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Dominique Achille

was born to Marguerite Raymonne Ferdinand and Philéas Gustave Louis Achille on 31 August 1909 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, then a French colony. His father was the first man of color who passed “agrégation” (the highest teaching diploma in France) in the English language in 1905. Achille’s family history can be traced back to slaves who were freed in 1794. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Martinique, in an upper-middle-class family.

In 1926 he began studying English at Louis-le-Grand High School and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where Georges Pompidou and Léopold Sedar Senghor were among his peers. In the 1930s he contributed to La Revue du Monde Noir The Review of the Black World issued in Paris by his cousins Paulette and Jane Nardal This publication addressed cultural links between colored writers poets and thinkers through the world because at that time no specific review ...

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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 ...

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Wallace McClain Cheatham

opera singer and college professor, was born in New York, the second child of Demetrio Arroyo, a mechanical engineer who moved to the United States from Puerto Rico at eleven years of age, and Lucille Washington Arroyo, a Charleston, South Carolina native. Her father studied engineering at the University of Florida and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. With the exception of piano lessons from her mother and occasional singing at church, Arroyo received very little musical training during her childhood. Her family, however, ensured that films, concerts, plays, and other performances were a part of her upbringing.

After completing junior high school, Arroyo attended the Hunter College–operated special high school for gifted children. Her interest in opera, which took root during those years, developed from her experience with the Hunter College Opera Workshop. Upon listening to her performance of the “Jewel Song,” a piece from Gounod'sFaust ...

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Heidi Carolyn Feldman

nicknamed “Champita,” was a violinist, dancer, and singer widely recognized as a leading culture bearer and patriarch of Afro-Peruvian traditions. He was born on 26 November 1933 to Basilio Ballumbrosio (“Don Bacho”) and Isabel Mosquera in the rural Peruvian district of El Carmen, south of Lima on the Peruvian coast. After the abolition of slavery in 1854, El Carmen and surrounding districts in the province of Chincha housed settlements of former black slaves who had worked at nearby plantations, and the region became an enclave of Peru’s relatively small rural black population. One of eleven siblings of mixed African and indigenous descent, Ballumbrosio worked to help his family as a child, gathering firewood for cooking, feeding animals, and watering and picking cotton in the fields. When he grew older, he found employment in housing construction.

At the age of 4 Ballumbrosio nearly drowned in an irrigation ditch but his ...

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Luca Prono

lyric coloratura soprano, was the youngest of seven children born in Portsmouth, Ohio, to Grady Battle, a steelworker from Alabama who belonged to a gospel quartet, and Ollie Layne Battle. Together with her six older siblings, Kathleen Deanna Battle experienced the gospel music of her African Methodist Episcopal Church from a very early age. Battle studied at Portsmouth High School with Charles Varney and began piano lessons at the age of twelve.

She considered using her National Achievement Scholarship, which she was awarded in 1966, to study mathematics at the University of Cincinnati, but she graduated instead from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music with a degree in music education in 1970 The following year Battle received a master s degree from the same institution After graduation Battle worked as a music teacher for fifth and sixth graders in a Cincinnati inner city school for two ...

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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 ...

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William S. Walker

tenor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John Bowers, a prominent member of Philadelphia's black elite and vestryman at St. Thomas's African Episcopal Church, and Henrietta Bowers (c. 1795–1868). Widowed in October 1844, his mother was a member of St. Thomas's congregation for more than fifty years. The 1860 federal census listed her occupation as cook. Bowers learned to play pianoforte and organ from his elder brother, John C. Bowers, and at the age of eighteen became organist at St. Thomas's. Although his parents encouraged their children's musical abilities at home and in church, they looked unfavorably on public performances of music. As a consequence, Bowers declined an offer to join the popular Philadelphia band led by Francis Johnson.

Despite his parents' objections, however, in 1854 Bowers made his first public performance as a vocalist at Sansom Street Hall in Philadelphia He ...

Article

Blackviolinist who performed extensively in Britain. Bridgetower was born in Biała, Poland, the son of John Frederick Bridgetower, who might have come from the Caribbean, and his wife, Marie Ann, a Polish woman who died when their son was young. Bridgetower was said to have been a child prodigy, having made his debut as a soloist in April 1789 in Paris. The environment in which he was brought up was a significant factor in the development of his talent. His father was employed by Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, and John and his son lived at the back of the opera house with the court's musicians. Haydn was also an employee of the Prince, and it is possible that the young Bridgetower studied under him. A few years later, in England, Bridgetower would play the violin in Haydn's symphonies at concerts commissioned by Johann Peter Solomon where ...

