1-20 of 55 Results  for:

  • 1941–1954: WWII and Postwar Desegregation x
  • Composer/Arranger x
  • Arts and Leisure x
  • 1861–1865: The Civil War x
Clear all

Article

Mark Clague and John H. Zimmerman

flutist, composer, bandmaster, music educator, journalist, and hotelier, was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies (later U.S. Virgin Islands) and is remembered as the U.S. Navy's first African American bandmaster. Adams was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Evangeline Dinzey, a tailor; both his parents were members of the black artisan class centered around St. Thomas's port. This culture celebrated music and literature and instilled the young Adams with values of hard work and self-education. Although professional musicians were unknown in the Virgin Islands in his youth, Adams dreamt of a musical career inspired by his deeply held belief that music was not just entertainment, but vital to community health.

Adams attended elementary school and apprenticed as a carpenter and then a shoemaker choosing his trade based on the musical abilities of his master ...

Article

Philip Herbert

Composer, contralto, successful vocal coach, accompanist, and teacher. She was the youngest daughter of the famous African‐American actor Ira Aldridge, and born in Upper Norwood, London. Early on she was educated at a convent school in Belgium. At the age of 17 she was awarded a scholarship to study singing at the Royal College of Music. Her teachers included Jenny Lind and George Henschel for singing, along with Frederick Bridge and Frances Edward Gladstone for harmony and counterpoint.

Aldridge's career was successful and varied, as a contralto until an attack of laryngitis damaged her voice, an accompanist, vocal coach, and later a composer. She accompanied her brother Ira Frederick Aldridge on musical tours until his death in 1886. She also accompanied her sister Luranah in concerts at many well‐known London venues at the turn of the 20th century.

Aldridge also played a seminal ...

Article

Fred Rohner

was born in Callao (Peru), on 8 May 1877, the son of Ignacio Almenerio and Juana Mejia. He moved to Barrios Altos (Lima) in his youth and lived there for the rest of his life. Almenerio was a criollo musician of the early twentieth century and was renowned as a composer and performer of the mandolin and bandurria (a lute-type instrument).

While still a child, he attended a performance of the Spanish Estudiantina Figaro (a string ensemble) at La Linea café; this sparked his passion for stringed instruments. A few years later, he learned to play the bandurria under the guidance of Manuel Boza and later mastered the mandolin and guitar.

His work as a composer includes several well known waltzes Rebeca based on a stanza of a poem by Guillermo Bazo El Huracan Tempestad and La Abeja the musical arrangement of a poem by the Colombian Julio Florez ...

Article

Susan Richardson-Sanabria

musician, composer, educator, priest, and artist, was born James Hawthorne in Yamassee, South Carolina, to Mary Hugee and Roland Hawthorne. When he was still a boy he and his family moved to New Jersey, then to New York City—first to Brooklyn and later to Harlem. In Brooklyn James and his parents lived with his grandparents, and his grandfather encouraged him to join the church choir.

His musical talents became more evident after his move to Harlem, when he began to study dance and percussion with Isame Andrews, a specialist in African music and dance and a student of Asadata Dafora. Attracting notice with his vocal skills, Hawthorne was admitted to both the Eva Jessye and the Francis Hall Johnson choirs In the mid to late 1930s he studied African drum making and performance especially the ashiko drum with Moses Miannes Mianns a Nigerian who had come to ...

Article

Barbara Garvey Jackson

composer, pianist, and teacher, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Dr. Monroe Alpheus Majors, a pioneering black physician, medical researcher, and author, and Estelle C. Bonds, a music teacher and organist. Although legally born Majors, she used her mother's maiden name (Bonds) in her youth and throughout her professional life. She grew up in intellectually stimulating surroundings; her mother held Sunday afternoon salons at which young black Chicago musicians, writers, and artists gathered and where visiting musicians and artists were always welcomed.Bonds first displayed musical talent in her piano composition “Marquette Street Blues,” written at the age of five. She then began studying piano with local teachers, and by the time she was in high school she was taking lessons in piano and composition with Florence B. Price and William Levi Dawson two of the first black American symphonic composers both of whom were ...

