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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 ...

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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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Barbara Garvey Jackson

composer, pianist, and teacher, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Dr. Monroe Alpheus Majors, a pioneering black physician, medical researcher, and author, and Estelle C. Bonds, a music teacher and organist. Although legally born Majors, she used her mother's maiden name (Bonds) in her youth and throughout her professional life. She grew up in intellectually stimulating surroundings; her mother held Sunday afternoon salons at which young black Chicago musicians, writers, and artists gathered and where visiting musicians and artists were always welcomed.Bonds first displayed musical talent in her piano composition “Marquette Street Blues,” written at the age of five. She then began studying piano with local teachers, and by the time she was in high school she was taking lessons in piano and composition with Florence B. Price and William Levi Dawson two of the first black American symphonic composers both of whom were ...

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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 ...

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Eunice Angelica Whitmal

playwright, writer, and music teacher, was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Precise information about Duncan's parents is unknown, but she was raised in St. Louis by Samuel L. Duncan, a laborer, and Addie Duncan, a homemaker. Duncan's intellect was recognized by Samuel and he made plans to send her to college. On 1 October 1920 Duncan began her studies in music at Howard University, where she studied under the respected theater professor Montgomery Gregory and became a member of the Howard University Players.

Duncan and her peers wrote prolifically under the tutelage of Gregory and produced several plays about the experiences of Africans and African Americans. Like many other African American female artists of this period Duncan used her work to explore issues of race, identity, gender, education, and class. In her one-act play Sacrifice the moral drama centered on the struggles and pressures ...

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Janelle F. H. Winston

choral director, composer, arranger, actor, singer, and educator, was born Jester Joseph Hairston in Belews Creek North Carolina the only son and first of two children born to his parents names unknown He was the grandson of former slaves When Hairston was a year old the family moved to Kunersville Pennsylvania where his father obtained work in the steel mills His sister was born about six months later and when she was three days old their father died of pneumonia As a child Hairston is said to have loved music Although he was a small framed boy he played basketball and football in high school and college His church presented him with a scholarship to attend Massachusetts Agriculture College now known as The University of Massachusetts in Amherst Massachusetts where his educational aspirations were to study landscaping design After his scholarship ran out ...

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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 ...

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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

Mark Clague

concert pianist, educator, and champion of black classical composers, was born Natalie Leota Henderson in Oberlin, Ohio, the daughter of Abram L. Henderson, a touring jazz pianist, and Leota Palmer, a classical pianist who later taught at Fisk University, the Cleveland Institute of Music, and Philadelphia's Settlement Music School. Hinderas's great-grandfather was also a musician—a teacher and bandmaster in Due West, South Carolina, and her ethnic heritage included African, Native American, Italian, and possibly even Spanish origins. Hinderas first appeared on stage as a singer and dancer when she was three years old. At age six she began formal lessons on both piano and violin. Two years later, in Cleveland, she offered her first full-length recital and that same year was accepted as a special student at the music conservatory of Oberlin College, where both her parents had studied.

In 1939 at age twelve ...

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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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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 ...

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Marva Griffin Carter

concert pianist, arts administrator, and musicologist, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, into a family of distinguished educators, musicians, and writers. Her maternal grandfather, William Jefferson White, was the founder of historic Morehouse College. Her poet mother, Claudia Turner (White) Harreld, was one of the first graduates of Spelman College in 1901, where she also taught. Her father, Kemper Harreld, was a renowned violinist. He served for forty-five years as the first director of music of the glee club and of the orchestra at Morehouse College, and for nearly thirty years directed Spelman College's music program. He began teaching his daughter violin when she was three, and he later introduced her to the piano.

Josephine Harreld s concert career as a pianist began when she was twelve and continued intermittently for the next thirty seven years She received an impressive education taking a BA ...

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Wallace McClain Cheatham

college professor, musicologist, pianist, and writer, was born Doris Valean Evans in Washington, D.C., the second daughter of Vallean Richardson Evans and Charlie Evans. Her mother worked for the federal government, and her father was a tailor. McGinty, encouraged by her pianist mother to pursue music, began the study of piano at age seven. At age twelve she gave her first public recital. She continued the study of piano with Andres Wheatley in the Junior Preparatory Department at Howard University and played for Sunday school at the District's Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Among her treasured mementoes were the dress and shoes she wore to the historic 1939Marian Anderson command performance at Washington's Lincoln Memorial.

Two baccalaureate degrees, in music education and German, were completed at Howard University in 1945 and 1946 respectively McGinty then went to Radcliffe College in Cambridge Massachusetts ...

