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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 ...


Mary Procopio

was born on 14 December 1915 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His father was a civil servant who headed up the Department of Water Supply. Casséus’s interest in the guitar was sparked by his aunt, who played the mandolin and helped to raise him when he was a child. In Casséus’s words, following his aunt’s death, “The sight of her mandolin perched on this pile of garbage and the memory of her music has never ceased to haunt me. I burned with desire, for I never forgot Aunt Andrée’s mandolin” (Mathelier, 1995; quoted in Ribot and Ribot, 2003, p. 5). Originally intent on pursuing a law degree, Casséus dropped out of school to focus on playing guitar, and is known as the first professional classical guitarist in Haiti.

Casséus studied with the Haitian composer and ethnographer Werner Anton Jaegerhuber in the early 1930s Like his teacher Casséus challenged the ...


David Bradford

guitarist, teacher, composer, arranger, and civil rights advocate, was born in Norfolk County, Virginia, to Exum Holland a farmer. His mother's name is not recorded.

Justin Holland recognized at an early age that rural Virginia offered few opportunities for an ambitious young African American. Born on a farm in Norfolk County to free parents in 1819, Holland was only fourteen when he set out for Boston. Massachusetts was the first state to abolish slavery (in 1783 and Boston had a small but comparatively thriving black population Holland found work that provided in his words a good living in nearby Chelsea and became immersed in the energetic cultural life of the city He had shown a knack for music from a young age but farm life provided little opportunity to develop musical talent Now inspired by the performances of Mariano Perez one of the ...


Eileen Southern

(b Norfolk Co., VA, 1819; d New Orleans, March 24, 1887). American guitarist and composer. At the age of 14 he went to Boston, where he began to study the piano, guitar and flute. He later studied at Oberlin College (1841–3, 1845) and in Mexico before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, where he was a guitar teacher and composer until 1886. Declining health then forced him to retire and move to New Orleans. His numerous pieces for guitar solo include Elfin Waltzes, Maiden’s Prayer, Spanish Fandango and Three Tyrolien Airs. A pioneering African American composer for the guitar, he also wrote duets for guitar, pieces for guitar and piano, arrangements of operatic airs for guitar and violin or flute, and many songs with guitar accompaniment, and he published the book Choral Reform (c1845 His instruction ...