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Mary Krane Derr

multi‐instrumental musician, teacher, and orchestra conductor, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. Some sources give her birth year as 1885; however, according to U.S. census data, it was most likely 1882. Her mother, Betty Anderson, was born March 1849 in Virginia. Little is known about Hallie Anderson's father except that he was also a Virginia native. When Hallie was three, the family migrated to New York City. As a child, Hallie took public school and private music lessons. She received classical training at the New York German Conservatory of Music. Although it did not record her occupation, the 1900 census noted that Hallie's mother was a widow who could neither read nor write, and who had seven living children. Betty Anderson was then living with three of her children, all of whom could read and write: Charles (born Sept. 1872), a waiter; John ...


Sharon Renee McGee

singer and songwriter, was born in Asheville, North Carolina, to Laron Flack and Irene, whose maiden name is unknown. She was one of four children, three girls and a boy. Both of Flack's parents were musically talented. Her father was a self-taught pianist, and her mother had taken a few formal music lessons, which prepared her for playing piano for the local black Methodist Church. Although, both of Flacks parents were musicians, her first experience with music came through her mother. Flack recalled the experience in an interview with Ebony, “I remember insisting that I be allowed to sit on her knee and she let me play the keys. She had a genuine gift for music though she'd only had maybe a couple of lessons” (Ebony, 56). She began playing the piano by ear at age four.

When Flack was very young her family moved to ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born in Black Mountain, North Carolina, to Laron and Irene Flack, both of whom played piano, Roberta Flack played piano by ear as a toddler. She began formal lessons at nine, and at fifteen she received a scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she majored in music education.

For several years after her graduation in 1958, Flack taught music and English in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. She began her singing career performing at clubs in the evenings. At first she sang opera, but she soon gained a following by singing songs that incorporated elements from many kinds of popular music. She released her first album, First Take, in 1969. Her second album, Chapter Two (1970), sold more than a million copies. Flack gained national recognition in 1970 after appearing on many television shows. Downbeat magazine named her Female Vocalist ...


Diane Epstein

Like many outstanding musical entertainers, Roberta Flack was born into a musical family. Her mother was the organist in her Asheville, North Carolina, church, and her father was an accomplished pianist. He was a strong source of encouragement for Roberta and crucial in setting the course for her career. She started voice and piano lessons at the age of nine. A musically gifted child, by the time she was thirteen she had won second place in a state piano competition. Although she would probably argue the point, many thought of her as a child prodigy. Flack finished high school early and at the age of fifteen won a full scholarship to Howard University, where she received a BA in Music. While she was at Howard, her voice was recognized as top classical caliber.

Initially self consciousness held her back from a career in performance she felt she was overweight So ...