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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 ...

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K. Wise Whitehead

music teacher, violinist, and the first African American woman to earn a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, was born free in Philadelphia to David Bustill Bowser, an ornamental painter, and Elizabeth (Liz) Harriet Stevens Gray Bowser, a seamstress. David Bowser's grandfather was the educator, abolitionist, and baker Cyrus Bustill. Cyrus was both the son and the slave of the white attorney Samuel Bustill and was later freed by Thomas Prior, a Quaker member of the Society of Friends, in Burlington, New Jersey. He was also the grandfather of the abolitionist Sarah Mapps Douglass. In 1787 Cyrus was one of the founders of Philadelphia's Free African Society. Elizabeth Bowser was the daughter of Satterthwait, a Delaware Indian, and Richard Morey, the son of Humphrey Morrey, a white Quaker who was the first mayor of Philadelphia appointed by William Penn in 1691.

Ida s parents were ...

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Doris Evans McGinty

singer and educator, was born in Dryridge, Kentucky, the daughter of Alexander Childers and Eliza Butler, former slaves. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and in 1896 was awarded a diploma that was replaced by a bachelor's degree in 1906, when the conservatory began granting degrees. The Oberlin Conservatory chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national honor society, elected her a member in 1927. She studied voice further with Sydney Lloyd Wrightson at the Washington Conservatory of Music in Washington, D.C., with William Shakespeare, and with Oscar Devries at Chicago Musical College.

As a singer Childers enjoyed modest distinction. During her college years and shortly afterward, she performed in the Midwest with the Eckstein-Norton Music Company, a quartet of singers and their accompanist teamed with the concert pianist Harriet A. Gibbs The group contributed their earnings to the development of ...

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Roxanne Y. Schwab

writer and educator, was born in Dresden, Ontario, Canada, the fourth child of William and Nancy Newman. Little is known of her family, and the exact dates of her birth and death are unknown, but she was most likely born sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. As a young woman, she accompanied her father to the West Indies for missionary work, then returned to the United States when he became pastor of a church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Following her father's death, she moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, where she looked after her invalid mother for thirteen months. Upon her mother's death, Lucretia Newman became the head of the household for her siblings. After her early education she completed a course of scientific study at Lawrence University in Appleton before finding work as a high school music teacher and as a clerk in a dry goods store.

In 1883 Coleman was ...

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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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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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Joy Elizondo

Chiquinha Gonzaga was born in Rio de Janeiro to an unwed mother of mixed race. After being officially recognized by her father, she received all the trappings of an education befitting the daughter of a military man so that she might serve in the court of Pedro II. After a strict upbringing she married a wealthy commander in Brazil's merchant marines when she was still a teenager; yet, much to her family's chagrin, she swapped an oppressive home life for the bohemian music halls of Rio at the age of eighteen.

Though Gonzaga had performed her first song, “Canção de Pastores,” at a family gathering on Christmas Eve in 1858, her first successful composition, a polka titled “Atraente,” was not published until 1877 In the meantime cut off by her family she managed to build a reputation as a piano teacher and made a living playing in ...

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Raymond Lemieux

Born in slavery and educated in freedom, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield possessed a remarkable vocal range—from baritone G, first line in the bass clef, to high C above the treble clef—and the sensitivity and musical intelligence to use that capacity artistically. She was probably the first African American musician to gain recognition in England, Canada, and in the United States.

Greenfield was born in Natchez, Mississippi (According to her court testimony in 1847, she was born in 1817.) The Taylors were slaves on the estate of Holliday Greenfield. When Elizabeth was a year old, Mrs. Greenfield, acting on her Quaker beliefs, freed Elizabeth's parents and sent them to Liberia. Mrs. Greenfield took Elizabeth to Philadelphia, where she raised her as a daughter, giving her the family name of Greenfield.

While still a young woman, Elizabeth Greenfield's extraordinary voice and personality attracted the attention of a Miss Price ...

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Lucy MacKeith

African‐American singer celebrated in Great Britain. She was born in Natchez, Missouri, as a slave, and taken to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a child by her mistress, Mrs Greenfield. When Mrs Greenfield joined the Quakers, advocating a just society for all people in the United States, she freed her slaves. Nevertheless, Elizabeth was loyal and stayed with Mrs Greenfield, who advised her to cultivate her gift for singing. She took her advice by continuing her study of music, and in 1851 she made her debut as a public performer in Buffalo, New York. This was followed by a tour of several cities.

In March 1853 following a concert in Buffalo friends raised funds to enable Elizabeth to go to Europe for further study Unfortunately her agent in Britain reneged on an agreement to devise a British tour To get out of this disastrous situation she sought the support of Lord ...

Article

singer and teacher, known as the “Black Swan,” was born a slave in or near Natchez, Mississippi. Her father may have been born in Africa, and her mother, Anna, was of mixed ancestry. Various sources offer no fewer than seven different birth dates between 1807 and 1824. Greenfield's use of “Taylor” rather than “Greenfield” in certain documents suggests that her parents used this surname, but little record of them survives.

When their owner, the wealthy widow Elizabeth Holliday Greenfield, joined the Society of Friends and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the 1820s, Greenfield's parents were manumitted and immigrated to Liberia. Though records suggest her mother planned to return, Greenfield never saw her parents again. She lived with her mistress until she was about eight years old and then rejoined her as a nurse-companion in about 1836 she seems to have lived with relatives in the ...

