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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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Philip Herbert

Alias of Thomas Wiggins (1849–1908), famous slave pianist, described by Mark Twain as a musical prodigy. He was born in May 1849 in Columbus, Georgia, being blind, and in today's terms an ‘autistic savant’. The renowned lawyer James N. Bethune bought Wiggins's parents as slaves. Recognizing that Wiggins was a musical genius capable of imitating noises, improvising, and composing at 6, Bethune's daughter Mary taught him to play the piano.

In 1857 Bethune paraded Wiggins's talent across Georgia, meeting rapturous responses. Consequently, Bethune had tours organized by Perry Oliver (concert promoter) earning them $100,000 a year. Wiggins would play European classical music, improvisations, popular ballads, and his own compositions, examples of the last being ‘The Rainstorm’ (1865) and ‘Cyclone Gallop’ (1887).

The Bethune family forced him to tour the South performing to raise funds during the Civil War for the confederacy and its army ...

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also known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges, one of the most accomplished musicians, composers, and fencing masters of eighteenth-century Europe, was born on 25 December 1745 on the plantation Saint-Robert in the town of Baillif, near the region of Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe. (Some sources give his birth year as 1739 Born a slave he was the son of Georges de Bologne de Saint Georges a wealthy white planter who had purchased a title of minor nobility and his black concubine Nanon a Senegalese house slave The ancestry of Joseph Bologne de Saint Georges places him from his earliest childhood at a precocious juncture of influences in the theater of revolutionary change in the Antilles encompassing multiple debates over slavery Although slavery had been abolished in France in the late eighteenth century it remained institutionalized in the colonies Created to normalize the life of slaves in the Antilles Le Code Noir initiated ...

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Joy Elizondo

Domingos Caldas Barbosa was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to a white father, Antonio de Caldas Barbosa, and a black mother, whose identity remains unknown. From an early age Caldas received a Jesuit education. He showed a predilection for poetry and musical composition.

While still a young man Caldas was drafted into the military and sent to serve in the Portuguese colony of Sacramento on the Rio de la Plata. Subsequently, Caldas obtained his discharge, returned home to Brazil, and then boarded a ship bound for Portugal. He arrived in Lisbon in 1763 and shortly thereafter enrolled at the University of Coimbra. It is unclear at what point Caldas's university studies were discontinued, but author Jane M. Malinoff asserts that the young poet took leave shortly after learning of his father s death Unable to independently support the cost of his education Caldas recalled ...

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Pamela Lee Gray

composer, violinist, and conductor, was born in New Orleans to parents who were free Creoles of color. His father and mother were originally from the French West Indies but immigrated to the United States in approximately 1809 as part of the mass political exile during that period His father was a professional musician who worked as a bandmaster for a local military unit As a child Dédé studied the clarinet and then began playing the violin His teachers were Ludovico Gabici and Constantin Debergue Debergue was director of the Philharmonic Society established by the free Creoles of color in the area he was also a violinist which may account for Dédé s particular affection for that instrument Gabici an Italian was one of the earliest music publishers in New Orleans and the director of the Saint Charles Theater orchestra Dédé was schooled in music by many ...

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was born free on 22 September 1767 in Rio de Janeiro. The grandson of slaves, José Maurício Nunes García confronted both the racism of his era and a life marked by poverty to become a celebrated performer, a Knight of the Order of Christ in 1809, and a groundbreaking composer with over 230 compositions surviving and perhaps an equal number unrecovered. Of his known works, around 95 percent are liturgical.

García’s parents were free Brazilian-born mulatos, each the offspring of female slaves and male masters. His mother may have had Guinean ancestry. Upon his father’s death in 1773 García s mother and aunt assumed his education Noting his musical aptitude they brought him to composer Salvador José Almeida who encouraged the boy García soon joined the choir of Rio s Sé church then Nossa Senhora do Rosário as a soprano and entered the school of the Seminary ...

