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Claudius Fergus

was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas (now the US Virgin Islands) on 4 November 1889. He was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Dinzey, a tailor, and followed their career trajectory as part of the community’s black artisanal class. He served apprenticeships in the trades of carpentry and shoemaking.

With only a primary education and no formal school of music on the islands, Adams studied in the United States. He enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania as well as Carnegie Hall’s School of Music Theory in New York. Unable to sojourn long enough in the States, Adams completed his study of music by correspondence, a mark of distinction of the self-motivation that shaped his life. He attained a bachelor’s degree in music from the University Extension Conservatory of Chicago in 1931.

Adams organized his first musical band in 1904 and launched his ...


Barbara Garvey Jackson

(b Chicago, March 3, 1913; d Los Angeles, April 26, 1972). American composer, pianist and teacher. The daughter of a physician, Dr Monroe Alpheus Majors, and his second wife, Estelle C. Bonds, an organist, she first studied with her mother, whose home was a gathering place for black writers, artists and musicians, including the composers Will Marion Cook and Florence Price. In high school Bonds studied piano and composition with Price and later with Dawson; she received the BM and MM degrees from Northwestern University (1933, 1934). She moved to New York in 1939 and in 1940 married Lawrence Richardson, though she retained the surname ‘Bonds’ (her mother’s maiden name) throughout her life. At the Juilliard Graduate School she studied the piano with Djane Herz and composition with Starer; other teachers included Harris.

Bonds won the Wanamaker prize for her ...


Regina Harris Baiocchi

Margaret Bonds was a perfectionist whose meticulous manuscript preparation rivaled that of most printing presses, and she left a legacy of mesmerizing music.

Margaret Allison Bonds was born in Chicago, Illinois. She was the only child of Monroe A. Majors, MD, and Estella C. Bonds, although Monroe Majors had an older daughter, Grace Boswell. Estella Bonds played organ for Berean Baptist Church on Chicago’s South Side and taught her daughter piano, organ, and music theory. Estella Bonds was a close friend of the composers Florence S. Price, Will Marion Cook, William Dawson, and Langston Hughes, all of whom mentored young Margaret. Bonds composed her first work, “Marquette Street Blues,” at the age of five. When Price moved into the Bonds home at 6652 South Wabash to escape racism in Little Rock, Arkansas, she taught Bonds piano and composition.

Bonds earned bachelor of ...


Rebecca Dirksen

was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 10 February 1909 to Raphaël Brouard, a businessman and public official who briefly served as mayor of Port-au-Prince, and Cléomie Gaëtjens, an immigrant from Germany who was an amateur musician. Among her three siblings was the celebrated poet Carl Brouard (1902–1965), with whom she shared a special bond, and who would inspire her artistically later in life. At the age of 20, Carmen married Jean Magloire, a journalist and politician. The couple had a daughter, Nadine Magloire (1932–  but they divorced when Nadine was 6 Based in Montreal Nadine went on to become a noted feminist writer and is the mother of Canadian pianist Diane Brouard who studied music as a youth with her grandmother Perhaps best remembered as a demanding piano instructor and a dynamic concert pianist Carmen Brouard made unique and significant contributions to the Haitian classical music ...


Lawrence Vernon

was born in 1903 in Belize City, Belize. Born Floss Kemp, she was the youngest of seven children. Her father, Joseph Kemp, died when she was 1 year old, and she grew up with her mother Diana Kemp. While receiving her elementary education at Wesley School in Belize City, her sister, a versatile piano player, inspired Floss to take piano lessons, and she eventually became an accomplished piano teacher who taught two of Belize’s greatest musicians and composers: Dr. Colville Young (Belize’s governor general) and the concert pianist Francis Reneau.

On completing elementary school, Casasola entered the pupil–teacher training system, and after being certified as a trained teacher in her early teens she began teaching at Wesley School and then Ebenezer School, both in Belize City. A major hurricane devastated Belize City in 1931 and the years spent in reconstruction also affected Casasola s life as she relocated to ...


Miranda Kaufmann

Classical musician and war correspondent born in British Guiana (now Guyana). Dunbar began his musical career with the British Guianan militia band. He moved to New York at the age of 20, where he studied music at Columbia University. In 1925 he moved to Paris, where he studied music, journalism, and philosophy. By 1931 he had settled in London and founded the Rudolph Dunbar School of Clarinet Playing. The same year Melody Maker invited him to contribute a series of articles on the clarinet. These were successful enough for him to publish in 1939A Treatise on the Clarinet (Boehm System). Dunbar was a successful conductor, especially in the 1940s, when he became the first black man to conduct an orchestra in many of the prestigious cities of Europe, including, in 1942 the London Philharmonic at the Albert Hall to an audience of 7 000 people the Berlin ...


Peter Fraser

Pioneering black businesswoman and one of the founders of the Notting Hill Carnival. Born Carmen Maingot in Port of Spain, Trinidad, she came to England in 1931 to attend the Royal Academy of Music, studying piano and violin. Among her friends in England were C. L. R. James and Eric Williams. She stayed in England, pursuing her musical career, until 1938, when she returned to Trinidad, playing the piano in public concerts, teaching music, and starting a hairdressing business. She returned to England in 1946, travelling with one of her pupils, Winifred Atwell.