Article

Melvin L. Butler

gospel composer and pastor, was born into a family of sharecroppers in Somerville, Tennessee. Although Brewster stemmed from a humble background, he managed to study a wide variety of subjects, including theology, law, and Hebrew. After graduating from Roger Williams College in 1922 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. By 1930 Brewster had begun a lifelong tenure as pastor of the East Trigg Baptist Church. A major aspect of Brewster's early ministry centered on the founding of theology schools, and these centers of learning helped to establish his voice as one of moral authority and spiritual guidance in religious circles.

By the time Brewster began seriously publishing his songs in the 1940s he had gained over a decade of experience in his pastoral role This experience provided a wellspring of material for songs that often relayed Old Testament stories and were enjoyed by African American congregations across the United States ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

jazz pianist, organist, and arranger, was born Milton Brent Buckner in St. Louis, Missouri. Details of his parents are unknown. His brother Ted was a jazz saxophonist who became a member of Jimmie Lunceford's big band; the brothers were not related to jazz trumpeter Teddy Buckner.

The boys’ mother died when Milt Buckner was eight years old, and their father died the following year. Milt went to live with a foster father, the trombonist John Tobias, in Detroit, Michigan; Ted also moved and lived in the home of Fred Kewley, a saxophonist who worked with Tobias in Earl Walton's Orchestra. Milt took up piano at age ten, and he reported that Tobias made him practice six hours a day. After Tobias and his wife separated, Milt was raised by the drummer George Robinson also a member of Walton s band Ted s foster father Kewley ...

Article

Scott Yanow

alto-saxophonist, arranger, composer, bandleader, and trumpeter, was born in New York City as Bennett Lester Carter. His father was a guitarist, and his mother played organ and piano. Carter began playing piano as a child and briefly took up the trumpet before concentrating on the C-melody sax. By 1924, when he began working professionally, he was playing alto sax.

Carter picked up early experience by working with June Clark, Billy Paige's Broadway Syncopators, Lois Deppe's Serenaders, pianist Earl Hines, Horace Henderson's Collegians, Billy Fowler, pianist James P. Johnson, and briefly in 1927, Fletcher Henderson. That same year he became a member of Charlie Johnson's Paradise Ten. Carter made his recording debut with Johnson and was both an alto-saxophone soloist and an arranger during his year with the group.

From 1928 to 1931 Benny Carter was a member of the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra gaining a ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

blues singer, guitarist, and arranger, was born in Bolton, Hinds County, Mississippi, on the John Gettis plantation near Jackson. Although some accounts identify 1897 or 1900 as his birth year, Chatmon's tombstone says 1899. He was one of eleven children—nine sons and two daughters—born to Henderson and Eliza Jackson Chatmon. Some accounts say there were thirteen children. Eliza Chatmon played the guitar. The grandson of a white planter and a black slave woman, Henderson Chatmon, a native of Terry, Mississippi, began to play the fiddle at square dances before he was freed from slavery. He lived to the age of 105. Rumors persist that Henderson Chatmon was the father of pioneering Delta bluesman Charley Patton although he never acknowledged Patton as his son Other rumors suggest that Patton was a cousin of the Chatmon children At any rate Patton was drawn to this immensely ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

jazz trumpeter and arranger, was born Wilbur Dorsey Clayton in Parsons, Kansas, the son of Simeon Oliver Clayton, a musician, and Aritha Anne Dorsey, a schoolteacher, pianist, and singer. His father's church orchestra rehearsed at their home, and in his youth Clayton experimented with different instruments, learning their basic scales. He took piano lessons from ages six to eighteen. At about age sixteen he was deeply impressed by a trumpeter in George E. Lee's big band, and he decided to take up the instrument.