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Roanne Edwards

Known as “the father of Brazilian music,” José Maurício Nunes Garcia gained recognition in the early nineteenth century as a composer of church music. He wrote hymns, masses, chants, antiphones, and Te Deums, and his Requiem Mass (1816) is considered by music scholars to be one of the most significant masses ever written in Latin America. Although he wrote mostly sacred music, he was influenced by secular styles, most notably by Italian opera and by the Viennese masters, Haydn and Mozart. One of Haydn's former students, the Austrian musician Sigismund Ritter von Neukomm, considered Garcia “the greatest improviser in the world on the clavichord.”

Born in Rio de Jainero, Garcia was the son of a Portuguese lieutenant, Apolinário Nunes Garcia, and a black woman, Vitória Maria da Cruz He studied harpsichord viola and solfège at the academy of Salvador José de Almeida e ...

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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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John Davis

pianist and composer, was born in New Orleans to Edward Gottschalk, a Londoner of German-Jewish extraction who emigrated to Louisiana to trade in real estate, commodities, currency, and slaves, and Aimee-Marie Bruslé, whose murkier ancestry has contributed to much confusion over her musician son's ethnic heritage. Virtually all period sources identify Gottschalk's mother as “Creole,” a term “synonymous with native” in early-nineteenth-century New Orleans and embracing “all objects indigenous to Louisiana, from cabbage to cotton, and all people, regardless of hue” (Gary B. Mills, “Creole,” in Encyclopedia of Southern Culture 426 By the late 1800s however the word was reserved both for those of pure white ancestry who were wealthy and aristocratic and rooted in the Delta country of lower Louisiana as well as for those uniformly poor in worldly goods quaint in customs and mixed of blood Mills 427 That Edward Gottschalk in addition to ...

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David Bradford

guitarist, teacher, composer, arranger, and civil rights advocate, was born in Norfolk County, Virginia, to Exum Holland a farmer. His mother's name is not recorded.

Justin Holland recognized at an early age that rural Virginia offered few opportunities for an ambitious young African American. Born on a farm in Norfolk County to free parents in 1819, Holland was only fourteen when he set out for Boston. Massachusetts was the first state to abolish slavery (in 1783 and Boston had a small but comparatively thriving black population Holland found work that provided in his words a good living in nearby Chelsea and became immersed in the energetic cultural life of the city He had shown a knack for music from a young age but farm life provided little opportunity to develop musical talent Now inspired by the performances of Mariano Perez one of the ...

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Andy Gensler

bandleader, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and teacher, was probably born in Philadelphia to parents whose names are unknown. Early scholarship suggested he was born in Martinique in the West Indies. By 1812 he was known to be a professional musician in Philadelphia. While there is little historical record of Francis “Frank” Johnson's early life, it is known that three key figures helped young Francis hone his prodigious music skills: Matt Black, an African American bandleader from Philadelphia; P. S. Gilmore, “the father of the American band”; and Richard Willis, the director of the West Point military band.

That Johnson played many instruments is clear from a student's observations of his studio, which housed “instruments of all kinds…. Bass drum, bass viol, bugles and trombones” (A Gentleman of Much Promise: The Diary of Isaac Mickle, 1837–1845 196 While Johnson was an accomplished French horn ...

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Paul Devlin

singer, composer, minstrel performer, street musician, and one of the world's first recording stars and the first African American to make any recording, was born in Wheatland, Loudon County, Virginia, though possibly in Fluvanna County, Virginia. It is unclear as to whether he was born free or as a slave. His father, Samuel Johnson, was listed as free soon after George's birth. His mother was known as Druanna, or “Ann Pretty.” While still a small child Johnson was hired as the “bodyservant” for a young white boy his same age, Samuel Moore. Johnson grew up in the prosperous Moore household and was taught to read and write. He is thought to have spent the Civil War working as a laborer for one or both armies.

Johnson moved to New York sometime around 1873 and began performing on ferry boats. In 1890 ...

Article

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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Elliott S. Hurwitt

songwriter, was born Richard C. McPherson in Norfolk, Virginia. Nothing is known of his parents or his early life. He studied at the Norfolk Mission College and at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and set his sights on the study of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. At first music was merely an avocation, but he gradually found his musical interests crowding out his medical ones; he began serious music studies in New York with the eminent Melville Charlton, the organist at some of New York's leading churches and synagogues for several decades. His activities during the years around 1900 were manifold evincing a considerable degree of energy In addition to his musical activities he was an enthusiastic member of the New York Guard rising to the rank of lieutenant He was also later active in the African American entertainment brotherhood known as the Frogs together with the ...