She met and married the impresario Paul England but unlike Atwell decided not to continue her career in music Instead she continued hairdressing setting up a salon in a Forces club managed by her husband and beginning to produce hair products for her black customers an example imitated by Atwell in ...


Jeremy Rich

the son of Winifred Remilekun Euba (née Dawodu), a teacher, and Alphaeus Sobiyi Euba. His father had been a musician in his youth, played clarinet in the Triumph Orchestra dance band, and sang in the choir of the Olowogbowo Methodist Church. Besides his father’s Christian sacred music, Euba was exposed to Yoruba musical styles such as dundun as a child. In 1944 Euba enrolled at the Church Missionary Society primary school. Unlike many Nigerian parents in the 1940s, Euba’s father actually supported Euba’s interest in music and gave his blessing to making it a full-time career (in part due to Euba’s horoscope, which supposedly indicated music was in his future). Euba received tutoring on the piano and sang in the school choir.

Though he had to endure bullying in school his performance in the arts gradually earned the respect of his peers especially after he won a silver medal in ...


Roanne Edwards

Akin Euba of Nigeria composes classical works that combine elements of European music with the musical traditions of the country’s Yoruba people. Throughout his career Euba has worked to create African classical music that is accessible to Africans and non-Africans alike. In his opinion, “the contemporary African composer … must create music for his own people and for all people at large and must act as an interpreter between the two.”

Born in Lagos, Euba received an extensive musical education at Trinity College of Music in London, at the University of California at Los Angeles, and at the University of Ghana at Legon, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1974 He has taught at Trinity College in England at the University of Nigeria at Ife and the University of Pittsburgh where he is currently Mellon Professor of African Music Euba is not only a composer but also a scholar who ...


Lisa Clayton Robinson

Born in Black Mountain, North Carolina, to Laron and Irene Flack, both of whom played piano, Roberta Flack played piano by ear as a toddler. She began formal lessons at nine, and at fifteen she received a scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she majored in music education.

For several years after her graduation in 1958, Flack taught music and English in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. She began her singing career performing at clubs in the evenings. At first she sang opera, but she soon gained a following by singing songs that incorporated elements from many kinds of popular music. She released her first album, First Take, in 1969. Her second album, Chapter Two (1970), sold more than a million copies. Flack gained national recognition in 1970 after appearing on many television shows. Downbeat magazine named her Female Vocalist ...


Diane Epstein

Like many outstanding musical entertainers, Roberta Flack was born into a musical family. Her mother was the organist in her Asheville, North Carolina, church, and her father was an accomplished pianist. He was a strong source of encouragement for Roberta and crucial in setting the course for her career. She started voice and piano lessons at the age of nine. A musically gifted child, by the time she was thirteen she had won second place in a state piano competition. Although she would probably argue the point, many thought of her as a child prodigy. Flack finished high school early and at the age of fifteen won a full scholarship to Howard University, where she received a BA in Music. While she was at Howard, her voice was recognized as top classical caliber.

Initially self consciousness held her back from a career in performance she felt she was overweight So ...


Doris Evans McGinty

(b Rochester, NY, April 17, 1941). American composer. He studied composition with Mark Fax at Howard University, Washington, DC (BMus 1963), with Boulanger at the American Conservatory, Fontainebleau, France (summer 1963), at the Manhattan School (BMus 1965, MMus 1966) and at Michigan State University, East Lansing (PhD 1971). He taught at Michigan State (1969–71) and Youngstown (Ohio) State University (1971–6) before joining the faculty of Norfolk (Virginia) State College in 1977. As well as commissions for orchestral, choral and brass ensemble works, his opera Paul Laurence Dunbar was commissioned by the Dayton Opera Association. His honours include the Ernest Bloch award for choral composition (1971) and awards for his band music; he was made Cultural Laureate of Virginia in 1992 His musical language is postmodern and pluralistic embracing a variety of contemporary techniques ...


Roanne Edwards

Following her recital debut at New York City's Town Hall in 1954, Natalie Hinderas established herself as a pianist of exceptional talent. Her playing has been described as both lyrical and technically brilliant and, on occasion, “super-bravura.” She performed as a soloist with America's top orchestras and toured widely in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the West Indies. Known as a champion of piano music by black composers, she actively campaigned to expand opportunities for black artists at a time when most American conductors and music managers were reluctant to hire them.

Hinderas was reared and educated in Oberlin, Ohio. Her father was a professional Jazz musician and her mother was a gifted pianist and conservatory music teacher A child prodigy Hinderas began playing piano at the age of three and later studied voice and violin When she was eight years old she was admitted to the Oberlin ...


