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Cynthia Staples

was born in Bloomfield, Kentucky and little is known about his early life. In the 1880s, while singing in his local church, he either received encouragement or independently developed a desire to become a professional singer. In order to accomplish this, he traveled to New York City in that same decade and quickly became acclimated to the musical world. He worked a series of odd jobs to make money so that he could pay for professional voice, language, and music lessons from instructors such as voice coach John Howard. His teachers introduced him to a world of music he had not known before. He fell in love with opera, a classical form of music that, for Drury, was far more uplifting than the popular and too often derogatory minstrel shows of the late nineteenth century.

In 1889 with the aid of private benefactors who today are largely unknown Drury ...


Doris Evans McGinty

According to Jerrold Lytton (as reported by H. S. Fortune in the Colored American, June 1900), Theodore Drury was born in Kentucky of a musical family. He was well read and able to speak both French and German. Described in contemporary reports as thoroughly trained, elegant, and highly professional in bearing, he was considered by some as the first black, highly trained male singer.

It was in New York and the New England states that Drury's early performing experience as a tenor took place, often in support of more established singers. Through these appearances, his name became known and in 1889 he organized the Drury Comic Opera Company. Toward the end of that same year, the company was renamed the Theodore Drury Opera Company and gave concerts of operatic selections under the management of G. H. Barrett. An advertisement in 1889 (New York Age October ...


Beth Kraig

model, singer, performance artist, and actress, was born in Spanishtown, Jamaica, the daughter of Marjorie and Robert Jones. Her mother was a clothing maker whose design skills influenced her daughter's eventual reputation as a fashion trendsetter. Her father was a minister whose charismatic preaching influenced his daughter's sense of drama. Jones, a twin, was one of seven children, and the large family shared an enthusiasm for music that shaped her childhood ambition of becoming a singer.

Like thousands of people of African descent from the Caribbean, the family relocated to the United States to seek more opportunities. They settled in Syracuse, New York, in the 1960s, with the parents preceding their children to the United States and then reuniting the family in 1964 in their new home. Jones continued her education in Syracuse and enrolled in Syracuse University in 1968 where she focused on ...


Larvester Gaither

was born John Lester Nash to John Lester Nash, Sr. and Eliza Armstrong in Houston, Texas. “Johnny” Nash, as he was widely known, soared to fame on the wings of the ubiquitous hit song “I Can See Clearly Now,” which reached number one on the Billboard 100 chart in 1972, where it remained for four weeks. The song has been covered by hundreds of artists across many genres, including jazz player Kermit Ruffins, blues musician Ray Charles, rock group The Rolling Stones, and reggae artist Jimmy Cliff. Although much of his musical acclaim is identified with the song’s success, Nash is also credited with stimulating an American taste for rock-steady Jamaican reggae. In a very substantial way, Nash helped set the stage upon which the legendary Bob Marley triumphed with his internationally acclaimed music.

Nash s formative years were spent in Third Ward Houston where his father worked ...


Dustin Garlitz

was born in Wilmington, Delaware, the son of Matthew M. Shipp, Sr., a Delaware police officer, and Gertrude Quinton, a nurse. The trumpeter Clifford Brown was a family friend growing up in Delaware. Shipp attended the University of Delaware, and then the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. At the New England Conservatory he studied with saxophonist Joe Maneri. As a young musician Shipp also studied with Dennis Sandole, who gave music lessons to the young John Coltrane.

Shipp moved to New York City in 1984, where he has been based since. In 2000 he became curator of The Blue Series on Thirsty Ear Records. Shipp has led his own trio for over two decades, and has performed in duo settings with bassist William Parker, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell violinist Mat Maneri guitarist Joe Morris and saxophonist Ivo Perelman among a number of others He performed in ...