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Sandra Lauderdale Graham

born a slave, it is thought, in the gold and diamond mining captaincy of Minas Gerais, in colonial Brazil, and freed by his Portuguese father, probably at baptism. He became a renowned composer of baroque music and a talented organist and harpsichordist. Although he likely had no formal training in music, he acquired an intimate familiarity with various styles of eighteenth-century European music, to which he then contributed his own innovations and emphases. Lobo de Mesquita first appears as a professional musician in 1773, when he was paid to conduct four religious celebrations sponsored in Vila do Principe (modern-day Serro). In 1777 or early 1778 he left Vila do Principe for Arraial do Tejuco (Diamantina), the heart of diamond mining. Twenty years later he moved to Vila Rica (Ouro Preto), the administrative and cultural center of the captaincy. The years in Vila Rica proved the most productive.

Religious and ...

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Katherine Bonil Gómez

free black, captain comandante of the free colored militias, merchant and man of great political and social influence in Mexico City, was born in the “kingdom of Castile” (present-day Spain) in the late seventeenth century. Little is known of his early life and, in fact, it is unknown whether he was born as a slave or freeman. In either case, he moved to Mexico City at a very young age and lived there as a freeman. As a peculiar feature of Spanish (and Portuguese) America, a population of free people of African descent, categorized mainly as negros (blacks) and mulatos (a Spanish term used to refer to a racially mixed person of both African and European ancestries), appeared soon after the Conquest, and by the seventeenth century became considerably larger than the enslaved population. In New Spain (present-day Mexico) in 1646 the free colored population numbered 116 529 while ...

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Roanne Edwards

A singular figure on the musical landscape of pre-Revolutionary France, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges gained renown as a composer and violinist. Influenced by the French classical tradition, he wrote in a variety of forms: concertos for violin and orchestra, symphonies, string quartets, operas, sonatas for keyboard and violin, and simphonies concertantes, the popular French form of concerto that featured two or more soloists and an orchestra. He was also recognized throughout Europe as one of the outstanding swordsmen of his time, and in 1792 became colonel of his own regiment in France's National Guard. In 1838 he was the subject of a four-volume adventure novel by Roger de Beauvoir.

The Chevalier de Saint-Georges, born Joseph de Boulogne near Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, West Indies was the son of an African slave woman and an aristocratic French plantation owner from whom he inherited his name and title At the ...

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Assumed name of Joseph de Bologne (or Boulogne) (c.1740–1799), international composer and violinist and one of the best fencers in Europe. He was born in Guadeloupe as Joseph, the son of George de Bologne, a wealthy plantation owner. His mother, Nanon, was an African slave. He and his mother were taken to France in 1753. He received a gentleman's education at the fencing school La Boëssière's Royal Academy of Arms. Its focus was on academic study, music, dance, and languages. His fame at fencing was such that he was called le Chevalier de Saint‐Georges.

François‐Joseph Gossec (1734–1829) invited him to be leader of the Concerts des Amateurs orchestra in 1769, and later, its musical director. Between 1772 and 1777 he composed premiered and published violin concertos some of the earliest string quartets in France violin sonatas and symphonies concertantes ...

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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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Pablo Miguel Sierra Silva

alias Juan Blanco or Juan de Carabantes, was an enslaved composer of religious music and a celebrated cantor and harpist for the Puebla de los Ángeles cathedral in colonial Mexico. Information on his place of birth and family origins is unknown. Vera’s career as a singer began at a very early age (certainly no older than 10). In 1575, Puebla’s ecclesiastical council hired his owner, Father Francisco de Céspedes, as chaplain for the San Pedro Hospital. Once he began to sing at the cathedral, Vera impressed Bishop Antonio Ruíz de Morales y Molina with his impeccable voice, and was thus instrumental in securing a considerable salary and a subsequent raise for Céspedes. Fearful of losing the youth’s remarkable talents, in 1576 the city s ecclesiastical council offered Céspedes the staggering sum of 1 400 gold pesos in exchange for the slave cantor Despite the public nature of this ...