Maria-Antoaneta Neag

was born Ouida Vere Hylton on 21 June 1933 in St. Andrew, Jamaica, the daughter of Bancroft Hylton (owner of Bancroft Hylton Ltd., a company that restored musical instruments) and Miriam March-Hylton. Educated at St. Andrew High School for Girls, Hylton received a British Council bursary (between 1954 and 1956), graduating from the Royal Academy of Music, London with a GRSM and LRAM. She also held a certificate of merit in pianoforte (1955). Obtaining an MMus from Columbia University in New York City, Hylton continued her education with a training course on television production, organized by the British Council (London), later taking up an Institute of Education Fellowship at the University of London (1962–1963).

As a teacher at Excelsior and St. Andrew High School (1957–1969 she devoted a lot of time and effort to what she viewed as the proper musical education of ...


Jay Sweet

Lewis, John (03 May 1920–29 March 2001), pianist, composer, and educator, was born John Aaron Lewis in La Grange, Illinois. His parents' names do not appear in readily available sources of information; reportedly, his father was an interior decorator (or, according to some sources, an optometrist), his mother a classically trained singer. After the death of his father, Lewis moved with his mother to Albuquerque, New Mexico, as a young child. By the time he was four, his mother had also passed away. Being raised mostly by relatives in a large musical family, Lewis at the age of seven began studying piano with his aunt. As a teenager he performed locally with his cousins and several older musicians. In 1938 he enrolled at the University of New Mexico, where he first majored in anthropology, then switched to music.

After graduating in 1942 Lewis served overseas in the ...


Rachel Antell

Dorothy Leigh Maynor (originally Mainor) was born to John J. Mainor, a pastor, and Alice Jeffries Mainor, in Norfolk, Virginia. At age fourteen, Maynor enrolled at Hampton Institute where she studied with the goal of becoming a public school teacher. During her college years, Maynor's focus increasingly shifted toward vocal training and the study of piano and orchestral instruments. After graduating, she decided to pursue a second degree in music from Westminster Choir College in New Jersey and then spent four years in New York continuing her musical studies privately under Wilfried Klamroth and John Alan Houghton.

In 1939 Maynor made her solo singing debut at the Berkshire Musical Festival in Tanglewood Massachusetts for which she received widespread acclaim The performance was soon followed by a New York debut at Town Hall where reviewers called her one of the most remarkable soprano voices of her generation ...


Dominique-René de Lerma

(b Marianna, ar, March 19, 1921; d St Louis, MO, Nov 24, 2006). American baritone. After appearing in 1949 in Weill’s Lost in the Stars, in William Grant Still’s Troubled Island at the New York City Opera and as Amonasro in Aida with the National Negro Opera Company, he joined the New England Opera Company in 1950. He was the first black male to join the Metropolitan company, making his début on 27 January 1955 as Amonasro; his other roles were Valentin and Rigoletto. After a period in Naples at the Teatro S Carlo, he was chosen to sing the role of Porgy (played by Sidney Poitier) in the soundtrack of the film of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1959). He toured internationally as a recitalist, and was also active as a teacher.


Lucius R. Wyatt

(b Lorain, OH, Oct 8, 1936). American composer. While in high school he studied the french horn, cello and conducting with teachers at the Oberlin College Conservatory. He then attended Ohio State University (BM 1958) and occasionally played the horn in the Columbus SO. In New York he studied composition privately with Overton and attended the Juilliard School, where his teachers were Berio, Persichetti, Sessions and Druckman (MM 1966); in 1967 he was a pupil of Stefan Wolpe. Moore has held teaching positions at the Dalton School, the New School for Social Research, Manhattanville College, La Guardia College, Queens College, Brooklyn College, Carnegie-Mellon University and Yale University. In addition to composing, he is known as a writer on music and has served as critic for the Village Voice; in 1969 he published Somebody's Angel Child: the Story of Bessie Smith. In 1972 ...


Larvester Gaither

jazz pianist. Marcus Roberts was born in Jacksonville, Florida. Blind since the age of four, Roberts was initially exposed to music in the church where his mother was a singer. When he was eight, his parents purchased a piano for him, and he began formally studying music at the age of twelve. At Florida State University in Tallahassee, he studied with Leonidus Lipovetsky, who was a student of the noted Russian pianist Rosina Lhevinne.

Roberts's initial success as a professional musician is owed substantially to the jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, a program that Marsalis founded in 1987). In 1985 Marsalis hired Roberts as a sideman to replace the pianist Kenny Kirkland (1955–1998 and for the next six years Roberts performed and toured with Marsalis s quartet Marsalis has credited Roberts with changing his understanding of what it ...


Ismael Silva was born in Niterói, a city across Guanabara Bay from Rio De Janeiro. An early sambista (samba musician), Silva was instrumental in the founding of Deixa Falar, one of the first Samba Schools in Brazil. Together with other samba artists—Bide, Nilton Bastos, and Armando Marcal—he helped plant the seed for Brazil's fledgling Escola de Samba (samba school) system. These four legendary musicians are often referred to as the Turma do Estácio (the Estácio Gang), Estácio being a neighborhhood in Rio de Janeiro. Originally, their “school” was more of a music-making club than place of instruction. In fact, it was called a school only because it happened to be situated across the street from a neighborhood grammar school.

In 1929, Ismael Silva and the other members of Deixa Falar were among the first blacks to formally participate in Carnival Previously ...