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Janelle F. H. Winston

choral director, was born Anton Eugene Armstrong in New York City, the third son of William B. Armstrong, a tailor, and Esther Holder, a nurse. Esther embraced music and passed that love on to her son. She sang in the church choir and encouraged him to do the same. His maternal uncle, Herbert, played the saxophone, organ, and piano and urged his nephew to play an instrument.

Armstrong s musical development was nurtured and encouraged As his penchant toward music became more apparent his mom engaged his first piano teacher She taught him meticulously crafting the development of his musical discipline During the middle school years Armstrong s musical journey led him to the prestigious American Boychoir School in Princeton New Jersey there he laid the foundation for his craft He was taught the fundamentals of choral singing by being immersed in the genre and he ...

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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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Alexander J. Chenault

was born in Washington, DC, and raised by her adopted mother Beullah Hanson Caldwell, in Baltimore, Maryland. Caldwell had a solidly middle class upbringing. Her father was a carpenter and her mother was an elementary school teacher, who later retired as a principal. Caldwell began piano lessons at the age of four with one of only two African American piano teachers in Baltimore. By the age of seven, Caldwell had given her first piano recital at Morgan State University. She attended the Hamilton Elementary School and Pimlico Middle School—which were both segregated. However, Hansonia attended the racially integrated, all‐girls, Eastern High School where she served as accompanist for the school’s choir. Caldwell graduated from high school in February of 1962.

She then attended Boston University’s School of Performing Arts, and was initiated into the Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in1963 and received her B Mus ...

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Doris Evans McGinty

Lulu Vere Childers was born in Dryridge, Kentucky, the daughter of former slaves Alexander Childers and Eliza Butler. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and in 1896 was awarded a diploma that was replaced by a bachelor's degree in 1906 when the conservatory began granting degrees. The Oberlin Conservatory chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national honor society, elected her a member in 1927. She studied voice further with Sydney Lloyd Wrightson at the Washington Conservatory of Music, with William Shakespeare, and with Oscar Devries at Chicago Musical College.

As a singer Childers enjoyed modest distinction. During her college years and shortly afterward, she performed in the Midwest with the Eckstein-Norton Music Company, a quartet of singers and their accompanist teamed with concert pianist Harriet A. Gibbs The group contributed their earnings to the development of a music conservatory at Eckstein Norton University ...

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Doris Evans McGinty

singer and educator, was born in Dryridge, Kentucky, the daughter of Alexander Childers and Eliza Butler, former slaves. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and in 1896 was awarded a diploma that was replaced by a bachelor's degree in 1906, when the conservatory began granting degrees. The Oberlin Conservatory chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national honor society, elected her a member in 1927. She studied voice further with Sydney Lloyd Wrightson at the Washington Conservatory of Music in Washington, D.C., with William Shakespeare, and with Oscar Devries at Chicago Musical College.

As a singer Childers enjoyed modest distinction. During her college years and shortly afterward, she performed in the Midwest with the Eckstein-Norton Music Company, a quartet of singers and their accompanist teamed with the concert pianist Harriet A. Gibbs The group contributed their earnings to the development of ...

Article

David B. McCarthy

musician, educator, and prominent Presbyterian, was born Melva Ruby Wilson in Due West, South Carolina, one of five children of Azzie Lee Ellis Wilson and John Theodore Wilson Sr., both of whom were college graduates and teachers. Because the local black public schools were unaccredited, her parents sent her to a black boarding school, Harbison Junior College in Irmo, South Carolina, at the age of fourteen. Two years later, at the age of sixteen, she entered Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. There she met fellow student James Hutten Costen. She graduated with a BA in Education in 1952 and married Jim Costen the day before he graduated in 1953. They eventually had two sons and one daughter, James Jr., Craig, and Cheryl.

Costen taught elementary school in the Mecklenburg County school system from 1952 to 1955 the year her husband ...

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Charles Johnson

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 21, 1840, Christian Fleetwood was the son of Charles and Anna Maria Fleetwood, who were both free blacks. Fleetwood received his early education in the home of wealthy sugar merchant John C. Brunes and his wife, the latter treating him like her son. He continued his education in the office of the secretary of the Maryland Colonization Society, went briefly to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and graduated in 1860 from Ashmun Institute (later Lincoln University) in Pennsylvania. He and others briefly published, in Baltimore, the Lyceum Observer, which was said to be the first black newspaper in the upper South. After the Civil War (1861–1865) disrupted trade with Liberia, he enlisted in the Union Army.

Fleetwood enlisted as a sergeant in Company G, Fourth Regiment, United States Colored Volunteer Infantry, on August 11, 1863 He ...

