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Guthrie P. Ramsey

(b Coatesville, PA, Aug 17, 1928). American composer. Born into a musical family, he began piano study with his mother at the age of five and formed his first touring jazz ensemble at the age of 13. He studied at West Virginia State College (BMus 1950), Pennsylvania State University (MMusEd, 1951), the Cincinnati Conservatory (summer 1954) and the University of Iowa (PhD 1958). His teachers included Edward Lewis, Ted Phillips, P. Ahmed Williams, George Ceiga, T. Scott Huston, Phillip Bezanson and Richard B. Hervig, among others. He also attended the Aspen Music School (summer 1964), where he studied with Milhaud. His teaching appointments include positions in the North Carolina public schools and at West Virginia State College (1955–6), Langston University (1958–63) and Tennessee State University, Nashville (1963–9). From 1969 to 1971 he served as ...


also known as Chevalier de Saint-Georges, one of the most accomplished musicians, composers, and fencing masters of eighteenth-century Europe, was born on 25 December 1745 on the plantation Saint-Robert in the town of Baillif, near the region of Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe. (Some sources give his birth year as 1739 Born a slave he was the son of Georges de Bologne de Saint Georges a wealthy white planter who had purchased a title of minor nobility and his black concubine Nanon a Senegalese house slave The ancestry of Joseph Bologne de Saint Georges places him from his earliest childhood at a precocious juncture of influences in the theater of revolutionary change in the Antilles encompassing multiple debates over slavery Although slavery had been abolished in France in the late eighteenth century it remained institutionalized in the colonies Created to normalize the life of slaves in the Antilles Le Code Noir initiated ...


Blackviolinist who performed extensively in Britain. Bridgetower was born in Biała, Poland, the son of John Frederick Bridgetower, who might have come from the Caribbean, and his wife, Marie Ann, a Polish woman who died when their son was young. Bridgetower was said to have been a child prodigy, having made his debut as a soloist in April 1789 in Paris. The environment in which he was brought up was a significant factor in the development of his talent. His father was employed by Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, and John and his son lived at the back of the opera house with the court's musicians. Haydn was also an employee of the Prince, and it is possible that the young Bridgetower studied under him. A few years later, in England, Bridgetower would play the violin in Haydn's symphonies at concerts commissioned by Johann Peter Solomon where ...


Mark Anthony Phelps

was born in Baila, Galicia, in modern-day Poland. The precise date of his birth is uncertain. Some sources give 29 February 1780, while others state 11 October 1779. He was the son of a black Barbadian father, John Frederick Bridgetower, and Maria (or Marie) Sovinski, a Polish mother. Though his father told a number of stories about his background, including being an Abyssinian prince, he likely was an escaped slave from Barbados.

The elder Bridgetower (who was fluent in five languages) was valet of the Hungarian house of Esterhazy. They were patrons of music, and Franz Josef Haydn was the house conductor. Thus, George was discovered as a prodigy. His first public performance was at the Concert Spirituel in Paris in 1789 He performed early the next year in England coming to the attention of the English royal family The Prince of Wales who would become George ...


Called the Abyssinian Prince by an admiring public, George Frederick Polgreen Bridgetower gained renown throughout nineteenth-century Europe as a violinist of exceptional talent. As a youth, he became the prized violinist of the Prince of Wales, and he is said to have studied with Joseph Haydn. In 1803 he gave the first performance of Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata for violin—written expressly for him—with the great German composer accompanying him at the piano.

Bridgetower grew up in London, England, the son of an African father and a European mother. At the age of ten, he debuted publicly as a violinist in Paris and soon after gave his first London performance, at the Drury Lane Theatre. His violin playing so impressed the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) that he was taken into the royal retinue. He also received extensive musical instruction from such noted violinists as Giovanni Mane ...


Born in the bustling city of Havana, Cuba, a cultural center for the development of Classical Music in Latin America and the Caribbean, Claudio Brindis de Salas was already a concert violinist at the age of ten. His father, Claudio Sr., was a well-known musician, teacher, and orchestra leader. Brindis de Salas studied with a Belgian teacher in Havana and later with Danclas, David, Sivori, and others at the Paris Conservatory. Brindis de Salas won awards and began traveling widely, earning many accolades in cities like Milan, Florence, Berlin, Saint Petersburg, and London. As a violin virtuoso he earned the nicknames “The Black Paganini” and “The King of the Octaves.” He toured with great success in Latin America, and in Buenos Aires, Argentina, his admirers gave him an authentic Stradivarius violin.

Brindis de Salas lived for a time in Berlin married a German ...


Bárbara Danzie León

was born Claudio José Domingo Brindis de Salas y Garrido in Havana, Cuba, on 8 August 1852. He represented Cuba through his art on important stages throughout the world during the second half of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth century. His successes transcended the color barrier to the extent that he became a worldwide musical celebrity.

He was the son of Nemesia Garrido and Claudio Brindis de Salas, both free Afro-Cubans. His father, like Plácido (Diego Gabriel de la Concepción Valdés), was a victim of the terrible repression against free and enslaved Afro-Cubans that was unleashed by Captain General Leopoldo O’Donell in the year 1844, which came to be known as Conspiración de la Escalera (Conspiracy of the Ladder). Before he died in 1872 his father a professional musician passed along his musical gifts to Claudio From a very young age Claudio ...


Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues singer, was born Armenter Chatmon in rural Hinds County, Mississippi, about fifteen miles west of Jackson, the son of Henderson Chatmon and Eliza Jackson, both farmers. His father was also a musician whose reputation as a fiddler dated back to country dances in the days of slavery. His mother played guitar. All nine brothers and one sister in the family played various instruments. Armenter Chatmon nicknamed “Bo,” played violin, guitar, bass, banjo, and clarinet, learning mainly from an older brother, Lonnie. Another brother, Sam, whose later recollections constituted the main body of information about the family, said Lonnie was born early in the 1890s and was the first to learn music, so he taught each of the younger siblings.

It was Bo Chatmon who first organized the musical siblings as a business enterprise around 1917 Working in various groupings as they came of age brothers Bo Lonnie ...


Lucius R. Wyatt

(b Lagos, Dec 24, 1929; d New York, April 29, 2002). American composer, violinist and conductor. His missionary parents, originally from Jamaica, left Nigeria when he was three years old and settled in the West Indies. When he was 11 the family moved to New York, where he began violin lessons with Barnabas Istok. He studied at Queens College, CUNY (BA 1952) and Columbia University (MA 1956), where his teachers included Luening and Beeson. A Fulbright Fellowship enabled him to pursue further study in Florence with Dallapiccola (composition) and in Siena at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana (conducting). He taught at the Hampton (Virginia) Institute, Queens and Hunter colleges, CUNY and Rutgers University. Also active as a performer, he played the violin in chamber and orchestral ensembles and conducted the Triad Chorale (from 1974).

Early influences on Da Costa s compositional ...


Marcus B. Christian

The names of Edmond Dédé's parents are not known, but they arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, from the French West Indies, probably in 1809. Although Dédé had at first learned to play the clarinet in his youth, he was known as a violinist for the thirty years that he lived in New Orleans. He began the study of this instrument under the guidance of free black musician and teacher Constantin Deberque, one of the conductors of the Philharmonic Society, an antebellum organization consisting of more than one hundred white and black musicians of New Orleans. After studying under Deberque, he continued his studies under Ludovico Gabici, who was at one time head of the St. Charles Theater Orchestra. With the rise of hostile white public sentiment against the free black people between 1830–1840 Dédé continued his studies in Mexico where a number of his compatriots also ...


Pamela Lee Gray

composer, violinist, and conductor, was born in New Orleans to parents who were free Creoles of color. His father and mother were originally from the French West Indies but immigrated to the United States in approximately 1809 as part of the mass political exile during that period His father was a professional musician who worked as a bandmaster for a local military unit As a child Dédé studied the clarinet and then began playing the violin His teachers were Ludovico Gabici and Constantin Debergue Debergue was director of the Philharmonic Society established by the free Creoles of color in the area he was also a violinist which may account for Dédé s particular affection for that instrument Gabici an Italian was one of the earliest music publishers in New Orleans and the director of the Saint Charles Theater orchestra Dédé was schooled in music by many ...


Barry Kernfeld

was a jazz and popular bandleader and violinist. His birthplace, family, and upbringing are unknown. Through the 1920s Dickerson led jazz bands in Chicago, including residencies at the Entertainers’ Café in 1921, and Sunset Café from 1922 to 1924, where the cornetist George Mitchell and the clarinetist Buster Bailey were among his sidemen, playing for a revue that featured the singer Frankie “Half-Pint” Jaxon. The trombonist Honore Dutrey and the pianist Earl Hines joined Dickerson's orchestra at the Entertainers’ and remained with him when, after the club closed, Dickerson made a forty-two-week tour of the Pantages theater circuit, taking the band to the West Coast and Canada in 1926.

The success of the tour earned Dickerson an engagement in Chicago at the Sunset, where the trumpeter Louis Armstrong joined the orchestra. Dickerson sidemen such as Hines and the drummer Zutty Singleton later participated in ...


Mark G. Emerson

Born in Washington, D.C., to Charles Remond Douglass and his first wife, Mary Elizabeth Murphy (Libby) Douglass, Joseph Henry Douglass was widely viewed as Frederick Douglass's favorite grandchild. When his mother died in the spring of 1879, Joseph and his older brother, Charles Frederick, moved in with their uncle, Frederick Douglass Jr., until their father reunited the family after marrying Laura Antoinette Haley. After studying music at the New England Conservatory in Boston and later in Europe, Joseph returned to Washington, D.C., where he taught music at Howard University and performed often in public. Highly acclaimed as a violinist, Joseph performed at the White House on several occasions for the presidents William McKinley and William Howard Taft and during the weeklong festivities celebrating the inauguration of Grover Cleveland He also became the first black violinist to record for the Victor Talking Machine Company later ...


David Bradford

a renowned violin soloist, was born in Washington, DC. to Charles Remond Douglass, a U.S. government clerk, and Mary Elizabeth Murphy Douglass.

