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Adams, Alton A(ugustus)  

Margot Lieth-Philipp

(b St Thomas, VI, Nov 4, 1889; d St Thomas, VI, Nov 24, 1987). American bandmaster, composer and educator. He taught himself to play the flute and piccolo, took correspondence courses from several universities, and received the BMus degree from the University Extension Conservatory of Music, Chicago. In 1910 he formed Adams’ Juvenile Band, which was incorporated into the US Navy when it assumed the administrative duties of the US Virgin Islands in 1917. He was editor of the band department of Jacobs’ Band Monthly (1913–17), the Virgin Islands correspondent for the Associated Press, and the author of articles for various music journals, newspapers and magazines. From 1918 to 1931 he supervised the music programme in the Virgin Islands public schools, modelling it after similar programmes on the mainland. After retiring from the navy in 1947 he produced musical ...


Adams, Alton Augustus  

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 ...


Adderley, Nat  

Donald James

cornetist, trumpeter, bandleader, composer, arranger, and college educator, was born Nathaniel Adderley in Tampa, Florida, the second of two sons of Julian Adderley Sr. and Jessie Adderley. Julian Sr. was an educator who played trumpet and cornet, thus becoming Nat's first music teacher. Jessie was also a teacher. Nat's only sibling, Julian Adderley Jr., nicknamed “Cannonball” because of his rotund build, was three years older than his brother. The Adderleys moved from Tampa to Tallahassee, Florida, when Nat was a toddler so that Julian Sr. and Jessie could take teaching jobs at Florida A&M College (FAMC), a historically black school. The college changed its name to Florida A&M University (FAMU) in 1953.

Cannonball was the first of the two brothers to play trumpet He later became more interested in the alto saxophone leaving his trumpet to sit idle Nat showed no ...


Blythe, Arthur  

Bruce Barnhart

composer, alto saxophonist, bandleader, and teacher, was born Arthur Murray Blythe in Los Angeles, California, the second of three surviving sons of Charles Blythe, an auto mechanic, and Nancy Blythe, a homemaker and part-time seamstress. Some sources, including his obituary, give a birth date of 5 July 1940. His parents divorced, and when he was four years old he moved with his mother to San Diego. Blythe's first musical inspiration was the rhythm and blues music he heard on local jukeboxes. His mother's passion for the music of Johnny Hodges, Earl Bostic, and Tab Smith led her to purchase an alto saxophone for Blythe despite his desire to play trombone Upon receiving his first saxophone at the age of nine Blythe began to play in school bands and at the age of thirteen he was performing in a local blues band Blythe s early experience ...


Braga, Antônio Francisco  

Maria Alice Volpe

also known as “Chico dos hinos,” Brazilian composer, orchestra conductor, bandmaster, and music teacher, was born on 15 April 1868 in Rio de Janeiro. Braga’s parents were Antônio Braga and Evarista Rita da Silva, a woman originally from Caxias town, Maranhão State, in northeastern Brazil. A mulato born in the Largo da Glória into a humble family, Francisco lost his father before he reached 6 years of age. Soon after, the family moved to the Vila São Francisco Xavier de Itaguaí at the Palacete dos Cardosos (House of the Cardoso family), where his mother worked as maid.

In 1874 Braga enrolled in the Colégio de Anacleto Henrique Ramos at Rua Riachuelo in Rio de Janeiro. There he was classmates with Henrique Maximiano Coelho Neto (1864–1934 coincidentally from the same town as Braga s mother and who would go on to become an important writer political leader and Braga ...


Carter, Dennis Drummond  

Eric Gardner

musician, educator, and activist, was born to free parents in Drummondtown, Accomack County, Virginia. His father died when Carter was about eight, and his mother, whose maiden name was probably Drummond, cared for Dennis. When one of his cousins, Henry Drummond, was bound out to an area slaveholder named Thomas R. Joynes because of his status as an orphan, Carter's mother began to fear that her son would also be enslaved should something happen to her. Determined that her son stay free, she moved with him to Philadelphia in about 1825. There Carter's musical talents flowered, in part under the tutelage of the famous black Philadelphia bandleader Francis Johnson.

Carter toured with Johnson's band sporadically during the 1830s, 1840s, and early 1850s, reportedly joining Johnson's 1837 trip to Great Britain and an 1851 trip to Sulphur Springs Virginia In addition to working as a musician Carter ...


Coleman, Steve  

Norman Weinstein

alto saxophonist, band leader, and educator, was born on Chicago's South Side. While Coleman has chosen not to reveal many details about his childhood, he has underscored his father's love of jazz and his encouragement of his son's violin study in elementary school. At fourteen Coleman switched to the alto saxophone, but rejected his father's advice to explore Charlie Parker. Instead, Coleman adopted Maceo Parker, a saxophonist in James Brown's band, as his idol. He then organized a group of schoolmates in a funk band that emulated the Brown sound.

During his freshman year at Illinois Wesleyan University Coleman experienced a watershed moment The school s jazz band rejected his candidacy citing his lack of proficiency in improvisation This rejection moved Coleman to study Charlie Parker s recordings in the hopes of acquiring Parker s seemingly intuitive ability for spontaneous innovation He combined an immersion in Parker ...


