenty-first-century considerations. - Stacy Maugans, Valparaiso University

On the 100th anniversary of her death, The Legacy of Elise Hall – now available from Leuven University Press – provides a new outlook on Hall’s life and legacy as one of the major performers and concertizers of the saxophone. In various dissertations, articles and books, most writing on Hall has been colored with misogyny, talks of her clothing and insults to her gender. Her actual accomplishments get distorted or ignored. This book is the first attempt to provide a new perspective on Hall’s influence on women, saxophone repertoire, and how gender influences the saxophone’s portrayal in popular culture. The editors Kurt Bertels and Adrianne Honnold offer an interdisciplinary approach to examine Hall’s legacy by incorporating scholarship on gender, performance, and class in order to understand how her identity shaped and redefined the history of the saxophone. - Mary Huntimer, the Operatic Saxophone, April 10, 2024,

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