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Donald James

cornetist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, arranger, and college educator, was born Nathaniel Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the second of two sons of Julian Adderley Sr. and Jessie Adderley. Julian Sr. was an educator who played trumpet and cornet, thus becoming Nat's first music teacher. Jessie was also a teacher. Nat's only sibling, Julian Adderley Jr., nicknamed “Cannonball” because of his rotund build, was three years older than his brother. The Adderleys moved from Tampa to Tallahassee, Florida, when Nat was a toddler so that Julian Sr. and Jessie could take teaching jobs at Florida A&M College (FAMC), a historically black school. The college changed its name to Florida A&M University (FAMU) in 1953.

Cannonball was the first of the two brothers to play trumpet He later became more interested in the alto saxophone leaving his trumpet to sit idle Nat showed no ...

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Barry Kernfeld

jazz guitarist, was born in Somerville, Massachusetts, near Boston, the son of an apartment superintendent. His parents' names are unknown. The family was musical and closely in touch with the world of entertainment: “Fats Waller used to come by the house all the time,” Ashby told the writer James Haskins Ashby taught himself to play guitar At age fifteen he joined a band that played sophisticated arrangements for college dances and deeply embarrassed by his inability to read music he began to learn chordal notation He performed at a nightclub at Revere Beach while attending Roxbury Memorial High School Ashby s abilities as a classical guitarist won him a scholarship at an open audition for the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston but the school had no guitar teacher and thus the award went to the runner up So that s the extent of my conservatory background ...

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Charles Blancq

jazz clarinetist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Theogene V. Baquet, a cornetist, music teacher, and leader of the Excelsior Brass Band of New Orleans, and Leocadie Mary Martinez. Achille was the younger brother of the clarinetist George Baquet. No information exists about the extent of Achille Baquet's formal education; however, he was probably exposed to some musical instruction at an early age by virtue of his musical family. Nevertheless, like so many other New Orleans musicians of that period, he was initially an “ear” musician before he began lessons with Santo Juiffre at the Orpheum Theater in New Orleans.

Later, while still a young man, Baquet developed a reputation of his own as a teacher of music fundamentals. Achille Baquet was both a successful teacher and an instrumentalist and was known to have been active both in early jazz bands and in ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz clarinetist and educator, was born in Fort Worth, Texas. Carter studied clarinet and alto saxophone as a youth. He earned a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1949 and a masters in music education from the University of Colorado in 1956.

Carter spent thirty-three years earning his living as a school teacher. He taught in Fort Worth's public schools from 1949 to 1961 and in the Los Angeles school system from 1961 to 1982. Having this important day job gave him the freedom to play whatever music he desired without having to earn a living from performing. Carter never compromised his music yet sought to educate audiences about what he was playing.

While originally inspired on the clarinet and alto saxophone by Charlie Parker and Lester Young, Carter made the acquaintance of alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman in the late 1940s ...

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Elliott S. Hurwitt

alto and tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist, bandleader, arranger, composer, music teacher, and one of the leading jazz musicians in Los Angeles since the early 1940s, was born William Marcell Collette in Los Angeles, California. He was the son of Willie Hugh Collette, who came from Knoxville, Tennessee, and drove a garbage truck. Both he and a brother dabbled in music. Collette's mother, Goldie Marie Dorris came from Kansas City and sang in church She had a degree in cosmetology but was primarily a homemaker Collette had an older sister Doris and a younger brother Patrick As a child he took piano lessons but rebelled against further lessons on the instrument after coming under the sway of big band recordings which inspired him to take up the saxophone Collette bought his first horn at the age of eleven using money he made shining ...

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Harmony A. Teitsworth

symphonic conductor, composer, and poet, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to James Henry DePreist and Ethel Anderson. Ethel's sister, James's aunt, was the distinguished singer Marian Anderson, a contralto who became the first African American to appear with the New York Metropolitan Opera. In Philadelphia, DePreist attended Central High School, the second-oldest high school in the country. One of the best college preparatory schools in the country, it is also a public magnet school renowned for its strong music department. During high school DePreist played percussion and timpani in the all-Philadelphia high school band and orchestra. The orchestra's director, Louis Werson, became a significant musical influence on DePreist and used his musical background to help his student start the Jimmy DePreist Quintet, a jazz band.

In 1958 DePreist received a bachelor s degree as a pre law student at the Wharton School of ...

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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 ...