Collette, Buddy  

Elliott S. Hurwitt

alto and tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, flutist, bandleader, arranger, composer, music teacher, and one of the leading jazz musicians in Los Angeles since the early 1940s, was born William Marcell Collette in Los Angeles, California. He was the son of Willie Hugh Collette, who came from Knoxville, Tennessee, and drove a garbage truck. Both he and a brother dabbled in music. Collette's mother, Goldie Marie Dorris came from Kansas City and sang in church She had a degree in cosmetology but was primarily a homemaker Collette had an older sister Doris and a younger brother Patrick As a child he took piano lessons but rebelled against further lessons on the instrument after coming under the sway of big band recordings which inspired him to take up the saxophone Collette bought his first horn at the age of eleven using money he made shining ...


Dyett, Walter Henri  

Charles Rosenberg

musician and inspirational band teacher, whose graduates included some of the top musicians in twentieth-century North America, was born in St. Joseph Missouri, the eldest child of Rev. William Walter S. Dyett, and Minerva Peck Dyett. His father was born in Montserrat in the British West Indies, and was brought to the United States as a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church by assignment of Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner in 1888. His mother was born in Alabama, marrying Rev. Dyett in 1899. One sister, Anne L. Dyett, was born in 1903.

Transferred often under the itinerant ministry tradition of the AME church, Rev. Dyett lived at various times on the British colony of Bermuda, Connecticut (where he was pastor of New Haven's Bethel AME Church in 1893 Pennsylvania Colorado Missouri and Nebraska When he was appointed pastor of First AME Church in ...


Europe, James Reese  

Reid Badger

(b Mobile, AL, Feb 22, 1880; d Boston, May 9, 1919). American bandleader and composer. A champion of black American music and musicians, he played a significant role in the transformation of orchestral ragtime into jazz. As a teenager in Washington, DC, Europe studied the violin, the piano and composition. After moving to New York in 1903, he continued his studies informally with organist Meville Charlton and singer/composer Henry T. Burleigh. By 1909 he had achieved considerable success as a composer of popular songs and as music director for several important theatrical productions, including Red Moon (1908–9) and Mr Lode of Koal (1909). The following year he organized and was elected president of the Clef Club, the first effective union for black musicians in the city’s history. He also conducted the club’s symphony orchestra. On 2 May 1912 ...


Europe, James Reese  

Reid Badger

music administrator, conductor, and composer, was born in Mobile, Alabama, the son of Henry J. Europe, an Internal Revenue Service employee and Baptist minister, and Lorraine Saxon. Following the loss of his position with the Port of Mobile at the end of the Reconstruction, Europe's father moved his family to Washington, D.C., in 1890 to accept a position with the U.S. Postal Service. Both of Europe's parents were musical, as were some of his siblings. Europe attended the elite M Street High School for blacks and studied violin, piano, and composition with Enrico Hurlei of the U.S. Marine Corps band and with Joseph Douglass, the grandson of Frederick Douglass.

Following the death of his father in 1900 Europe moved to New York City There he became associated with many of the leading figures in black musical theater which was then emerging from the ...


Europe, James Reese  

Bill Egan

musician. James Reese “Jim” Europe was born in Mobile, Alabama, the fifth of six children. His parents were Henry J. Europe, a former slave and a Baptist pastor employed in various public positions, and Lorraine Saxon Europe, a teacher. Europe learned music from his mother, playing violin and later mandolin.

In 1889 the family moved to Washington, D.C. John Philip Sousa was a close neighbor, and Europe received tuition on piano and violin from Enrico Hurlei, the assistant director of the U.S. Marine Corps Band. Around 1903 Europe moved to New York and studied with the noted African American composer and spirituals expert Harry T. Burleigh. Though aware of his traditional religious heritage, Europe embraced secular black music—ragtime and the show music of entertainers like Bert Williams and George Walker, Ernest Hogan, and Bob Cole and J. Rosamond Johnson He joined Hogan ...


Greer, Frank Terry  

Raoul F. Camus

(b Columbia, SC, June 21, 1914). American bandmaster, arranger and educator. He attended West Virginia State College (BMus 1948) and Marshall State University (MA 1954 After playing the trumpet in Air Force and dance bands he was appointed director of bands at Tennessee ...


Johnson, Francis  

Penny Anne Welbourne

Early biographical sources indicated that Francis “Frank” Johnson was originally from Martinique; however, later scholarship established that he was born free in Philadelphia. Little is known about his parentage or early life. In 1818 the major music publisher George Willig produced Johnson's Collection of New Cotillions, and by 1819 Johnson and his dance orchestra were performing throughout the city of Philadelphia. Johnson achieved national recognition when he was commissioned to write music for the occasion of the Marquis de Lafayette's visit to Philadelphia in 1824.

Johnson s involvement with music was all encompassing he was a composer writing more than three hundred pieces throughout his lifetime and bandmaster and also played an instrument called a tortoise shell keyed bugle also known as a Kent bugle He performed for militia units while continuing to lead his dance orchestra In addition to composing and performing he taught music ...


