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Article

Philip Herbert

Composer, contralto, successful vocal coach, accompanist, and teacher. She was the youngest daughter of the famous African‐American actor Ira Aldridge, and born in Upper Norwood, London. Early on she was educated at a convent school in Belgium. At the age of 17 she was awarded a scholarship to study singing at the Royal College of Music. Her teachers included Jenny Lind and George Henschel for singing, along with Frederick Bridge and Frances Edward Gladstone for harmony and counterpoint.

Aldridge's career was successful and varied, as a contralto until an attack of laryngitis damaged her voice, an accompanist, vocal coach, and later a composer. She accompanied her brother Ira Frederick Aldridge on musical tours until his death in 1886. She also accompanied her sister Luranah in concerts at many well‐known London venues at the turn of the 20th century.

Aldridge also played a seminal ...

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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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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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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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Lois Bellamy

composer, educator, choral conductor, music professor, singer, and author, was born to Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner, former slave, and Sophie Stuart, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner was born in South Carolina and was nine years old when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 Edward Boatner s grandmother was a slave who was determined that her son Daniel would receive a good education She worked very hard scrubbing floors washing cooking and nursing children of wealthy whites to send him to school Dr Boatner attended Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee and graduated from New Orleans University where he received his bachelor s and master s degrees After earning his doctorate from Gammon Theological Seminary at Atlanta Georgia he served on the faculty of Philander Smith College a Methodist School in Little Rock Arkansas where he taught Hebrew ...

Article

Eric Gardner

musician, educator, and activist, was born to free parents in Drummondtown, Accomack County, Virginia. His father died when Carter was about eight, and his mother, whose maiden name was probably Drummond, cared for Dennis. When one of his cousins, Henry Drummond, was bound out to an area slaveholder named Thomas R. Joynes because of his status as an orphan, Carter's mother began to fear that her son would also be enslaved should something happen to her. Determined that her son stay free, she moved with him to Philadelphia in about 1825. There Carter's musical talents flowered, in part under the tutelage of the famous black Philadelphia bandleader Francis Johnson.

Carter toured with Johnson's band sporadically during the 1830s, 1840s, and early 1850s, reportedly joining Johnson's 1837 trip to Great Britain and an 1851 trip to Sulphur Springs Virginia In addition to working as a musician Carter ...

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

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 ...

Article

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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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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz clarinetist and tenor-saxophonist, was born in Dillon, South Carolina, and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His cousin was saxophonist Bootsie Barnes.

A talented musician from a young age, Hamilton played baritone horn, piano, trumpet, and trombone starting when he was just seven. A professional as a teenager, he played trumpet and trombone with Frankie Fairfax's band, sitting in a trumpet section next to Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Shavers. He also gained experience working in a group led by Lonnie Slappy.

By the late 1930s, Hamilton had settled on clarinet and tenor. He worked with the big bands of Lucky Millinder and Jimmy Mundy, and gained some recognition for his playing with pianist Teddy Wilson's sextet during 1940–1942. Hamilton was most influenced during his early years by Benny Goodman. He also worked with Benny Carter Eddie Heywood and Yank Porter and had chances to ...

Article

James Fargo Balliett

jazz saxophonist, composer-arranger, and teacher, was born James Edward Heath, one of four children, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Percy Heath Sr., an auto mechanic and amateur clarinetist, and Arlethia, a hairdresser who sang in the church choir. His brothers Percy and Albert (Tootie Heath) also went on to become noted jazz musicians. His parents bought their first home in 1945 on the south side of Philadelphia, and it became a place for musicians to gather, make music, and have meals.

Heath was sent to Wilmington North Carolina to attend school when he was fourteen This was where his grandparents lived and owned a local food market It was during this time that he began to pursue music playing an alto sax his father sent him as a Christmas present Just five feet three inches tall Heath was considered too small to play ...

Article

Gayle Murchison

musician, singer, and educator, was born Ravella Eudosia Hughes in Huntington, West Virginia, the daughter of George W. Hughes, a postman, and Annie B. (maiden name unknown), a piano teacher and seamstress. At age five Hughes began studying piano with her mother and, at eight or nine, violin with a musician friend of her father's. She attended Huntington's segregated public schools. Disturbed when she was racially harassed, her parents sent her to Hartshorn Memorial College (later part of Virginia Union University) in Richmond, which she attended from 1909 to 1911, graduating with a degree in music and elementary studies. She attended Oberlin High and Conservatory, graduating in 1915. In 1917 she earned a bachelor of music in Piano from Howard's Conservatory of Music, where she studied piano with LeRoy Tibbs and voice with the conservatory director Lulu Vere Childers Hughes then taught violin ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues artist, was born Nehemiah James in Yazoo County, outside Bentonia, Mississippi, the son of Eddie James and Phyllis Jones. His father, reputed to be a musician and a bootlegger, moved north to Sidon, near Greenwood, to evade the law, leaving Skip with his mother on the Woodbine plantation, where she worked as a cook. After an attempt to reunite the family in Sidon failed, Skip and his mother returned to Bentonia, where he attended St. Paul School and Yazoo High School. At the age of eight or nine, inspired by local musicians—particularly the guitarist Henry Stuckey—Skip persuaded his mother to buy him a guitar. At the age of twelve he took one piano lesson from a cousin. Unable to pay for more lessons, he continued learning on an organ owned by an aunt.

After dropping out of high school at about age fifteen James went to ...

Article

David Michel

gospel pianist and arranger, was born Gwendolyn Rosetta Capps in Brookport, Illinois, the daughter of Mase and Florence Capps. Gwendolyn was the fourth of six children. At an early age she manifested some musical disposition by pretending to play piano on her father's razor stand and her mother's sewing machine. Her father died in 1934 and Gwendolyn was raised by her mother. To help the promising Gwendolyn pursue a musical education, a local family donated a piano to her mother. After high school she studied classical music and piano at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and at the Lyon & Healy Academy of Music in Chicago.

In the early 1940s she settled in Chicago, where she was introduced to gospel music while attending a service at a Shiloh Baptist Church. Chicago was then the emerging national center of black gospel music with a galaxy of stars including Thomas ...

Article

Leonard L. Brown

musician and school founder, was born in Braidwood, Illinois. His parents' names are unknown. He spent his childhood in Springfield, Illinois, where his family moved when he was a young child. Matthews early expressed an interest in music, and historical accounts credit his mother as his first piano teacher, although he later took lessons from local teachers. A trip to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 exposed Matthews to the major African American performers of ragtime, the dominant popular music then. Upon returning to Springfield, Matthews learned ragtime from local performers.

Sometime in 1907 or 1908 Matthews settled in St Louis where he remained for the next seven or eight years with some excursions to Chicago While in St Louis he studied theory arranging composition and organ at the Keeton School of Music He developed into an excellent pianist composer and arranger and his reputation led to his being ...