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Kathleen Thompson

At a time when most African American women were enslaved and working under unbearable conditions on the plantations of the South, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield was appearing on concert stages around the country and traveling to England, giving a command performance for Queen Victoria. She was accomplished, intelligent, and ambitious, and became the best-known black concert singer of her time.

Greenfield was born about 1817 in Natchez, Mississippi, to a family named Taylor, who were slaves on the estate of Mrs. Elizabeth Holliday Greenfield. When Elizabeth was only a year old, Mrs. Greenfield, acting on her beliefs as a Quaker, manumitted the child’s parents and sent them to Liberia; she took Elizabeth with her to Philadelphia. The child stayed with Mrs. Greenfield until she was eight, and then went to live with her own sister, Mary Parker When she was in her late teens she went back to ...

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Eileen Southern

Little is known of John Layton's early life, except that he was born in New Jersey. He studied music around New England, at the Cardiff and Collins Institute, Round Lake Conservatory, Martha's Vineyard, the New England Conservatory, and privately in Washington, D.C. During the Civil War (1861–1865), Layton served in the armed services. After the war he went to Washington, D.C., where he was a policeman for a few years before he began teaching music in the public schools in 1883. Later he was appointed the first male director of music for the black schools in Washington. In 1873 Layton became the choir director at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), a post he retained for forty-three years. In 1902 he helped to organize the Coleridge-Taylor Choral Society and served as its director until his death.

One of Layton s significant accomplishments was his contribution ...

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Charles Rosenberg

music teacher and conductor, bass singer, Civil War veteran, and active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, author of the first African Methodist Episcopal Church hymnal (working with Bishop James C. Embry), was born in Eulesstown, New Jersey. The 1860 census lists several free families of African descent named Layton, but none have been definitively identified as his. Charles and Harriet Layton, of Warrenville, may have been his parents, but the ages of their children (often the subject of error by census takers) are not a definitive match.

Layton enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 25 August 1864 at Jersey City, giving his occupation as laborer/farmer. Assigned the rating of Landsman, he served on the vessels Larkspur and O.M. Pettit Both were tugboats assigned to the South Atlantic Blocking Squadron towing and repairing ships of the squadron while gathering intelligence on shore and ...

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Doris Evans McGinty

musician, music educator, and author, was born Harriet Gibbs in Victoria, British Columbia, to Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, an abolitionist politician and businessman, and Maria Ann Alexander, a graduate of Oberlin College. Mifflin Gibbs had moved to Canada in 1858; there he was successful in business and politics and was elected to the Victoria City Council for two terms. In 1869 the family moved to Oberlin, Ohio, seeking to take advantage of the educational opportunities available there. Mifflin Gibbs continued his dedication to politics and followed an impressive career that included serving as a municipal judge, as the register of the U.S. Land Office in Little Rock, Arkansas, and as the United States consul to Madagascar. Mifflin and Anna Maria Gibbs set high standards for the family in terms of ambition diligence and interest in education and public service Like their mother three of ...

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Barry Kernfeld

brass band and dance band cornetist, was born Emile Emanuel Perez in New Orleans, Louisiana. A Catholic and a Creole, he was the son of a Hispanic father and an African American mother, whose names are unknown. His parents ran a grocery on Touro Street, and his father was also a cigar maker. Manuel was educated in a French-speaking grammar school, and he was raised on European classical and popular music. He took up cornet at age twelve, after which he entered the emerging world of syncopated music that later became ragtime and jazz.

While working steadily as a cigar maker Perez played in brass bands and dance bands in New Orleans, and he recalled that he was already playing ragtime on cornet in 1898. He married Lena (maiden name unknown) in 1900 they had at least one child That same year he joined the Onward Brass ...

Article

musician and composer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Anne Emerine Beluche Snaër and François Snaër. His family immigrated to New Orleans from St. Domingue via Cuba before 1818 and was of mixed African, French, and German ancestry. His mother was purportedly the daughter of the Caribbean pirate René Beluche, and his father was a wealthy grocer and church organist. The young Snaër played more than a dozen musical instruments, including violin, cello, piano, and organ. He was also a prolific composer. Little is known about Snaër's life before the Civil War other than his first song, “Sous sa fenêtre,” was written sometime around 1851 when he was eighteen As a member of the free black population in New Orleans before the Civil War many of whom spoke French identified with French culture and had a certain amount of wealth Snaër s ...

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Rainer E. Lotz

musician (mandolin, banjo, guitar), music teacher, composer, and bandleader was born in Vermont, Illinois. His father, an “elocutionist,” recognized his son's musical abilities and encouraged him to commence his musical studies at the age of seven, besides attending school. Seth Weeks started with the violin, but soon abandoned that instrument in favor of the guitar, and eventually the mandolin. After playing and practicing for some fifteen years, he conducted a Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra in Tacoma, Washington and became a music teacher with pupils in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City. From the 1890s most of his compositions were published by Shaeffer and Lyon & Healey (Chicago), a typical example being the “Grand Concert Polka” for Mandolin, Guitar/Piano (Shaeffer, 1900). Besides teaching he made concert tours throughout the United States and Canada.

He was in Boston on the Keith circuit in 1900 when ...