Before graduating from high school, Clayton hoboed by train to Los Angeles. Failing in his attempt to secure work as a musician, he returned home, resumed his schooling, and graduated, probably around 1932 On his second trip to Los Angeles Clayton succeeded as a trumpeter holding a long engagement in a dime a dance hall the Red Mill until it burned down ...

Article

Bill Egan

musician and composer. Born Will Mercer Cook in Washington, D.C., Cook adopted the middle name Marion during his college years. His father was John Cook, the first dean of Howard University Law School, and his mother was Belle Lewis Cook, a graduate of Oberlin College. After his father's death, Cook was partly raised by his grandparents in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he first heard traditional black music. Around 1886 he went to the Oberlin Conservatory to study violin, and he won a scholarship at the Berlin Music Academy in 1888–1889. In 1894–1895 he studied at the National Conservatory of Music under Antonín Dvořák and John White, gaining advanced skills in harmony.

A man of fiery temperament Cook found that a black person seeking a concert career faced discrimination He had a passionate belief in the ability of his race and the unique value of its musical ...

Article

Michael A. Antonucci

blues musician, composer, and arranger, was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to Daisy McKenzie and, putatively, her husband Charlie Dixon. Willie was one of seven surviving children (out of fourteen). It is likely that Anderson “A. D.” Bell, whom Willie Dixon called his stepfather, was actually his biological father, as records show that Daisy and Charlie Dixon finalized divorce proceedings in 1913. As a youth Dixon worked in his mother's restaurant as well as spending time in Vicksburg's barrel houses and juke joints. Along with his mother's interest in reading and writing poetry, contact with blues legends such as Charley Patton and Eurreal Wilford “Little Brother” Montgomery led Dixon to begin writing songs of his own.

The search for work and his own wanderlust put Dixon on the road at a young age Arrested while traveling as a hobo through Clarksdale Mississippi and sentenced to ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter and educator, was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts. His parents’ names are not recorded. He moved with his family to New York in 1934, where he was so inspired by attending a Louis Armstrong performance that he knew that he eventually wanted to play trumpet. Dixon briefly tried clarinet in high school, studied painting at Boston University, and served in the army, but in 1946, when he was 21, finally began studying the trumpet.

Dixon studied at the Hartnette Conservatory of Music from 1956 to 1961. He freelanced as a musician in New York during this period but also had a full-time day job working at the United Nations from 1956 to 1962. In 1962 Dixon dedicated himself to music. A free-jazz and avant-garde trumpeter and composer, Dixon (who met Cecil Taylor as early as 1951 was a newcomer at the age of ...

Article

Antoinette Handy

jazz musician, composer, and arranger, was born in San Marcos, Texas. The names and occupations of his parents are unknown. Durham's early instruction in music came from an older brother. He started out on banjo but soon switched to guitar and trombone, performing on both instruments throughout his career. The family of six brothers formed the Durham Brothers Orchestra, a professional ensemble that traveled throughout Texas.

Still in his teens Durham married and moved on to a better-paying job with the 101 Ranch Brass Band, a marching band associated with circuses. With this outfit he began to develop his arranging skills. He joined the Dixie Ramblers in 1926, followed by a brief stay with Gene Coy's Happy Aces and then a period with Walter Page's Blue Devils. By 1929 he was a member of Bennie Moten's band in Kansas City.

Convinced that the ...

Article

James Lincoln Collier

jazz musician and composer, was born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C., the son of James Edward Ellington, a butler, waiter, and later printmaker, and Daisy Kennedy. The Ellingtons were middle-class people who struggled at times to make ends meet. Ellington's mother was particularly attached to him; in her eyes he could do no wrong. They belonged to Washington's black elite, who put much stock in racial pride. Ellington developed a strong sense of his own worth and a belief in his destiny, which at times shaded over into egocentricity. Because of this attitude, and his almost royal bearing, his schoolmates early named him “Duke.”

