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Margot Lieth-Philipp

(b St Thomas, VI, Nov 4, 1889; d St Thomas, VI, Nov 24, 1987). American bandmaster, composer and educator. He taught himself to play the flute and piccolo, took correspondence courses from several universities, and received the BMus degree from the University Extension Conservatory of Music, Chicago. In 1910 he formed Adams’ Juvenile Band, which was incorporated into the US Navy when it assumed the administrative duties of the US Virgin Islands in 1917. He was editor of the band department of Jacobs’ Band Monthly (1913–17), the Virgin Islands correspondent for the Associated Press, and the author of articles for various music journals, newspapers and magazines. From 1918 to 1931 he supervised the music programme in the Virgin Islands public schools, modelling it after similar programmes on the mainland. After retiring from the navy in 1947 he produced musical ...

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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 ...

Article

Leticia Franqui-Rosario

was born Wilfred Robert Adams, in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), the son of Robert Adams, a boat builder. He was educated in Georgetown at St. Stephen’s Scots School, and St. Joseph’s Intermediate. He studied engineering drafting, but then trained as a teacher at the leading British West Indian teachers’ training college, Mico College in Jamaica. After his marriage broke down, he left for England, arriving there in September 1930. Failing to study law because of a lack of the necessary qualifications, he did a number of menial jobs and even became a professional wrestler with the name “The Black Eagle” (there is a 1934 painting by William Roberts of one of his bouts).

Acting then took over. His stage debut, with Paul Robeson in Stevedore, received favorable reviews. A year later he played Jean-Jacques Dessalines to Robeson’s Toussaint Louverture in C. L. R. James’s Toussaint Louverture ...

Article

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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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 ...

Article

Christine Matzke

Eritrean comedian, theater artist, musician, and sports teacher, was born on 1 February 1925 during the Italian colonial period in Eritrea in Abba Shawl, the poor segregated Eritrean quarters of the capital Asmara. His father was Kahsay Woldegebr, and his mother, Ghebriela Fitwi.

At the age of ten he attended an Orthodox Church school and then received four years of Italian schooling, the maximum period of formal education for Eritreans under Italian rule. Thereafter Alemayo worked as a messenger for an Italian lawyer and, at the age of seventeen, found employment as a stagehand in Cinema Asmara, then Teatro Asmara, an imposing Italian theater and center for Italian social and cultural life. Here Alemayo was exposed to European variety shows, operas, and cinema that fascinated him greatly, particularly the genre of comedy, such as the works of Charlie Chaplin and the Neapolitan comedian Totò.

Italian colonization was characterized by strict ...

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Maxwell Akansina Aziabah

Ghanaian musicologist, teacher, and preacher, was born on 13 September 1899 in Peki Avetile in the Volta region of Ghana. He was one of the six children of Stephen Amuyao (popularly known as Papa Stefano in his community) and Sarah Akoram Amma. He was named Koku (Kwaku in Akan) because he was born on a Wednesday. Amu was baptized Ephraim by the Reverend Father Rudolf Mallet of the Bremen Mission, now the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, in Peki.

His father was a farmer and woodcarver, who made musical instruments, among other artifacts. Native music, drumming, and dancing were thus an integral part of Amu’s daily life in his formative years and would greatly influence his future career. He began his basic education in the Bremen Mission School in 1906 at the age of six Initially reluctant to attend he was placed under the care of an older schoolgirl so he ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Guthrie P. Ramsey

(b Coatesville, PA, Aug 17, 1928). American composer. Born into a musical family, he began piano study with his mother at the age of five and formed his first touring jazz ensemble at the age of 13. He studied at West Virginia State College (BMus 1950), Pennsylvania State University (MMusEd, 1951), the Cincinnati Conservatory (summer 1954) and the University of Iowa (PhD 1958). His teachers included Edward Lewis, Ted Phillips, P. Ahmed Williams, George Ceiga, T. Scott Huston, Phillip Bezanson and Richard B. Hervig, among others. He also attended the Aspen Music School (summer 1964), where he studied with Milhaud. His teaching appointments include positions in the North Carolina public schools and at West Virginia State College (1955–6), Langston University (1958–63) and Tennessee State University, Nashville (1963–9). From 1969 to 1971 he served as ...

Article

Stefanie K. Dunning

Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1928. Because her brother Bailey could not say her whole name as a child, Marguerite became Maya. Angelou's life is synonymous with her work; she has published a series of five autobiographies, her most famous being I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970). In each of these five works, Angelou writes about particular and important parts of her life. Yet not only does each book elucidate periods in Angelou's own life, but these books also paint a picture of the time she is writing about within the black community. Angelou's work demonstrates that the personal is political and that the events that shape and inform an individual life are often related to large political movements and events that affect an entire community.

Long before the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ...