Johnson, Francis  

Andy Gensler

bandleader, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and teacher, was probably born in Philadelphia to parents whose names are unknown. Early scholarship suggested he was born in Martinique in the West Indies. By 1812 he was known to be a professional musician in Philadelphia. While there is little historical record of Francis “Frank” Johnson's early life, it is known that three key figures helped young Francis hone his prodigious music skills: Matt Black, an African American bandleader from Philadelphia; P. S. Gilmore, “the father of the American band”; and Richard Willis, the director of the West Point military band.

That Johnson played many instruments is clear from a student's observations of his studio, which housed “instruments of all kinds…. Bass drum, bass viol, bugles and trombones” (A Gentleman of Much Promise: The Diary of Isaac Mickle, 1837–1845 196 While Johnson was an accomplished French horn ...


Johnson, Frank  

Leila Kamali

Nickname of Francis Johnson (1792–1844), African‐American bandleader, bugler, and composer. Johnson, a free Black from Philadelphia, first achieved local eminence as a fiddler while still in his youth. Around 1815 he was noted for introducing the keyed bugle to the United States. During the 1820s Johnson published compositions, and worked with Philadelphia militia units including the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry and the Washington Grays. In 1824 he received two major commissions, one to compose the music for the return to Philadelphia of the revolutionary hero the Marquis de Lafayette, and another to score the musical The Cataract of the Ganges.

Johnson and his band toured Britain from 1837 to 1838, with a repertoire ranging from Mozart and Rossini to American popular songs They are considered to be the first black American musicians to visit Europe and the first to play for Queen Victoria who ...


Johnson, Frank  

Eileen Southern

(b ?Martinique, 1792; d Philadelphia, April 6, 1844). American composer and bandmaster. He is reputed to have settled in Philadelphia in 1809, where he won local recognition as a bandmaster, composer and performer on the keyed bugle. Later his band, which was employed by élite military companies of the city, and his dance orchestra gained a national reputation; in 1837 the band became the first such American group to give concerts in England, reputedly including a command performance for Queen Victoria. When he returned to the USA in 1838 Johnson introduced Philippe Musard’s concept of the ‘promenade concert’ to the American public. His band toured widely, playing promenade concerts chiefly consisting of Johnson’s own compositions; it also shared the concert stage in Philadelphia with eminent white artists, which was unprecedented for a black group at that time.

Johnson wrote in the conventional ...


Peña Plaza, Ángel Rafael “Lito”  

Ángel "Cuco" Peña

was born Ángel Rafael Peña Plaza on 17 July 1921 in Humacao, Puerto Rico. He was the son of the renowned composer, educator, and musical patriarch Juan Peña Reyes and Reyes’s wife, Berta Plaza. Juan Peña Reyes directed Humacao’s municipal concert band, and his son began his formal musical education at the age of 8 under his father’s tutelage, alongside his brothers Jesús, Germán, and Miguel. He later studied piano under Professor Carmelina Figueroa Sanabia in the capital city of San Juan. As a teenager, Peña worked assiduously, composing and arranging music at every opportunity. He wrote the theme song for his high school graduation class, “Por gloria y honor” (For Glory and Honor), as well as a danza dedicated to his hometown of Humacao titled “La ciudad gris” (The Gray City), and the romantic danza Te quiero porque sí I Love You Just Because I Do all before ...


Reece, Cortez Donald  

Kimberly L. Malinowski

musicologist and professor, was born in Guthrie, Oklahoma, to William (Bud) Reese and Lenora Smallwood. Reece later changed the spelling of his last name for unknown reasons. During the winter months, while his mother was teaching and completing medical school, Reece lived with his grandparents. His mother later became a practicing physician. His grandfather was a Baptist minister, and Reece described his home as “very correct but not depressingly so.” He credited Guthrie as having an “excellent school system, an equally excellent public library, and a good cultural environment” and these resources helped prepare him for his studies (Bluefieldian, Nov. 1973, 7). In 1921 Reece was baptized and joined a local Baptist church, and in 1925 he graduated from high school.

Reece credited his decision to attend Fisk University to the inspirational Jubilee Singers and to his mother who attended both Fisk University and Meharry ...


Snowden, Elmer  

William Thomson

banjo, guitar, and saxophone player, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His parents' names are unknown and his exact birth date varies depending on the source. In 1915 he began his career in his hometown playing a New Orleans–derived jazz with Eubie Blake and later with the pianist Gertie Wells, to whom he was married for several years during the early 1920s. By 1921 he had moved to nearby Washington, D.C., where he jobbed with Louis Thomas and Claude Hopkins and his own eight-piece group, which played alternately with Duke Ellington's trio. Snowden also appears to have played banjo with Ellington's group earlier, from 1919 to 1920, but this is not reported conclusively. Snowden's Washington band included Sonny Greer on drums, Arthur Whetsol on trumpet, and Otto Hardwick on sax. The three would later be long-term members of the Ellington orchestra.

Bolstered by the ...