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Robert Grenier

was born in Cap-Haïtien in 1941 to musical family that encouraged his musical talents. His father, David Desamours, played the piccolo and transverse flute and was a musician in the Musique de Palais band, before becoming its conductor. The senior Desamours was also a choir director. Emulating his father, the young Desamours learned to play the flute by ear. Later, from 1960 to 1965 in Port-au-Prince, the pianist Solon Verret directed his formal musical education at the Conservatoire National de Musique.

Desamours s profession as an engineer has supported a vibrant creative life in music He is recognized as a leading figure in Haiti s musical life for his choral compositions many inspired by his Christian faith for his solo piano compositions and transcriptions and as the director of several choral groups such as Voix et Harmonie Desamours has been classified among the second generation of nationalist composers by the ...


Crystal Renée Sanders

Baptist minister and community leader. Clarence LaVaughn Franklin was born in Sunflower, Mississippi, to Willie Walker and Rachel Pittman Walker, who were sharecroppers. Before 1920, his mother remarried, to Henry Franklin, who subsequently adopted Clarence. Young “C. L.” picked cotton with his parents and three siblings, which prevented him from completing grade school.

In the summer of 1931, Franklin preached his trial sermon at Saint Peter's Rock Missionary Baptist Church. He served as an itinerant minister for several years at churches throughout the Mississippi Delta. On 16 October 1934, Franklin married Alene Gaines, but little is known about the marriage. On 3 June 1936, Franklin married Barbara Vernice Siggers and adopted her young son, Vaughn. To this union were born four children: Erma, Cecil, Aretha, and Carolyn. Aretha became a Grammy Award–winning singer.

Aware of the limited opportunities and ...


James A. Standifer

(b Coffeyville, KS, Jan 20, 1885; d Ann Arbor, MI, Feb 21, 1992). American choral director, composer and arranger. She studied at Western University, Kansas (graduated 1914), and Langston University, Langston, Oklahoma. After teaching in the public schools, she became the director of music at Morgan College, Baltimore, in 1920. In 1926, a year after joining the staff at the Baltimore Afro-American, she moved to New York to study with Will Marion Cook and Percy Goetschius. By 1930 her Original Dixie Jubilee Singers later the Eva Jessye Choir an ensemble that performed spirituals work songs mountain ballads ragtime jazz and light opera were popular on both stage and radio appearing regularly on the Major Bowes Family Radio Hour and the General Motors Hour The first black woman to win international distinction as a choral director she and her ...


Roanne Edwards

A woman of many talents, Eva Jessye pursued a music career that spanned more than half a century and won her a reputation as “the dean of black female musicians.” During the 1930s she gained international attention as director of the Eva Jessye Choir, which toured the United States and Europe, and sang in the first production of George Gershwin's folk opera Porgy and Bess (1935). During the next three decades, she led the choir in numerous revivals of the opera and in 1963 directed the choir for the historic March on Washington led by Martin Luther King

Jessye grew up in Coffeyville, Kansas, where, after the separation of her parents in 1898, her grandmother and her mother's sisters reared her. As a child she began singing, organized a girls' quartet, and, at the age of twelve, helped composer Will Marion Cook copy music for ...


Robbie Clark

In the 1989 book titled I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America, by Brian Lanker, Eva Jessye recollected the difficult experiences she encountered while touring as choral conductor with the Porgy and Bess American Opera: “I wouldn’t let anybody get between me and my music. If I belong to anything, I belong to my music…Any woman of that time would have had the same trouble I had. They never thought a woman could be as devoted to one idea as a man.”

Her artistic talents and dedication to the preservation of African American music set the tone for a remarkable career that would span decades. As a choral director, composer, arranger, writer, poet, actor, and teacher, the multitalented Jessye was a pioneer and a significant figure in American music.

Eva Alberta Jessye was born to Albert and Julia Jessye in Coffeyville, Kansas and ...


Rachel Antell

Dorothy Leigh Maynor (originally Mainor) was born to John J. Mainor, a pastor, and Alice Jeffries Mainor, in Norfolk, Virginia. At age fourteen, Maynor enrolled at Hampton Institute where she studied with the goal of becoming a public school teacher. During her college years, Maynor's focus increasingly shifted toward vocal training and the study of piano and orchestral instruments. After graduating, she decided to pursue a second degree in music from Westminster Choir College in New Jersey and then spent four years in New York continuing her musical studies privately under Wilfried Klamroth and John Alan Houghton.

In 1939 Maynor made her solo singing debut at the Berkshire Musical Festival in Tanglewood Massachusetts for which she received widespread acclaim The performance was soon followed by a New York debut at Town Hall where reviewers called her one of the most remarkable soprano voices of her generation ...


Catherine L. Goode

pianist, composer, arranger, and choirmaster, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the fourth of five children of James Thomas Whaley, a headwaiter, and Emma Foster, a seamstress.

Thomas Whaley was a major participant in the genesis of jazz in Boston and New York. His expertise was widely sought after by his contemporaries throughout his long career. He grew up in Everett, a predominantly white suburb of Boston. His mother told him to have racial pride and to strive for excellence because he was usually the only black child in his classes.

Beginning at seven years old his mother hired a succession of piano teachers for him One was a German pastor who had a church in nearby Malden Thomas used to walk three miles to the church to practice piano and sing soprano in the choir He had the rare ability of being able to sing altissimo ...