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Barry Kernfeld

jazz pianist, organist, and arranger, was born Milton Brent Buckner in St. Louis, Missouri. Details of his parents are unknown. His brother Ted was a jazz saxophonist who became a member of Jimmie Lunceford's big band; the brothers were not related to jazz trumpeter Teddy Buckner.

The boys’ mother died when Milt Buckner was eight years old, and their father died the following year. Milt went to live with a foster father, the trombonist John Tobias, in Detroit, Michigan; Ted also moved and lived in the home of Fred Kewley, a saxophonist who worked with Tobias in Earl Walton's Orchestra. Milt took up piano at age ten, and he reported that Tobias made him practice six hours a day. After Tobias and his wife separated, Milt was raised by the drummer George Robinson also a member of Walton s band Ted s foster father Kewley ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

jazz organist, arranger, and performer, was born William Strethen Davis in Glasgow, a small town in central Missouri. Little information about his family or upbringing is available. What is known is that his father was a singer, and that Davis’s upbringing was a musical one. The family relocated to Parsons, Kansas, when Davis was still a young man. It is likely that Davis attended local schools, though what year he graduated in is unknown. He matriculated at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, likely in the middle to late 1930s, and later at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. Upon leaving school, he pursued a career as a musician, first picking up the guitar.

For a time he wrote arrangements and played with the Texas trumpeter and bandleader Milt Larkin and his traveling group Sometime around the late 1930s Davis relocated to Chicago and there he fell in with the local blues scene He ...

Article

Scott Yanow

jazz and R&B organist and pianist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in poverty and, although he wanted to play the trumpet, Doggett's family was not able to afford lessons. Instead, his mother, who played piano in church, helped get him started as a pianist when he was nine. Considered a bit of a child prodigy, at 15 Doggett was playing theaters and clubs in Philadelphia, leading the Five Majors.

While still in high school, Doggett played piano with Jimmy Gorman, who had the pit orchestra at the Nixon Grand Theater in Philadelphia. Doggett became the group's leader in 1938 but, after the band successfully accompanied Lucky Millinder, he sold the group to Millinder and it became the Lucky Millinder Orchestra with Doggett on piano. Doggett worked with Jimmy Mundy's orchestra for a period in 1939 but otherwise was associated with Millinder from 1938 to ...

Article

Gayle Murchison

clarinetist, composer, and conductor, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Daniel Jenkins, a former slave, minister, and founder-director of the Jenkins Orphanage Band, and Lena James. Jenkins attended the Avery Institute in Charleston. As a child he learned to play violin, clarinet, and piano. His first music teachers were his father and other instructors at the orphanage, which was founded in December 1891 and formally incorporated as the Orphan Aid Society in July 1892. By the time he was fourteen years old, Jenkins had learned to play all the instruments of his father's brass band. In 1908 he entered Atlanta Baptist College (now Morehouse College), where he studied violin with Kemper Harreld Jenkins participated in the symphony orchestra glee club and other musical activities During vacations he performed directed and toured with the orphanage band Jenkins left college during the ...

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Peggy Lin Duthie

educator and writer, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the daughter of John Sinclair Leary and Nannie Latham Leary. The Learys, who were of Irish, French, Scottish, and Native American descent as well as African, were regarded as one of the most prominent African American families in the state, with a collective history of activism stretching back to the American Revolution. Lewis Sheridan Leary, Love's uncle, a colleague of the abolitionist John Brown, fell mortally wounded in the raid on Harpers Ferry; his cousin John Anthony Copeland Jr. was executed for his role in the attack Love s father was the second African American admitted to the North Carolina bar dean of the Shaw University Law School in Raleigh and a Republican state representative he also handled numerous local responsibilities including that of school committeeman and Sunday school superintendent Love s mother raised six children ...

Article

David De Clue

entertainer, pianist, organist, lecturer, television and radio personality, was born John Roland Redd in St. Louis, Missouri, to Doshia O'Nina Johnson and Ernest Samuel Redd, a minister. His ancestry is both black and white, the white lineage through his maternal grandmother, Frances Maria Lankford-Johnson, stemming from Langfords who first came to Virginia from England in 1645.

Pandit's family is unusually rich in musical and creative talent. Pandit's great-uncle Philip Benjamin “PB” Lankford taught jazz to numerous musicians who went on to careers in orchestras led by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Singleton Palmer, Fate Marable, Charles Creath, Dewey Jackson, and Cab Calloway. Another great-uncle, John Anderson Lankford, was known as “the Dean of African American Architects,” and others in the family—Arthur Edward Lankford, Robert Bumbary Sr., and Robert Bumbary Jr. also ...

Article

Diana Kristine Durham

organist, stenographer, college professor, physician, and hospital founder, was born in St. John, Antigua, British West Indies, the son of John Sebastian and Sara Elizabeth Roberts. He studied at Antigua's Mico College, a normal school established for blacks by Lady Mico Trust, where he studied a rigorous curriculum that included English, Latin, Greek, mathematics, science, astronomy, history, and geography. Sebastian, like many of the students at Mico College, viewed his normal training as preparation for a career other than teaching.

In 1901 Sebastian immigrated to the United States After arriving in Philadelphia he obtained employment as a stenographer and an organist A year later he moved to Greensboro North Carolina to work at the Agricultural and Mechanical College later North Carolina A T State University Sebastian who was broadly educated in the Caribbean taught English geography foreign languages and mathematics and was also ...

Article

Marcus B. Christian

Samuel Snaër was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. His father was an organist in one of the white churches of the city; the younger Snaër served in a similar position as organist for Saint Mary's Italian Church for many years. A teacher of violin and piano, he played with talent a dozen different musical instruments, among them the violin, violoncello, piano, and organ. He was unsurpassed as a violoncellist. According to historian Rodolphe Desdunes, Snaër “was perhaps a greater musical savant than was Macarty,” one of his leading contemporaries.

Snaër like many men of genius had a rather contradictory nature and for this reason he confused many who witnessed his actions in different situations He was of an easygoing amiable disposition careless with his manuscripts not very energetic in seeking publishers for his music and those manuscripts that were returned to him after careless hand to hand journeys ...

Article

David Joyner

pianist, organist, singer, and composer, was born Thomas Wright Waller in New York City, the fourth of five surviving children of Edward Waller and Adeline (maiden name unknown). Edward was a Baptist lay minister, and one of young Thomas's earliest musical experiences was playing harmonium for his father's street-corner sermons. Thomas's mother was deeply involved in music as well, and the family acquired a piano around 1910. Although Waller had formal musical instruction during his formative years, he was largely self-taught and indulged in a lot of musical experimentation.Thomas's development as a jazz pianist really began in 1920, when, upon the death of his mother, he moved in with the family of the pianist Russell Brooks and then with the Harlem stride piano master James Price Johnson Like his pianist contemporaries Waller had learned some aspects of ragtime and jazz style ...

Article

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 ...