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Baron Kelly

concert opera singer and teacher, was the oldest of four girls born to Dr. Harry F. Brown and Mamie Wiggins in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother was her first music teacher, and mother and daughters would frequently sing around the piano. Anne grew up listening to the recordings of Caruso, Melba, and Schumann-Heink. Toward the end of World War I, when Anne was six years old, she made her concert debut with her younger sister Henrietta singing for returning African American soldiers at Camp Meade in Baltimore. At age twelve Anne began attending Frederick Douglass Senior High School, then the city's only public high school open to blacks. During her high school years, she attended a wider range of concerts including performances by Marian Anderson and Roland Hayes at Baltimore s Lyric Theatre After graduation from high school Anne hoped to continue her education at the Peabody Conservatory Her audition ...

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Sunny Nash

Grammy Award–winning guitarist, composer, and jazz educator, was born Kenneth Earl Burrell in Detroit, Michigan, during the Depression to parents about whom little information is available. It is known that he was the youngest of three sons, and that his family enjoyed music as part of their daily lives. His mother played piano and sang in the choir at Second Baptist Church, Detroit's oldest black congregation. Burrell's father played banjo and ukulele, which may account for Burrell's and his brother's mastery of stringed instruments.

Because there was a piano in the home, it became the first instrument Burrell played as a child. He performed once before an audience in a school auditorium. Listening to saxophonists like Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins saxophone was his first love but his family could not afford to buy him one Burrell began playing guitar and at age 12 settled for the inexpensive instrument ...

Article

Scott Yanow

blues and jazz singer and pianist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Butler, who was born blind due to glaucoma, started playing piano when he was six and sang in the choir of the Louisiana State School for the Blind when he was seven. While at the school, he studied classical piano and, starting in eleventh grade, voice training that included opera. He also studied drums, baritone horn, and valve trombone although he did not pursue a career on those instruments.

Butler began playing piano professionally when he was fourteen in Baton Rouge area clubs. While attending the Southern University in Baton Rouge in the late 1960s, he studied with Alvin Batiste, who guided him toward the recordings of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane along with Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and Caribbean music. He also had private lessons with Professor Longhair Harold Mabern and Roland Hanna and received a grant ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz pianist and saxophonist, was born John Arthur Byard Jr. in Worcester, Massachusetts. His mother played piano for the African Methodist Episcopalian Zion Church, and his father had performed on trombone and baritone horn years earlier in a marching band. One of his grandmothers played piano and accompanied silent movies at movie theaters in the 1920s. Byard started with piano lessons when he was eight in 1930. He performed in public with the Worcester Boys Club as a youth and worked in local bands in Massachusetts during 1938–1941 until he was drafted into the army.

Byard performed in army bands during 1941–1946. After his discharge, he continued working locally in Boston during 1946–1949. His first major musical job was with Earl Bostic during 1949–1950. Byard next worked with Jerry Tyler's band during 1950–1952 and made his recording debut in 1951 with altoist Charlie Mariano ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter, was born Donaldson Touissant L’Ouverture Byrd II in Detroit, Michigan. His father was both a minister for the Methodist Church and a musician. Byrd studied at Cass Technical High School and, while still a teenager, performed with Lionel Hampton. During 1951–1953 he was in the U.S. Air Force, where he had the opportunity to play with military bands. After his discharge, he finished earning a degree in Music from Wayne Street University in 1954. Byrd moved to New York in mid-1955, where he earned a master's degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music.

Very busy as a trumpeter as soon as he arrived in New York, Byrd worked with pianist George Wallington, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (during part of 1956) and drummer Max Roach. He also co-led the Jazz Lab with altoist Gigi Gryce.

At that time ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz and klezmer clarinetist, was born in New York City. His father was a mailman who also played bass in a calypso band, while his mother was a pianist. When he developed asthma as a child, Byron was advised to play a wind instrument as therapy. Despite its being long out of fashion, he chose the clarinet. He was encouraged by his parents to learn about many different kinds of music, and he followed that advice throughout his career. He considered his early inspirations to be clarinetists Jimmy Hamilton (from Duke Ellington's orchestra), Tony Scott, and Artie Shaw, but by the time he began his career, he mostly sounded like himself.