Joseph Douglas was one of the first black instrumentalists to have a successful career as a concert artist. He was a grandson of Frederick Douglass, who in addition to being a renowned abolitionist and civil rights advocate, was an accomplished amateur violinist. Joseph's father, Charles, also played the instrument. Frederick Douglass, who enjoyed playing duets with Joseph, was highly supportive of his grandson's musical ambitions, and helped to launch his career.

While still a teenager, Joseph played in an all-black chamber orchestra based in Washington DC, which his grandfather had a hand in organizing and for which he served as president. The orchestra was conducted by Will Marion Cook a brilliant young European trained violinist who later became a pioneer of black ...


Philip Herbert

Violinist and composer, celebrated and admired as a remarkable musician in Cornish society after his humble beginnings as a slave. Emidy, was born in Guinea, West Africa, sold into slavery in 1787 by Portuguese traders, and then taken to Brazil. He came to Lisbon with his new owner, who recognized his interest in music and provided him with a violin and a tutor. He progressed musically, and by 1795 was a second violinist in the orchestra of the Opera House in Lisbon.

However, in 1795, when Sir Edward Pellow brought his ship the Indefatigable into the river Tagus in Lisbon for repairs, he and other officers attended the Lisbon opera. After seeing Emidy perform in the orchestra, they kidnapped him, forcing him to come aboard their ship as their fiddler to perform dances (which he loathed) to entertain the sailors and raise their morale as they sailed.

After ...


Baptiste Bonnefoy

was born on 8 November 1777 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Hipólito Guzmán, also known as Hipólito Uriate, a famed violinist and former slave, and María Úrsula Gascón, a mestiza. Baptized as Martín Teodoro Ramón Guzmán Gascón, the parish register recorded him as a pardo, a designation commonly applied in the eighteenth-century Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata to free persons of color. Between 1770 and 1780, Guzmán’s father was the first violinist in the orchestra directed by Antonio Vélez at the cathedral in Buenos Aires. The sixth of nine children, most of whom died young, Teodoro was raised in the musical circles of Buenos Aires, and his father taught him to play the violin as child. His godfather was the violinist and Portuguese music master Juan Moreira Leyton (1718–1792 and his childhood neighbors were the bassist Francisco Pozo and his wife the organist Ana ...


Scott Yanow

jazz violinist, was born in Chicago, Illinois. The names and occupations of his parents are not recorded. Jenkins started playing violin when he was seven. He performed recitals at St. Luke Church, accompanied by pianist Ruth Jones, who would later change her name to Dinah Washington. Jenkins became a member of the orchestra and choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Jenkins attended DuSable High School, where he was one of many young musicians who were trained and inspired by the legendary teacher Walter Dyett. He went to Florida A&M University on a bassoon scholarship, also playing saxophone and clarinet in the concert band before turning his focus back to the violin. After graduating in 1961, he was a violin teacher in the schools of Mobile, Alabama, until 1965 when he moved back to Chicago continued teaching violin in schools and also began his life as a performer ...


Wallace McClain Cheatham

violinist and conductor, was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, the oldest of two sons of Everett Astor Lee Sr., an accountant, and Mamie Amanda Blue Lee, a homemaker. The children were reared in Cleveland, Ohio.

Lee was the only one in his family to go into the music profession, though his father sang in a college quartet. His career decision was completely supported by his father. Lee graduated in 1941 with a bachelor of music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he was a violin major and student of Joseph Fuchs. Though one of the school's top violinists, he was unable to get a position with an orchestra. From 1941 to 1948, however, Lee found work as a soloist, chamber musician, and first violinist of the CBS orchestra.

Lee's conducting career began in 1948 when he became leader of the Cosmopolitan Little ...


Moya B. Hansen

jazz violinist and orchestra leader, was born in Fayette, Missouri, one of fourteen children born to Clark and Alice Morrison, both talented musicians. Morrison's father held Missouri's title as a champion fiddler, and his mother played piano. Although Clark Morrison died when George was two, the boy wanted to play violin from an early age. When reprimanded for playing his father's violin, he made his own instrument from a hollowed-out cornstalk, a piece of wood, and some string. In 1900, when the family followed George's married sister to Boulder, Colorado, George learned to play guitar by ear, and by the time he was ten was playing mining camp saloons with his brothers. He worked as a bootblack to earn money for a violin and music lessons from the University of Colorado professor Dr. Harold Reynold. After graduating from Boulder High School he married Willa May ...


Robert Mirandon

jazz musician, was born Ray Willis Nance in Chicago, Illinois. His parents' names and occupations are unknown. Nance displayed musical ability early. At age six he took piano lessons from his mother, and at nine he began five years of violin study with a private teacher. By his fourteenth birthday Nance was accepted at the Chicago College of Music. At first his study of the violin was meant to please his mother, he said, “but after a time, I got to like it.” He continued instruction with Max Fischel, the college's best teacher, for seven more years while he attended public school.

Nance's high school, Wendell Phillips had an excellent music program There he learned to play trumpet mainly on his own He played in the school band and also learned to twirl the baton becoming he claimed the shortest drum major anyone ever saw His full ...