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Ronald P. Dufour

pianist and composer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Mount Vernell Allen Jr., a principal in the Detroit public school system, and Barbara Jean Allen, a defense contract administrator for the federal government. She began studying classical piano at age seven but was also exposed to jazz at an early age. She met the trumpeter Marcus Belgrave when he was an artist-in-residence at her high school, Cass Technical; she studied jazz piano with him, and he became an important mentor, appearing on several of her later recordings. Allen also studied at the Jazz Development Workshop, a community-based organization.

After graduating from high school, Allen attended Howard University, where she was captivated by the music of Thelonious Monk and studied with John Malachi. In 1979 she earned a BA in Jazz Studies and taught briefly at Howard before moving to New York City where she ...


Debra L. Klein

master bata drummer and broker of Yoruba culture, was born on 6 August 1949 in the town of Erin-Osun in present-day Osun State, Nigeria. Ayankunle was born into a large extended family of traditional bata (double-headed, conically shaped drum ensemble) and dundun (double-headed, hourglass-shaped drum ensemble with tension straps) drummers. His father was Ige Ayansina and his mother was Awero Ayansina. Yoruba drumming lineages train their children in the art and profession of bata and dundun drumming. These families celebrate and worship orisa Ayanagalu (the spirit of the drum). Children born into an Ayan (drum family) lineage are given names beginning with the Ayan prefix, such as Ayankunle.

Passed down from generation to generation bata is a five hundred year old drumming singing and masquerade tradition from southwestern Nigeria The fifteenth century reign of Sango marks the earliest documented use of bata drum ensembles in royal contexts One of the ...


Barbara Garvey Jackson

composer, pianist, and teacher, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Dr. Monroe Alpheus Majors, a pioneering black physician, medical researcher, and author, and Estelle C. Bonds, a music teacher and organist. Although legally born Majors, she used her mother's maiden name (Bonds) in her youth and throughout her professional life. She grew up in intellectually stimulating surroundings; her mother held Sunday afternoon salons at which young black Chicago musicians, writers, and artists gathered and where visiting musicians and artists were always welcomed.Bonds first displayed musical talent in her piano composition “Marquette Street Blues,” written at the age of five. She then began studying piano with local teachers, and by the time she was in high school she was taking lessons in piano and composition with Florence B. Price and William Levi Dawson two of the first black American symphonic composers both of whom were ...


Sholomo B. Levy

gospel singer, arranger, and minister, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Benjamin Cleveland, an employee of the federal Works Progress Administration, and Rosie (Lee) Cleveland. Cleveland's father and grandmother, Annie Hicks, raised him. Hicks was a devout member of the Pilgrim Baptist Church and choir, where pianist and composer Thomas A. Dorsey served as choir director. During the Depression, James delivered newspapers to neighbors such as the gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. By the age of five he had a desire to play the piano like his childhood idol Roberta Martin of the Roberta Martin Singers. Since his family was too poor to afford a piano, he used his windowsill as an imaginary keyboard on which to master scales and chords. The church organist, Lucy Smith, provided Cleveland with formal instruction, and Roberta Martin took an early interest in his career At the age of eight ...


Lois Bellamy

gospel singer, songwriter, pianist, actor, and humanitarian, was born in San Antonio, Texas, to a barber and a seamstress. His parents’ names are not recorded. He sang his first song at the age of five and began singing, as a teenager, at the Refugee Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ in San Antonio. He also began studying classical piano at the same age. Dixon attended a local Catholic college on a scholarship but dropped out to pursue a music career. He began touring at seventeen and played black churches in California, Texas, and Louisiana.

Dixon was introduced to gospel music in his youth when his group performed at a theater in south Texas City, where gospel icon James Cleveland was in the audience Cleveland liked Dixon and persuaded him to move to Chicago as a teenager to join his group The Gospel Chimes Around ...


Eric Bennett

Aretha Louise Franklin grew from a young gospel singer into a successful and world-famous vocalist. Her many popular hits and gospel masterpieces have earned her the title Queen of Soul. As a daughter of the renowned Baptist preacher C. L. Franklin and his wife, well-known singer Barbara Siggers Franklin, Franklin was born into the world of Gospel Music. Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee and grew up in Detroit, Michgan, where her father drew a congregation of 4,500 people to his New Bethel Baptist Church. C. L. Franklin recognized his daughter's talent, and she was performing in New Bethel's choir by the age of eight. She sang solos at age twelve, and at fourteen she made her first recordings, including a version of Thomas A. Dorsey s gospel classic Precious Lord Take My Hand Franklin also began touring with her father singing wherever he served as ...


was born in St. Kitts on 17 September 1925. Griffith learned to play the organ at the Methodist Church in St. Kitts before migrating to Trinidad in November 1943. She began missionary work in Trinidad by visiting hospitals and praying with the sick. Following a vision, she was baptized as a Shouter Baptist in 1951 by Pastor Lacaille, one of the leaders of the faith during the years of prohibition engendered by enactment and enforcement of the 1917 Shouters Prohibition Ordinance, which was repealed on 30 March 1951. Several years later she another vision: that of a short, dark man, clad in a black suit, felt hat, and tie. A few days later a man with a remarkable likeness to the man in her vision walked into the yard of her church. He was Elton George Griffith the leader of the public campaign to repeal the ...


