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Claudius Fergus

was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas (now the US Virgin Islands) on 4 November 1889. He was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Dinzey, a tailor, and followed their career trajectory as part of the community’s black artisanal class. He served apprenticeships in the trades of carpentry and shoemaking.

With only a primary education and no formal school of music on the islands, Adams studied in the United States. He enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania as well as Carnegie Hall’s School of Music Theory in New York. Unable to sojourn long enough in the States, Adams completed his study of music by correspondence, a mark of distinction of the self-motivation that shaped his life. He attained a bachelor’s degree in music from the University Extension Conservatory of Chicago in 1931.

Adams organized his first musical band in 1904 and launched his ...


Rebecca Dirksen

was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 10 February 1909 to Raphaël Brouard, a businessman and public official who briefly served as mayor of Port-au-Prince, and Cléomie Gaëtjens, an immigrant from Germany who was an amateur musician. Among her three siblings was the celebrated poet Carl Brouard (1902–1965), with whom she shared a special bond, and who would inspire her artistically later in life. At the age of 20, Carmen married Jean Magloire, a journalist and politician. The couple had a daughter, Nadine Magloire (1932–  but they divorced when Nadine was 6 Based in Montreal Nadine went on to become a noted feminist writer and is the mother of Canadian pianist Diane Brouard who studied music as a youth with her grandmother Perhaps best remembered as a demanding piano instructor and a dynamic concert pianist Carmen Brouard made unique and significant contributions to the Haitian classical music ...


Lawrence Vernon

was born in 1903 in Belize City, Belize. Born Floss Kemp, she was the youngest of seven children. Her father, Joseph Kemp, died when she was 1 year old, and she grew up with her mother Diana Kemp. While receiving her elementary education at Wesley School in Belize City, her sister, a versatile piano player, inspired Floss to take piano lessons, and she eventually became an accomplished piano teacher who taught two of Belize’s greatest musicians and composers: Dr. Colville Young (Belize’s governor general) and the concert pianist Francis Reneau.

On completing elementary school, Casasola entered the pupil–teacher training system, and after being certified as a trained teacher in her early teens she began teaching at Wesley School and then Ebenezer School, both in Belize City. A major hurricane devastated Belize City in 1931 and the years spent in reconstruction also affected Casasola s life as she relocated to ...


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 ...


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 ...


Jeremy Rich

the son of Winifred Remilekun Euba (née Dawodu), a teacher, and Alphaeus Sobiyi Euba. His father had been a musician in his youth, played clarinet in the Triumph Orchestra dance band, and sang in the choir of the Olowogbowo Methodist Church. Besides his father’s Christian sacred music, Euba was exposed to Yoruba musical styles such as dundun as a child. In 1944 Euba enrolled at the Church Missionary Society primary school. Unlike many Nigerian parents in the 1940s, Euba’s father actually supported Euba’s interest in music and gave his blessing to making it a full-time career (in part due to Euba’s horoscope, which supposedly indicated music was in his future). Euba received tutoring on the piano and sang in the school choir.

Though he had to endure bullying in school his performance in the arts gradually earned the respect of his peers especially after he won a silver medal in ...


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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


Maria-Antoaneta Neag

was born Ouida Vere Hylton on 21 June 1933 in St. Andrew, Jamaica, the daughter of Bancroft Hylton (owner of Bancroft Hylton Ltd., a company that restored musical instruments) and Miriam March-Hylton. Educated at St. Andrew High School for Girls, Hylton received a British Council bursary (between 1954 and 1956), graduating from the Royal Academy of Music, London with a GRSM and LRAM. She also held a certificate of merit in pianoforte (1955). Obtaining an MMus from Columbia University in New York City, Hylton continued her education with a training course on television production, organized by the British Council (London), later taking up an Institute of Education Fellowship at the University of London (1962–1963).

As a teacher at Excelsior and St. Andrew High School (1957–1969 she devoted a lot of time and effort to what she viewed as the proper musical education of ...


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 ...


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 ...