Ellington s interest in music was slow to develop He was given piano lessons as a boy but soon dropped them He was finally awakened to music at about fourteen when he heard a pianist named Harvey Brooks who was not much older ...

Article

Scott Yanow

bandleader, composer, and trumpeter, was born Mercer Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C. He was the only surviving child of legendary jazz composer and orchestra leader Duke Ellington and Edna (Thompson) Ellington, a pianist, who separated when Mercer was a boy. Mercer Ellington's 1978 biography, Duke Ellington in Person, portrays a cool relationship between father and son.

Mercer Ellington was well trained in music. He studied alto sax (which he soon gave up) and learned trumpet although he was never a soloist. After moving to the Bronx and graduating from high school in the mid-1930s, he attended several colleges in New York, notably Juilliard and the Institute of Musical Art (at that time separate institutions) and Columbia and New York Universities.

Ellington led his first band in 1939. The orchestra at one time had Dizzy Gillespie and Clark Terry in the trumpet section and used ...

Article

Alyn Shipton

jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader, was born John Birks Gillespie at Cheraw, South Carolina, the ninth and youngest child of James Gillespie, a brick mason, builder, and amateur musician, and Lottie Powe, a laundress. The earliest musical influences on Gillespie were the sounds of the town band, in which his father played and whose instruments were stored in the family home, together with the singing and hand clapping of the parishioners of the Sanctified Church a few doors away from his house. James Gillespie was cruel and sadistic, regularly beating his sons, but he died from an asthma attack when Gillespie was ten. Not long afterward, he was formally introduced to playing music by Alice Wilson a schoolteacher at the Robert Smalls School in Cheraw Growing up as the youngest child of a large single parent family Gillespie developed an early penchant for mischief but ...

Article

Thaddeus Russell

jazz saxophonist, flutist, and composer, was born in Pensacola, Florida, and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. The names and occupations of his parents are not known. Gryce was the product of a highly musical family: his brother and four sisters were classically trained on a variety of instruments. In his youth Gryce attended music school in Hartford, developing his skills on flute, alto saxophone, clarinet, and piano. In 1946 he began performing in and around Hartford, both as a sideman and as the leader of his own twenty-three-piece group. In 1948 Gryce moved to Boston to attend the Boston Conservatory, where he studied composition and instrumentation with Daniel Pinkham and Alan Hovahness. In 1952 he won a Fulbright scholarship to study music in Paris, where he continued his instruction in composition with the famed composer Arthur Honegger.

Gryce returned to the United States in 1953 ...

Article

Janelle F. H. Winston

choral director, composer, arranger, actor, singer, and educator, was born Jester Joseph Hairston in Belews Creek North Carolina the only son and first of two children born to his parents names unknown He was the grandson of former slaves When Hairston was a year old the family moved to Kunersville Pennsylvania where his father obtained work in the steel mills His sister was born about six months later and when she was three days old their father died of pneumonia As a child Hairston is said to have loved music Although he was a small framed boy he played basketball and football in high school and college His church presented him with a scholarship to attend Massachusetts Agriculture College now known as The University of Massachusetts in Amherst Massachusetts where his educational aspirations were to study landscaping design After his scholarship ran out ...

Article

Barry Kernfeld

jazz musician and composer, was born Benjamin Michel Harris in New York City to parents about whom little is known, although an unconfirmed report claimed that his father was a Panamanian Indian named Cholmondeley, not Harris. At the age of twelve Harris began playing French horn and E-flat mellophone in a band sponsored by the New York Daily Mirror. After taking up the trumpet he toured with a band in Pennsylvania at age fifteen, but he was fired for paying too much attention to girls. Harris described himself as a tough kid who boxed professionally.

In 1937 he met Dizzy Gillespie, who two years later found him a job in Tiny Bradshaw's big band. Around that time Harris got to know Charlie Parker, who at some point lived at Harris's family home, and he subsequently made Gillespie aware of Parker's fine recordings of 1941 ...