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Mark G. Emerson

Born in Washington, D.C., to Charles Remond Douglass and his first wife, Mary Elizabeth Murphy (Libby) Douglass, Joseph Henry Douglass was widely viewed as Frederick Douglass's favorite grandchild. When his mother died in the spring of 1879, Joseph and his older brother, Charles Frederick, moved in with their uncle, Frederick Douglass Jr., until their father reunited the family after marrying Laura Antoinette Haley. After studying music at the New England Conservatory in Boston and later in Europe, Joseph returned to Washington, D.C., where he taught music at Howard University and performed often in public. Highly acclaimed as a violinist, Joseph performed at the White House on several occasions for the presidents William McKinley and William Howard Taft and during the weeklong festivities celebrating the inauguration of Grover Cleveland He also became the first black violinist to record for the Victor Talking Machine Company later ...

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David Bradford

a renowned violin soloist, was born in Washington, DC. to Charles Remond Douglass, a U.S. government clerk, and Mary Elizabeth Murphy Douglass.

Joseph Douglas was one of the first black instrumentalists to have a successful career as a concert artist. He was a grandson of Frederick Douglass, who in addition to being a renowned abolitionist and civil rights advocate, was an accomplished amateur violinist. Joseph's father, Charles, also played the instrument. Frederick Douglass, who enjoyed playing duets with Joseph, was highly supportive of his grandson's musical ambitions, and helped to launch his career.

While still a teenager, Joseph played in an all-black chamber orchestra based in Washington DC, which his grandfather had a hand in organizing and for which he served as president. The orchestra was conducted by Will Marion Cook a brilliant young European trained violinist who later became a pioneer of black ...

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Doris Evans McGinty

According to Jerrold Lytton (as reported by H. S. Fortune in the Colored American, June 1900), Theodore Drury was born in Kentucky of a musical family. He was well read and able to speak both French and German. Described in contemporary reports as thoroughly trained, elegant, and highly professional in bearing, he was considered by some as the first black, highly trained male singer.

It was in New York and the New England states that Drury's early performing experience as a tenor took place, often in support of more established singers. Through these appearances, his name became known and in 1889 he organized the Drury Comic Opera Company. Toward the end of that same year, the company was renamed the Theodore Drury Opera Company and gave concerts of operatic selections under the management of G. H. Barrett. An advertisement in 1889 (New York Age October ...

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Theresa Vara-Dannen

entrepreneur, abolitionist, music teacher, and banjoist, was born in Hartford, Connecticut to Hosea Easton, a Boston-born minister in Hartford and Hosea's wife, the former Louisa Matrick. Sampson Easton's lineage is distinguished on both sides of his tri-racial family because his mother was the daughter of Quack Matrick, a Revolutionary War soldier; his paternal grandfather was James Easton of Boston, a well-known contractor and iron-worker artisan, and an activist for the rights of African Americans. Sampson Easton's father, Hosea Easton, wrote A Treatise On the Intellectual Character, and Civil and Political Condition of the Colored People of the U. States; And the Prejudice Exercised Towards Them; With A Sermon on the Duty of the Church To Them (1837), a short book that suggested that black “uplift” could create a more congenial environment for African Americans only with a dramatic reversal of white prejudice.

While ...

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Wallace McClain Cheatham

opera singer, college and music conservatory professor, composer, activist, and genealogist, the youngest of seven children, was born in Columbia, Tennessee, and reared in Louisville, Kentucky, where his family moved in search of suitable employment and better schools. Andrew's mother, Lue Vergia Esters Frierson, was a homemaker. His father, Robert Clinton Frierson, was a laborer.

At age three Frierson first dramatically showcased his musical talent. One afternoon he accompanied his mother to the home of an old family friend where there was a piano. Frierson saw the instrument, went to it, and instinctively began to play recognizable songs. Frierson's mother and her friends were astounded because he had never even seen a piano. By the age of five Frierson was playing all over the town.

After four years of piano study with William King and graduation from high school Frierson went to ...

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crystal am nelson

community leader and musician, was born Occramer Marycoo in West Africa. Although his country of origin is unknown, a 1757 ship manifest shows that he was brought to America at the age of fourteen. He was on one of that year's seven slaving voyages that brought a total of 831 African slaves to Rhode Island. Gardner was one of the 106,544 slaves brought to Newport, Rhode Island, between 1709 and 1807. Caleb Gardner, a white merchant and member of the principal slave-trading team Briggs & Gardner, bought the teenage Marycoo and baptized him into the Congregational faith as Newport Gardner.