Article

Barbara A. Seals Nevergold

minister, musician, and photographer, was born in Bayou Rapides, Louisiana, to Irene Lair and Giuseppe “Joe” Nasello. Nasello, who immigrated to the United States from his native Sicily in 1901, owned a dry goods store in Alexandria, Louisiana, that Willie remembered visiting with his mother from time to time. However, Joe Nasello had another family, and given the mores of the time, “Papa” Joe never acknowledged the two children he fathered with Irene. (A daughter, Alice, was born in 1912.) Although Joe Nasello lived until 1958, it appears that father and son never met face to face nor openly acknowledged their relationship. Seals talked freely yet sparingly of his paternity, and he jokingly noted to his children that he was an “Italian.”

According to Willie, “Seals” was a made-up name that he took from Lucille Ceil a favorite grade school teacher ...

Article

William Thomson

banjo, guitar, and saxophone player, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents' names are unknown and his exact birth date varies depending on the source. In 1915 he began his career in his hometown playing a New Orleans–derived jazz with Eubie Blake and later with the pianist Gertie Wells, to whom he was married for several years during the early 1920s. By 1921 he had moved to nearby Washington, D.C., where he jobbed with Louis Thomas and Claude Hopkins and his own eight-piece group, which played alternately with Duke Ellington's trio. Snowden also appears to have played banjo with Ellington's group earlier, from 1919 to 1920, but this is not reported conclusively. Snowden's Washington band included Sonny Greer on drums, Arthur Whetsol on trumpet, and Otto Hardwick on sax. The three would later be long-term members of the Ellington orchestra.

Bolstered by the ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz pianist, educator, and spokesman, was born in Greenville, North Carolina. His father, a choir director, sang and played piano and brass instruments. Taylor moved with his family to Washington, D.C., when he was five. While Taylor had brief stints on drums, guitar, and saxophone, he was most attracted to the piano. He had classical piano lessons with Henry Grant, who had given Duke Ellington lessons twenty years earlier. Taylor had his first musical job when he was thirteen. Decades later he recalled seeing Jelly Roll Morton perform in Washington, D.C., in 1938. Taylor earned a bachelor's degree in music from Virginia State College in 1942.

Moving to New York in 1944, Taylor played on 52nd Street with the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster. The same night he debuted with Webster, he met his mentor, Art Tatum He was a member of separate ...

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Daniel Donaghy

composer, pianist, and college professor, was born in Washington, D.C., to West Indian–American parents. His father immigrated to Philadelphia and studied at Temple University Medical School before beginning a career as a physician. His mother, Rosa King, gave him his first piano lessons when he was five. A child prodigy, Walker graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., at the age of fourteen, the same year he offered his first public recital. In 1937 he accepted a scholarship to Oberlin College, where he studied piano under David Moyer and organ under Arthur Poister. He quickly impressed his professors and became the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology's organist in 1939. He graduated in 1941 at the age of eighteen with the highest honors in his class and aspired to a career as a concert pianist He attended graduate school in Philadelphia at the ...

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Otis D. Alexander

concert organist, music theorist, and music educator, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and was the second child and first son of seven children. Ward's mother, Effie Elizabeth Crawford Ward, a 1917 graduate of Spelman College in the dressmaking department, was an instructor of sewing at the Evening School, Atlanta Board of Education. His father, Jefferson Sigman Ward, a graduate of the Haynes Institute, Augusta, Georgia, was a World War I veteran and a businessman. Both parents had Native American and black ancestry (his mother had Cherokee and black, his father Choctaw and black). They were active in community, cultural, social, religious, and political organizations.

In the Ward family home was a player piano, and music was a part of family life. Displaying musical abilities, the young Edouard Ward was able to memorize tunes at age two The family s religious activities brought ...

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Wallace McClain Cheatham

vocal recitalist, concert artist, and university professor, was born in West Helena, Arkansas, the eldest of five sons of Robert Warfield, a minister, and Bertha McCamery Warfield. Because employment and educational opportunities in West Helena were limited, the Reverend Warfield moved his family to Rochester, New York.

Warfield became interested in performing and teaching when he was a high school senior. With the pianist at his church Warfield began piano lessons at age nine. He also sang in school choral groups. When he was a senior in high school, the 1937–1938 school year, he entered and won the regional auditions of the National Music Educators League Competition. He was the only African American competitor. Winning at the district level entitled him to enter the national finals, held that year in St. Louis. He was then working with Elsa Miller his first voice teacher He ...