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Article

Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...

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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 ...

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Shennette Garrett-Scott

cabaret and vaudeville singer and performer, was born Eliza May (or Mae) Alix in Chicago, Illinois, to Rossetta (or Rasetta) Hayes and Ernest Alix; her parents’ occupations are not known. When Alix was a teenager, her mother remarried; it is not known if Alix's father died or if her parents divorced. Alix lived with her mother; stepfather, Arthur Davis; older sister, Josephine Alix; and younger stepsister, Ellen Davis, in Chicago.

Alix probably began her career singing and performing in chorus lines and local shows. By the early 1920s, she had already established a modest local name for herself when jazz clarinetist and bandleader Jimmie Noone took notice of her in 1921 She continued her collaboration with Noone s Apex Club Orchestra for a series of recordings for Vocalion Records in the late 1920s and early 1930s including recordings of My Daddy Rocks Me and Birmingham Bertha a song ...

Article

Sarah Mosher

was born on 22 April 1910 in the city of Fort-de-France in the French Overseas Department of Martinique. Born into an upper-middle-class, bourgeois mulatto family, Alpha’s childhood was one of considerable socioeconomic privilege and ease. The names and occupations of Jenny Alpha’s parents are not listed in any written sources. During her youth, she knew the writer and founder of the Negritude movement, Aimé Césaire, who attended school with her brothers in Fort-de-France. Her father, who was known for his passion for the stage, introduced his daughter to the theater arts at a young age.

In 1929 at the age of 19 Alpha moved to Paris to study history and geography at the Sorbonne with the ultimate goal of becoming a teacher She soon left her studies however to pursue a career as an actress in classical theater But her skin color in addition to the political tensions between ...

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Evan Mwangi

Algerian writer and singer who brought Kabyle folk music of the rural Berber community to international audiences and one of the earliest modern Algerian female novelists, was born Marie-Louise Amrouche in Tunisia to a family of Roman Catholic converts who had fled Algeria to escape persecution. Her mother, Fadhma Amrouche, also a writer and musician, was an early influence. Amrouche adopted the nom de plume Marguerite Taos to underscore the influence of her mother; Marguerite was her mother’s Christian name, which the latter was not allowed to use by the Catholic Church, ostensibly because she had not been baptized properly.

Despite her exile, the family returned to Algeria on prolonged visits, from which Amrouche and her brother Jean Amrouche, a poet, got acquainted with the oral literature of their native Kabyle Berber people. Amrouche obtained her brevet supérieur in Tunis in 1934 and went to France the following year ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz singer, was born in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Joseph Anderson, a construction worker, and Erma Anderson. She sang as a young child along to her parents’ Bessie Smith and blues records. Her father sang in a gospel quartet in church and Ernestine became active in the church choir, sometimes taking solos. She taught herself to play the piano by ear and loved to listen to the big bands on the radio, and when she heard Sarah Vaughan, she became determined to become a professional singer. She was so enamored of Vaughan's singing that for a short time she sounded just like her, until she realized that the point of it all was for her to carve out her own musical identity, not copy her idol.

Anderson began singing professionally quite early. She was fifteen years old when she performed with the trumpeter Russell Jacquet ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz singer, was born in Gilroy, California, the daughter of Jobe Smith. Her mother's name is unknown. Anderson's given name is sometimes spelled “Ivy.” She studied voice at Saint Mary's Convent from age nine to age thirteen, and she sang in the glee club and choral society at Gilroy grammar and high school. While spending two years at the Nunnie H. Burroughs Institution in Washington, D.C., she studied voice under Sara Ritt.

Anderson performed in Los Angeles, California, around 1921, and in 1922 or 1923 she joined a touring version of the pioneering African American musical revue Shuffle Along, which brought her to New York City. She performed in Cuba in 1924, at the Cotton Club in New York City in 1925, and then in Los Angeles, where she was accompanied by the bands of Paul Howard, Curtis Mosby, and Sonny Clay ...