The forced exposure to Christianity aided Gardner s rise to a leadership position in the New World He quickly learned English from daily Bible studies with his master who freed Gardner after overhearing him pray for emancipation Upon gaining his freedom Gardner combined his new religious fervor with ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz drummer, was born in Queens, New York. His parents’ names are not recorded. Graves played congas as a child. As a teenager he was featured on timbales in a Latin band from 1959 to 1961. After seeing Elvin Jones play with John Coltrane, Graves taught himself how to play drums. In his twenties he studied Indian music extensively, learning the tabla from Wasantha Singh. He worked with Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba in the early 1960s.

Starting in 1964, Graves was an important contributor to the avant-garde jazz scene in New York. One of the earliest free-form drummers, Graves came to the jazz world's attention when he was featured at the historic October Revolution concerts in late 1964 with saxophonist Giuseppi Logan and the New York Art Quartet He showed that it was possible to swing while playing very freely and he helped liberate ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz alto saxophonist and educator, was born Vernice Green Jr. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The names and occupations of his parents are not recorded. He was mostly self-taught on the alto sax and considered Charlie Parker to be his main early influence. By the time he was 15, Green had memorized most Charlie Parker solos and was sitting in at clubs.

Green mostly played local jobs in Milwaukee, including at a club called the Brass Rail for several years. In 1960 he had a brief stint with Charles Mingus, where he replaced Jackie McLean. Mingus was a strong inspiration, and Green credited Mingus with helping him find his own style. Green moved to Chicago later that year and became a significant part of the local scene. He played with the top Chicago musicians of the period, including Ira Sullivan; tenors Eddie Harris Nicky Hill and Red Saunders ...

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David Borsvold

composer and university professor, was born Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork III in Rochester, New York, the only child of Phyllis Hailstork, a civil servant in the State of New York Estate Tax Department, and Adolphus Hailstork II, whose occupation is unknown. He grew up primarily in Albany, New York, his musical education beginning with childhood piano lessons. Hailstork also studied the organ, the violin, and voice. As a student at Albany High School, he conducted a boys' choir and began to compose music. He received his high school diploma in the spring of 1959.

Hailstork continued his musical education at Howard University. Entering in the fall of 1959, he studied composition under Mark Fax and graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1963. In the summer of that year he received a Lucy Moten Travel Fellowship and went to France ...

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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 ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz clarinetist and tenor-saxophonist, was born in Dillon, South Carolina, and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His cousin was saxophonist Bootsie Barnes.

A talented musician from a young age, Hamilton played baritone horn, piano, trumpet, and trombone starting when he was just seven. A professional as a teenager, he played trumpet and trombone with Frankie Fairfax's band, sitting in a trumpet section next to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Shavers. He also gained experience working in a group led by Lonnie Slappy.

By the late 1930s, Hamilton had settled on clarinet and tenor. He worked with the big bands of Lucky Millinder and Jimmy Mundy, and gained some recognition for his playing with pianist Teddy Wilson's sextet during 1940–1942. Hamilton was most influenced during his early years by Benny Goodman. He also worked with Benny Carter Eddie Heywood and Yank Porter and had chances to ...

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Jim Miller

jazz drummer, was born William W. Hart in Washington, D.C., to William Alfred Hart and Ira Loretta Hart, both government workers who had met at Howard University. Primarily a self-taught musician, Hart played in rhythm and blues groups while still in high school. As the house-band drummer at Washington's Howard Theatre, he accompanied major soul acts such as Otis Redding, Joe Tex, the Impressions, the Isley Brothers, Sam and Dave, and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles when they toured through town.

Although such established names as the above are accepted as classic coequal entertainers societal conditions in the late 1950s restricted black artists from performing at the top venues in Las Vegas Miami Beach or even at Radio City Music Hall in New York However there was a circuit of older theaters in the bigger cities where blacks could appear before large audiences the legendary ...

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James Fargo Balliett

jazz saxophonist, composer-arranger, and teacher, was born James Edward Heath, one of four children, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Percy Heath Sr., an auto mechanic and amateur clarinetist, and Arlethia, a hairdresser who sang in the church choir. His brothers Percy and Albert (Tootie Heath) also went on to become noted jazz musicians. His parents bought their first home in 1945 on the south side of Philadelphia, and it became a place for musicians to gather, make music, and have meals.

Heath was sent to Wilmington North Carolina to attend school when he was fourteen This was where his grandparents lived and owned a local food market It was during this time that he began to pursue music playing an alto sax his father sent him as a Christmas present Just five feet three inches tall Heath was considered too small to play ...