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Lisa Clayton Robinson

The wit, wisdom, and power of Angelou's work have made her one of the most beloved contemporary American writers. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Later she chose a new name for herself by combining her childhood nickname, Maya, with a version of her first husband's last name. Her family moved to California soon after her birth, but her parents divorced when she was three, and she was sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to be raised by her paternal grandmother. When Angelou was seven, her mother's boyfriend raped her. The trauma of this made Angelou unable to speak for five years. During this period she began to read widely.

Angelou returned to California during high school and took drama and dance lessons. As a teenager, she became San Francisco's first female streetcar conductor. She gave birth at age sixteen to her only child, Guy Johnson To ...

Article

Françoise Lionnet

A prolific author, with a successful career as a singer, actress, and dancer, Maya Angelou became one of America's most famous poets when she stood before the nation to deliver her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton's inauguration on 20 January 1993. At sixty-four years old, she was the first black woman to be asked to compose such a piece, and the second poet to be so recognized after the pairing of Robert Frost and John F. Kennedy in 1961. Born Marguerite Johnson in St Louis but raised in Arkansas Angelou was a natural choice for the forty second president and fellow Arkansan The poem reflects a theme that is common to all of Angelou s published works namely that human beings are more alike than different and that a message of hope and inclusion is a most inspiring dream and ideal ...

Article

Tasha M. Hawthorne

Angelou’s creative talent and genius cut across many arenas. One of the most celebrated authors in the United States, Angelou writes with an honesty and grace that captures the specificity of growing up a young black girl in the rural South.

Born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, to Bailey, a doorman and naval dietician, and Vivian, a registered nurse, professional gambler, and rooming house and bar owner, Angelou spent her early years in Long Beach, California. When she was three, her parents divorced, and she and her four-year-old brother, Bailey Jr., were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their maternal grandmother, Annie Henderson. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou recalls in vivid detail this lonely and disconcerting journey to Stamps.

Under the watchful and loving gaze of her grandmother Angelou lived a life defined by staunch Christian values and her grandmother s ...

Article

Sholomo B. Levy

writer, poet, and performer, was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri, the second of two children of Bailey Johnson, a doorman and a naval dietician, and Vivian Baxter Johnson, a card dealer who later became a registered nurse. Her parents called her “Rita,” but her brother, Bailey, who was only a year older, called her “My Sister,” which was eventually contracted to “Maya.” When Maya was three years old, she and Bailey were sent to Stamps, Arkansas, to live with their paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson, whom Maya often referred to as “Mother.”Mrs. Henderson was a strong independent black woman who owned a country store in which Maya lived and worked Maya was a bright student and an avid reader she absorbed the contradictory messages of love emanating from the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and of hatred revealed in the pervasive mistreatment of ...

Article

Suzi Takahashi

actor, director, educator, and artist advocate, was born Osceola Marie Macarthy in Albany, Georgia, of black, white, and Native American racial heritage. The daughter of a life insurance executive, Archer attended Fisk University Preparatory School in Nashville, Tennessee. She then enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1909, where she was a pupil of Alain Locke and the sociologist Kelly Miller. Self‐defined as a suffragette, in 1913, her senior year at Howard, Archer and twenty‐one fellow female students cofounded one of the largest black fraternal organizations in the United States, Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority dedicated to community service and the mutual support of African American women. That same year Archer began to pursue her interest in drama by performing the title role in the Howard University Dramatics Club production of The Lady of Lyon a Victorian romantic comedy known as a showcase for actors ...

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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 ...

Article

Cynthia Tse Kimberlin

Ethiopian ethnomusicologist, composer, scholar, and teacher, was born in Addis Ababa. His paternal grandfather was Liqe Mekuwas Adinew Goshu, a renowned hero of the Battle of Adwa and a close confidant of Empress Taitu. His great grandfather, Dejazmach Goshu, served as a mentor and teacher to Emperor Tewodros. The most creative and artistic individual in his family was his mother, Fantaye Nekere, who composed verse and poetry. She taught Ashenafi about Ethiopian artistic forms, which he later drew upon for his work.

Ashenafi first showed an interest in music while attending Haile Selassie I Elementary School. After attending the Harar Teachers’ Training School, he taught music at Haile Sellassie I University and the Addis Ababa YMCA before obtaining his BA in Music (1962 from the University of Rochester s Eastman School of Music in the United States He returned to Addis Ababa to serve as the first official ...

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Sharina Maillo-Pozo

Báez was born in 1960 in La Romana, Dominican Republic, the youngest of ten children of working-class parents Luis Báez and Luz Maria Pérez. She arrived in the United States in 1972 at the age of 12. After attending elementary school in La Romana and high school in New York City, she pursued an independent path to learning her crafts, beginning with theater and dance. Since 1980, she has traveled to Russia and India to research theater biomechanics, a method of actor training developed by director and producer Vsevolod Meyerhold in the first half of the twentieth century, and classical Kathak and Kuchipudi dances, respectively.

Báez s career as both writer and actor is deeply influenced by her native Dominican culture and its expressions in the diaspora The elaborate Catholic Holy Week rituals and processions in the streets of La Romana were the first sources of inspiration for her ...

Article

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 ...