Article

Philip Herbert

African‐Americaninternational contralto born in February 1897 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Southern High School, Philadelphia, and her talent was recognized and supported by the black community. Roland Hayes mentored her development. Studies with the famous Giuseppe Boghetti enabled her to win first prize in a competition and gain confidence. Her first recital in New York's Town Hall revealed her unease with foreign languages, and nearly caused her to give up singing. Boghetti encouraged her to go on, but she was unable to forge a career in the United States.

Anderson moved to London in 1925 and stayed with John Payne. She studied with Amanda Aldridge, received coaching in German from Frederic Morena and in French from Madame Pasquier, and met the composer Roger Quilter, who introduced her to fellow musicians. Her European tour was successful, winning the admiration of Jean Sibelius, Arturo Toscanini ...

Article

Alan Blyth and Max de Schauensee

(b Philadelphia, Feb 27, 1897; d Portland, OR, April 8, 1993). American contralto. After graduating from South Philadelphia High School, she studied in her native city with Giuseppe Boghetti but was refused entry to the Philadelphia Music Academy on racial grounds. Having won first prize in a competition sponsored by the New York PO, she appeared as a soloist with the orchestra at Lewisohn Stadium on 27 August 1925. After further study with Frank La Forge, she made a number of concert appearances in the USA, and her European début took place at the Wigmore Hall, London, in 1930 She was subsequently lionized throughout Europe winning from Toscanini the reported tribute A voice like yours is heard only once in a hundred years By then a mature artist Anderson gained high critical acclaim for her first appearance at Town Hall in New ...

Article

Claudia Durst Johnson

Born in Philadelphia, Anderson sang in a church choir and at age nineteen began formal voice training. At twenty-three, she made her debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. She later toured in concert in many European and South American capitals. Her foreign acclaim prompted an invitation to tour in the United States, where for two decades she was in demand as a performer of opera and spirituals. In 1939, because she was an African American, Anderson was barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from performing in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., an event that exposed the depth of racism in America. Her open-air Lincoln Memorial concert that Easter, arranged by Eleanor Roosevelt and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, drew an audience of 75,000 and was broadcast nationally. On 7 January 1955 Anderson became the first African American to sing with the ...

Article

Robert Fay

Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the first of three daughters of John Berkeley Anderson, an ice and coal peddler, and Anna D. Anderson, who, although trained as a teacher, took in laundry. Throughout her childhood, Anderson's family was poor. Their financial situation worsened when she was twelve. Her father died because of injuries he received at work. Anderson had an urge to make music from an early age, and she was clearly talented. When she was six years old, she joined the junior choir at the church to which her father belonged, Union Baptist, and became known as the “Baby Contralto.” In addition, she taught herself to play the piano, eventually playing well enough to accompany herself during her singing concerts.

Anderson joined the church s senior choir at age thirteen She began singing professionally and touring during high school to earn money for ...

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Antoinette Handy

contralto, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the daughter of John Berkeley Anderson, a refrigerator room employee at the Reading Terminal Market, an ice and coal dealer, and a barber, and Anne (also seen as “Annie” and “Anna,” maiden name unknown), a former schoolteacher. John Anderson's various jobs provided only a meager income and after his death before Marian was a teenager her mother s income as a laundress and laborer at Wanamaker s Department Store was even less Still as Anderson later recalled neither she nor her two younger sisters thought of themselves as poor When Marian was about eight her father purchased a piano from his brother she proceeded to teach herself how to play it and became good enough to accompany herself Also as a youngster having seen a violin in a pawnshop window she became determined to purchase it and earned the requisite four dollars by ...

Article

Scott A. Sandage

Marian Anderson's 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C., marked the symbolic beginning of the civil rights movement. Born to a poor family in Philadelphia, Anderson came to public attention in 1924 as the winner of a New York Philharmonic voice competition. Because the color line impeded American bookings, the contralto studied and performed in Europe for several years. In 1935, the impresario Sol Hurok brought Anderson back for a successful New York concert. Thereafter, she toured the United States as an acclaimed soloist and sang at the White House in 1936. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow the singer to perform at Constitution Hall, stating explicitly that their auditorium was available to “white artists only.” First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt publicly resigned from the DAR in protest African American leaders from Howard University and from the NAACP arranged ...