Byron studied classical clarinet in high school. While attending the New England Conservatory, he studied with arranger George Russell in the Third Stream Department and for a time was a member of Gunther Schuller ...

Article

Kip Lornell

gospel composer and teacher, was born in Duck Hill, Mississippi, the daughter of Burrell Campbell, a railroad worker, and Isabella Wilkerson. Lucy's mother was widowed several months after Lucy's birth, and the family soon moved from Carroll County to Memphis, Tennessee, the nearest major city. Lucie and her many siblings struggled to survive on their mother's meager wages, which she earned by washing and ironing clothing. Given the family's insubstantial income, it could afford a musical education for only one child, Campbell's older sister Lora. Lucie eventually learned to play piano, however, through her own persistence, a gifted ear for music, and a little help from Lora.

Lucie Campbell was a bright student who easily mastered elementary school and middle school, winning awards in both penmanship and Latin. Even before graduating from Kortrecht Senior High School (later Booker T. Washington High School as the class valedictorian she ...

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Kip Lornell

Campbell, Lucie E. (1885–03 January 1963), gospel composer and teacher, was born in Duck Hill, Mississippi, the daughter of Burrell Campbell, a railroad worker, and Isabella Wilkerson. Her mother was widowed several months after Lucie’s birth, and the family soon moved from Carroll County to Memphis, the nearest major city. Lucie and her many siblings struggled to survive on their mother’s meager wages, which she earned by washing and ironing clothing. Given the family’s insubstantial income, it could afford a musical education for only one child: Lucie’s older sister Lora. Lucie eventually learned to play piano, however, through her own persistence, a gifted ear for music, and a little help from Lora.

Lucie Campbell was a bright student who easily mastered elementary school and middle school winning awards in both penmanship and Latin Even before graduating from Kortrecht Senior High School later Booker T Washington as the ...

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 ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz clarinetist and educator, was born in Fort Worth, Texas. Carter studied clarinet and alto saxophone as a youth. He earned a bachelor's degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1949 and a masters in music education from the University of Colorado in 1956.

Carter spent thirty-three years earning his living as a school teacher. He taught in Fort Worth's public schools from 1949 to 1961 and in the Los Angeles school system from 1961 to 1982. Having this important day job gave him the freedom to play whatever music he desired without having to earn a living from performing. Carter never compromised his music yet sought to educate audiences about what he was playing.

While originally inspired on the clarinet and alto saxophone by Charlie Parker and Lester Young, Carter made the acquaintance of alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman in the late 1940s ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz violinist, was born in Detroit, Michigan. Her father, Dan Carter, worked at the Ford Motor Company; her mother, Grace Williamson Carter, was a kindergarten teacher. Her cousin was the saxophonist James Carter.

Carter began taking piano lessons at age two but switched to violin two years later. She started studying at the Detroit Community Music School at age four. Carter also studied tap dancing and ballet, continued studying piano, and had viola, oboe, and choir lessons. She performed in the youth division of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra as a teenager and took master classes from the violinists Itzhak Perlman and Yehudi Menuhin. She also performed with the Detroit Civic Orchestra and gained experience from playing in a funky pop group called Brainstorm. Carter graduated from the prestigious Cass Technical High School in 1980.

While studying classical violin at the New England Conservatory in Boston Carter made a ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz bassist, arranger, composer, and bandleader, was born in Venice, California. The oldest of seven children (including the altoist Jeff Clayton), he was introduced to music by his mother, who played the organ for their Baptist church in addition to conducting the choirs. John Clayton took piano lessons starting when he was eight years old, switching to bass when he was thirteen. As a teenager he performed at jam sessions and with pickup groups, sometimes playing electric bass with soul and rhythm and blues groups. He also worked with the pianist Eddie Mitchell.

Strongly inspired by the bassist Ray Brown with whom he took an extension course at the University of California at Los Angeles and private lessons Clayton gained some of his earliest musical jobs through Brown who sometimes sent him in as a substitute He worked with the trombonist Murray McEachern for six ...