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Michael Frank Knight

, clerk, editor, Civil War veteran, and recipient of the Medal of Honor, was born to Charles and Anna Marie Fleetwood, free people in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1863 Christian left a lucrative position as a clerk in the Brune shipping and trading empire and joined the Fourth United States Colored Troops as a private. Just over a year later Fleetwood received the Medal of Honor for bravery and coolness under fire at the Battle of New Market Heights (Chaffin's Farm), 29 and 30 September 1864. He was one of only sixteen African American soldiers to receive the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.

Christian Fleetwood's remarkable story begins in the home of the prominent Baltimore businessman John C. Brune Fleetwood s father served for a long time as the majordomo in the Brune household and it was there that Christian received his early education in reading ...

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Sholomo B. Levy

preacher, was born Clarence LaVaughn Pitman in Sunflower, Mississippi, to Elijah J. Pitman and Willie Ann Pitman, sharecroppers. Elijah served in Europe during World War I, returned to Mississippi briefly, and then departed. Shortly thereafter, Willie Ann married Henry Franklin, a farmer; the family took his name, and Franklin became Clarence's father. As a boy Clarence usually went to school from December to March, which was when he was not needed in the field. His mother took him and his stepsister, Aretha, to St. Peter's Rock Baptist Church, where he sang in the choir, and eventually became lead tenor. His father, religious but not a churchgoer, exposed Clarence to the blues idiom of Blind Lemon Jefferson and other soulful musicians.

At the age of nine or ten Clarence attended a revival meeting and took his first step toward a career in the ministry when he joined the ...

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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 ...

Article

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 ...

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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 ...

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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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Lois Bellamy

baritone, choral conductor, and Tuskegee Airman, was born in New York City, the eighth of eleven children of Samuel Alexander Henderson of St. Kitts in the Caribbean and Ruth Rebecca Waites of Florence, South Carolina. Both of Ruth Henderson's grandmothers were slaves. Samuel Henderson worked for the New York City subway system, and Ruth was a piano teacher and a seamstress. Henderson said that his mother insisted that the children learn to play the piano or find somewhere else to live. His early education was in the New York City public schools.

In 1940 Henderson graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City Afterward he went to school at night to learn typing and stenography For one semester he attended Alabama State Teachers College in Montgomery Alabama against his mother s wishes The discrimination in Alabama was so intense that Henderson could not withstand it ...

Article

Marti K. Newland

composer, pianist, and conductor, was born Moses George Hogan in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of six children of the New Orleans natives Moses and Gloria. Hogan was raised in a home of working-class parents. His father served in the military during World War II and his mother worked as a nurse. Their work ethic and support of Hogan's musical talent fostered his commitment to developing his musicianship at an early age. By the age of nine he was already an accomplished pianist. Marie Moulton, Hogan's first piano teacher, remained an influence throughout his life.

Hogan utilized his music skills at the New Zion Baptist Church where his uncle, Edwin Hogan was the organist and choir conductor Edwin Hogan became a model of how to balance keyboard skills compositional facility and choral conducting It was at the New Zion Baptist Church that Hogan gained his ...

Article

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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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 ...

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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 ...

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Marva Griffin Carter

choral conductor, composer, and actress, was born in Coffeyville, Kansas, to Albert Jesey, a chicken picker, and Julia (Buckner) Jesey. Eva changed the spelling of her surname to Jessye in the 1920s. Jessye later said that she received her life's directive in a speech she heard delivered by Booker T. Washington, wherein he declared: “I hope the time will never come when we neglect and scorn the songs of our fathers” (Atlanta Constitution, 6 Feb. 1978). That time never came for Eva Jessye, who dedicated herself to preserving the folk repertoire and performance practices of African Americans. Having ancestors born into slavery, she was uniquely exposed to their songs, with their inherent drama, during her youth.

Eva s mother struggled to purchase for her daughter the first black owned piano in Coffeyville which she learned to play by ear A ...

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Mary Frances Early

composer, arranger, and choral conductor, was born Francis Hall Johnson in Athens, Georgia, the son of William Decker Johnson, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister, and Alice (maiden name unknown). Music was an important part of Hall Johnson's childhood. He heard his grandmother and other former slaves as they sang the old spirituals in his father's Methodist church. This grounding in the original performance of Negro spirituals was to represent a significant influence on his later life. Johnson, exhibiting an early interest in music, received solfeggio lessons from his father and piano lessons from an older sister. As a teenager he developed an interest in the violin and taught himself to play.

Johnson was educated in the South at the Knox Institute at Atlanta University and at Allen University in Columbia South Carolina where his father was president Frustrated by his inability to find a violin ...