Article

Mildred Denby Green

When Marian Anderson was just eight years old, her aunt presented her at a fund-raising church program as the “Baby Contralto.” Two years earlier, Anderson had joined the junior choir at the Union Baptist Church in Philadelphia. More than anything else, she loved to sing. Music and musical instruments fascinated her at home and in school.

Article

Susan Edwards

opera singer. Marian Anderson was born on 27 February 1897 in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the first of three daughters born to Anna and John Anderson. Nicknamed the “baby contralto” for her lush, deep voice when she sang in local churches as a child, Anderson fought hard to foster her career in Europe and the United States, and in the process she became an advocate for civil rights in the United States.

When Anderson was twelve years old her father died from a head injury sustained while working at Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market. He was thirty-four years old, and his death left his widow, Anna with three young daughters to raise They moved in with Marian s paternal grandparents Anna had been a teacher before she married Marian s father but she was not credentialed in Pennsylvania To keep her family together Anna took in laundry and worked ...

Article

Suzi Takahashi

actor, director, educator, and artist advocate, was born Osceola Marie Macarthy in Albany, Georgia, of black, white, and Native American racial heritage. The daughter of a life insurance executive, Archer attended Fisk University Preparatory School in Nashville, Tennessee. She then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1909, where she was a pupil of Alain Locke and the sociologist Kelly Miller. Self‐defined as a suffragette, in 1913, her senior year at Howard, Archer and twenty‐one fellow female students cofounded one of the largest black fraternal organizations in the United States, Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority dedicated to community service and the mutual support of African American women. That same year Archer began to pursue her interest in drama by performing the title role in the Howard University Dramatics Club production of The Lady of Lyon a Victorian romantic comedy known as a showcase for actors ...

Article

Jack Sohmer

jazz pianist, composer, and singer, was born Lillian Hardin in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Dempsey Hardin, a strict, churchgoing woman who disapproved of blues music. Nothing is known of her father. At age six Lil began playing organ at home, and at eight she started studying piano. In 1914 she enrolled in the music school of Fisk University in Nashville, taking academic courses and studying piano and music theory. After earning her diploma, around 1917 she joined her mother in Chicago, where she found work demonstrating songs in Jones' Music Store. Prompted by her employer, in 1918 Hardin became house pianist for the clarinetist Lawrence Duhé's band at Bill Bottoms's Dreamland Ballroom, where she played with the cornetists “Sugar Johnny” Smith, Freddie Keppard, and King Oliver; the trombonist Roy Palmer; and other New Orleans musicians Because she was still a minor her mother ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Armstrong's career as a Jazz musician began with a job in a music store in Chicago, Illinois. She met Louis Armstrong while they were both with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band in Chicago. They married in 1924 and divorced in 1938 Armstrong worked with her husband in the ...

Article

Lil Hardin Armstrong is one of the great treasures of American jazz. In a day when women in music were the singers, Hardin played the piano, composed, arranged, and managed—both her own career and that of her husband Louis Armstrong. Uncredited for many years, happily she has begun to gain some well-deserved attention.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Lillian Beatrice Hardin was the daughter of Dempsey Martin and William Hardin Reports differ on whether Hardin s parents divorced or whether her father died when she was young but it is known that Hardin was raised by her mother and her maternal grandmother in a strictly religious household Hardin was attracted to music almost from birth and began playing the organ when she was very young By the time she was six her mother had arranged that she take additional piano lessons from her schoolteacher and by nine she ...

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Wallace McClain Cheatham

opera singer and college professor, was born in New York, the second child of Demetrio Arroyo, a mechanical engineer who moved to the United States from Puerto Rico at eleven years of age, and Lucille Washington Arroyo, a Charleston, South Carolina native. Her father studied engineering at the University of Florida and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. With the exception of piano lessons from her mother and occasional singing at church, Arroyo received very little musical training during her childhood. Her family, however, ensured that films, concerts, plays, and other performances were a part of her upbringing.

After completing junior high school, Arroyo attended the Hunter College–operated special high school for gifted children. Her interest in opera, which took root during those years, developed from her experience with the Hunter College Opera Workshop. Upon listening to her performance of the “Jewel Song,” a piece from Gounod'sFaust ...