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(b Erie, PA, Dec 2, 1866; d Stamford, CT, Sept 12, 1949). American composer and singer. He received his earliest musical instruction from his mother and later had piano lessons. By the age of 16 he was singing in three church choirs near Erie. In 1892 he won a scholarship to the National Conservatory, New York, where he met Victor Herbert and Antonín Dvořák. His performances of African American spirituals strengthened Dvořák’s conviction that America possessed a rich folksong repertory. In 1894 Burleigh became the baritone soloist at St George's Episcopal Church, New York, a position he held for the next 52 years. Six years later, he became a soloist at Temple Emanu-El, where he sang for 25 years. From 1911 he was a music editor at Ricordi.

Burleigh was one of the first important African American composers born after the Civil War His ...


composer and spiritual singer, was born in Erie, Pennsylvania. Little is known about his parentage. When he was a boy, his excellent singing voice made Harry, as he was known, a sought-after performer in churches and synagogues in and around his hometown. In 1892, having decided on a career in music, Burleigh won a scholarship to the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. His matriculation coincided with the arrival of the Czech composer Antonín Dvoǒrák, who taught there for four years. Dvoǒrák, who was intensely interested in indigenous American music, found a valuable resource in the young Burleigh, who sang for him various African American spirituals. From Burleigh, Dvoǒrák first heard “Go Down, Moses,” “Roll, Jordan, Roll,” “Were You There,” “Swing Low,” and “Deep River.” When Dvoǒrák set an arrangement of Stephen Foster's “Old Folks at Home,” he dedicated it to Burleigh.

Buoyed by Dvoǒrák s ...


Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, Harry Burleigh became interested in music from an early age and, although poverty kept him from formal study, he sang at local churches and synagogues. With a scholarship he began studying in 1892 at the National Conservatory of Music in New York, with the conservatory's director Antonín Dvorák. He was selected as the baritone soloist for St. George's Episcopal Church in New York in 1894, a position he held until 1946, and was also the soloist for New York's Temple Emanu-El from 1900 to 1925.

Until Burleigh published his arrangements, Jubilee Songs of the United States of America, in 1916 spirituals had been performed only in choral arrangements By putting the spirituals into the form of art songs they were available to soloists The best known of his arrangements Deep River was said to be the most performed ...


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 ...


Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, the daughter of Corilla Beard and Henry Smith, was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She was raised in Detroit, Michigan, where the family moved after her mother's school was closed due to opposition from the white community. She started taking piano lessons at age three, later studying violin and voice, and played professionally after school.

In 1883 Hackley became the first African American to attend Washington Normal School, taking education classes and supporting herself by teaching music lessons. After her graduation, she taught second grade until 1894 when she eloped with journalist Edwin Henry. They moved to Denver, where Hackley organized a branch of the Colored Women's League and earned a music degree from the University of Denver (1900). In 1901 she separated from her husband and left Denver.

Hackley settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and served as a church musical ...