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Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Mount Vernell Allen Jr., a principal in the Detroit public school system, and Barbara Jean Allen, a defense contract administrator for the federal government. She began studying classical piano at age seven but was also exposed to jazz at an early age. She met the trumpeter Marcus Belgrave when he was an artist-in-residence at her high school, Cass Technical; she studied jazz piano with him, and he became an important mentor, appearing on several of her later recordings. Allen also studied at the Jazz Development Workshop, a community-based organization.

After graduating from high school, Allen attended Howard University, where she was captivated by the music of Thelonious Monk and studied with John Malachi. In 1979 she earned a BA in Jazz Studies and taught briefly at Howard before moving to New York City where she ...

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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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Miranda Kaufmann

Classical musician and war correspondent born in British Guiana (now Guyana). Dunbar began his musical career with the British Guianan militia band. He moved to New York at the age of 20, where he studied music at Columbia University. In 1925 he moved to Paris, where he studied music, journalism, and philosophy. By 1931 he had settled in London and founded the Rudolph Dunbar School of Clarinet Playing. The same year Melody Maker invited him to contribute a series of articles on the clarinet. These were successful enough for him to publish in 1939A Treatise on the Clarinet (Boehm System). Dunbar was a successful conductor, especially in the 1940s, when he became the first black man to conduct an orchestra in many of the prestigious cities of Europe, including, in 1942 the London Philharmonic at the Albert Hall to an audience of 7 000 people the Berlin ...

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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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Peter Fraser

Pioneering black businesswoman and one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival. Born Carmen Maingot in Port of Spain, Trinidad, she came to England in 1931 to attend the Royal Academy of Music, studying piano and violin. Among her friends in England were C. L. R. James and Eric Williams. She stayed in England, pursuing her musical career, until 1938, when she returned to Trinidad, playing the piano in public concerts, teaching music, and starting a hairdressing business. She returned to England in 1946, travelling with one of her pupils, Winifred Atwell.

She met and married the impresario Paul England but unlike Atwell decided not to continue her career in music Instead she continued hairdressing setting up a salon in a Forces club managed by her husband and beginning to produce hair products for her black customers an example imitated by Atwell in ...

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Roanne Edwards

Akin Euba of Nigeria composes classical works that combine elements of European music with the musical traditions of the country’s Yoruba people. Throughout his career Euba has worked to create African classical music that is accessible to Africans and non-Africans alike. In his opinion, “the contemporary African composer … must create music for his own people and for all people at large and must act as an interpreter between the two.”

Born in Lagos, Euba received an extensive musical education at Trinity College of Music in London, at the University of California at Los Angeles, and at the University of Ghana at Legon, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1974 He has taught at Trinity College in England at the University of Nigeria at Ife and the University of Pittsburgh where he is currently Mellon Professor of African Music Euba is not only a composer but also a scholar who ...

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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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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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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 ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

singer, musician, educator, and advocate for African American music and musicians, was born Emma Azalia Smith in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Henry Smith, a blacksmith and native of Murfreesboro, and Corilla Beard, the daughter of Wilson Beard, an escaped slave who began a profitable laundry business after fleeing to Detroit. Following the birth of Azalia, as she was called, Corilla Smith opened a school in Murfreesboro for newly freed slave children. In 1870, just after the birth of Azalia's sister Marietta increasing hostility from local whites forced Corilla Smith to close the school The family moved to Detroit Michigan where Henry Smith opened a curio shop and Corilla Smith taught school In the early 1880s the couple separated and Corilla raised her daughters on wages earned by private tutoring In Detroit the Smiths were the first black family in their neighborhood and ...

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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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Jay Sweet

pianist, composer, and educator, was born in La Grange, Illinois. His parents' names do not appear in readily available sources of information; reportedly, his father was an interior decorator (or, according to some sources, an optometrist), and his mother was a classically trained singer. After the death of his father, Lewis moved with his mother to Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a young child. By the time he was four, his mother had also passed away. Being raised mostly by relatives in a large musical family, Lewis at the age of seven began studying piano with his aunt. As a teenager he performed locally with his cousins and several older musicians. In 1938 he enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where he first majored in anthropology, then switched to music.

After graduating in 1942 Lewis served overseas in the U S Army Special Services Musical Branch ...

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Barbara A. Seals Nevergold

minister, musician, and photographer, was born in Bayou Rapides, Louisiana, to Irene Lair and Giuseppe “Joe” Nasello. Nasello, who immigrated to the United States from his native Sicily in 1901, owned a dry goods store in Alexandria, Louisiana, that Willie remembered visiting with his mother from time to time. However, Joe Nasello had another family, and given the mores of the time, “Papa” Joe never acknowledged the two children he fathered with Irene. (A daughter, Alice, was born in 1912.) Although Joe Nasello lived until 1958, it appears that father and son never met face to face nor openly acknowledged their relationship. Seals talked freely yet sparingly of his paternity, and he jokingly noted to his children that he was an “Italian.”

According to Willie, “Seals” was a made-up name that he took from Lucille Ceil a favorite grade school teacher ...

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Ismael Silva was born in Niterói, a city across Guanabara Bay from Rio De Janeiro. An early sambista (samba musician), Silva was instrumental in the founding of Deixa Falar, one of the first Samba Schools in Brazil. Together with other samba artists—Bide, Nilton Bastos, and Armando Marcal—he helped plant the seed for Brazil's fledgling Escola de Samba (samba school) system. These four legendary musicians are often referred to as the Turma do Estácio (the Estácio Gang), Estácio being a neighborhhood in Rio de Janeiro. Originally, their “school” was more of a music-making club than place of instruction. In fact, it was called a school only because it happened to be situated across the street from a neighborhood grammar school.

In 1929, Ismael Silva and the other members of Deixa Falar were among the first blacks to formally participate in Carnival Previously ...

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Jeffrey Green

Jamaicanmusician and prison worker. Born in Kingston, he attended Alpha Cottage School, where his interest in music was encouraged by West India Regiment bandsmen. He joined that regiment in 1917, and went to Kneller Hall, Twickenham, in 1919–20, where he was awarded a silver medal.

Thompson and the band worked at exhibitions in Toronto (1922) and Wembley (1924). He developed music for Kingston's cinemas, and expanded this, and hotel and theatre work, after the regiment disbanded. He played the cello in the pianist Vera Manley's quartet. In 1929 he migrated to England. Jazz was in vogue at the time, and Britons assumed he had a natural skill at it. His abilities on trumpet, trombone, bass, and with orchestrations led to work and recordings with Spike Hughes and, on stage, in Noel Coward'sCavalcade. He toured with Louis Armstrong then developed ...

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Donald James

trumpeter, bandleader, arranger, composer, and educator, was born in Shelby, Mississippi, to Shelby J. Wilson, a blacksmith, and Lillian (Nelson) Wilson, a schoolteacher who also taught music. The second of four children, Wilson began taking piano lessons from his mother, an accomplished pianist, at the age of five. His love of music expanded through the spiritual songs heard in church, and by the music he listened to on the radio. Wilson began playing the trumpet while attending Manassa High School in Memphis, Tennessee, where his parents had sent him to live with friends of the family. In 1934 he moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he once again lived with friends of the family. He attended Cass Technical High School, a school that has produced a remarkable number of performing artists, where he played trumpet in the band and studied composition and orchestration.

Between 1934 ...