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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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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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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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Lois Bellamy

voice teacher, mezzo-soprano, pianist, educator, was one of four children born to Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker and Elizabeth Baytop Baker in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her father's parents were slaves. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker was born a slave on 11 August 1860 and worked on the farm until he was twenty-one years old. He was one of five children and was the first African American to earn and receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1906. In 1890 he received a B.A. from Boston University and a Bachelor's in Divinity from Yale University and studied psychology and philosophy from 1896 to 1900 at Yale Graduate School. He was minister of the Dixwell Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1896 to 1900. He was listed in Who's Who in New England, 1908–1909 and his writings paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance era ...

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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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Lois Bellamy

singer, music educator, choral director, was born in Sandfly, Georgia, a tiny hamlet of Savannah, one of thirteen children born to Daphne and Daniel Berksteiner. Her father worked as a carpenter, and her mother took in washing to make ends meet. In addition to the influence of her family, her early years were influenced by her church, the Speedwell Episcopal Church, and its school, Haven Home. It was at Speedwell and Haven Home that Constance received, first, religious instruction and, second, her introduction to academia.

Through her association with the church she received her first scholarship which enabled her to attend and graduate from the Boylan Home High School in Jacksonville Florida The specific point at which Constance realized she could sing is unrecorded There was the singing in the church as a child and in the choir in her high school years Perhaps the realization ...

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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

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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Doris Evans McGinty

Lulu Vere Childers was born in Dryridge, Kentucky, the daughter of former slaves Alexander Childers and Eliza Butler. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music 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, 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 concert pianist Harriet A. Gibbs The group contributed their earnings to the development of a music conservatory at Eckstein Norton University ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Paulette Coleman

operatic soprano and music educator, was born in Detroit, Michigan, into a musically prominent family. Her father, Thomas A. Cole, was a talented bass who was also known as a fine dramatic reader. Sadie (Chandler) Cole, her mother, was a mezzo-soprano who had studied at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and had toured with the famous Fisk Jubilee Singers. Cole's maternal grandmother, Mrs. Hatfield-Chandler, was a patron of the arts who sang soprano in Cincinnati's first African American choir. With such a rich musical heritage, it was predictable that Cole would begin piano lessons at a very early age. Her family relocated to Los Angeles in 1898. At age twelve Cole was accomplished enough to accompany her mother in recitals and in public concerts and to teach younger children piano basics.

While a student at Los Angeles High School where she studied ancient and modern languages ...

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

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Eunice Angelica Whitmal

playwright, writer, and music teacher, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Precise information about Duncan's parents is unknown, but she was raised in St. Louis by Samuel L. Duncan, a laborer, and Addie Duncan, a homemaker. Duncan's intellect was recognized by Samuel and he made plans to send her to college. On 1 October 1920 Duncan began her studies in music at Howard University, where she studied under the respected theater professor Montgomery Gregory and became a member of the Howard University Players.

Duncan and her peers wrote prolifically under the tutelage of Gregory and produced several plays about the experiences of Africans and African Americans. Like many other African American female artists of this period Duncan used her work to explore issues of race, identity, gender, education, and class. In her one-act play Sacrifice the moral drama centered on the struggles and pressures ...

Article

Eric Ledell Smith

opera and concert vocalist and composer, was born Annie Wilson Lillian Evans in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Dr. William Bruce Evans and Annie D. Brooks. Her antebellum ancestors made their mark in African American history. Evanti's paternal grandfather, Henry Evans, was an abolitionist involved in the 1859 Oberlin-Wellington riot. Her great uncle Lewis Sheridan Leary participated in John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Her mother, Annie Evans, was a schoolteacher in Washington D.C. Her father, William Bruce Evans, whose ancestors came to Washington from Oberlin, Ohio, first served as a physician and later became one of the few black school principals in Washington, D.C.

Lillian Evans was a precocious child who sang her first public recital in 1894 at the age of four The Evans family loved classical music and singing They purchased a piano and hired a piano teacher to give their daughter ...

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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 ...

Article

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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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 ...