Marti K. Newland

composer, pianist, and conductor, was born Moses George Hogan in New Orleans, Louisiana, one of six children of the New Orleans natives Moses and Gloria. Hogan was raised in a home of working-class parents. His father served in the military during World War II and his mother worked as a nurse. Their work ethic and support of Hogan's musical talent fostered his commitment to developing his musicianship at an early age. By the age of nine he was already an accomplished pianist. Marie Moulton, Hogan's first piano teacher, remained an influence throughout his life.

Hogan utilized his music skills at the New Zion Baptist Church where his uncle, Edwin Hogan was the organist and choir conductor Edwin Hogan became a model of how to balance keyboard skills compositional facility and choral conducting It was at the New Zion Baptist Church that Hogan gained his ...


Emmett P. Tracy

singer, songwriter, and blues slide guitarist. Born Eddie James House Jr. in Riverton, Mississippi, House chopped cotton as a teenager, followed a calling as a preacher in the Baptist Church, and served time at Parchman Farm (Mississippi State Penitentiary) before becoming one of the greatest pioneers of Delta blues slide-guitar playing. His style profoundly influenced Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf.

When House's parents separated in 1908 or 1909, House began drifting from one cotton plantation to another across the Mississippi Delta and Louisiana. By 1920 his family had settled near Lyon, Mississippi, and House had fully committed himself to the Baptist congregation. From the age of fifteen he had been delivering sermons around the Delta, and in 1922 he became pastor of a country church near Lyon. After an affair with a female congregant in 1923 and a subsequent escape ...


Kevin Sliman

blues musician and preacher, was born in Pelahatchie, Mississippi. His father, a fireman in Jackson, Mississippi, died in 1911 and Lacy was raised by his grandfather, an African Methodist preacher. He attended school for five years and quickly turned his attention to music. Coming from a musically skilled family, Lacy organized his siblings into gospel quartets while his mother or other siblings played harmonica. He learned to play guitar and mandolin in his early teens from a man named George “Crow Jane” Hendrix, a professional musician. His uncle, Herbert Meiels a German who was highly educated and spoke five languages taught Lacy German history and politics At age twenty Lacy moved to Jackson Mississippi to pursue music but stayed only a short time before he began doing railroad work that took him all over Mississippi and then to Iowa Lacy moved to Chicago and lived with Meiels ...


David Michel

gospel pianist and arranger, was born Gwendolyn Rosetta Capps in Brookport, Illinois, the daughter of Mase and Florence Capps. Gwendolyn was the fourth of six children. At an early age she manifested some musical disposition by pretending to play piano on her father's razor stand and her mother's sewing machine. Her father died in 1934 and Gwendolyn was raised by her mother. To help the promising Gwendolyn pursue a musical education, a local family donated a piano to her mother. After high school she studied classical music and piano at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and at the Lyon & Healy Academy of Music in Chicago.

In the early 1940s she settled in Chicago, where she was introduced to gospel music while attending a service at a Shiloh Baptist Church. Chicago was then the emerging national center of black gospel music with a galaxy of stars including Thomas ...


Scott Yanow

jazz tenor saxophonist and flutist, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. His father was a pharmacist. Because his parents’ marriage was difficult, Lloyd often lived with different relatives while growing up. When he was nine years old he heard Charlie Parker on the radio. Soon he persuaded his uncle to get him an alto saxophone sax. Lloyd also was exposed to country blues, gospel music from the Baptist church, and Native American songs sung by his grandmother.

As a youth Lloyd studied with the pianist Phineas Newborn, who became his mentor. He had his first musical job at age twelve with Rosco Gordon's blues band (which featured the vocalist Bobby “Blue” Bland), and he also worked with blues groups led by Willie Mitchell, Howlin’ Wolf, B. B. King, Roosevelt Sykes, and Johnny Ace While in high school he learned bebop and became close friends ...


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 ...


Mary Frances Early

gospel pianist, composer-arranger, and singer, was born Roberta Evelyn Winston in Helena, Arkansas, the daughter of William Winston and Anna (maiden name unknown). One of six children in the Winston household, Roberta showed an early proclivity for music. When only a toddler, she climbed onto the piano bench and picked out melodies that she had heard. This interest and talent was nurtured by the wife of her oldest brother, who became her first piano teacher.

When Martin was ten years old, her family moved from Arkansas to Chicago. She continued her piano studies with Mildred Bryant Jones in standard keyboard literature and pointed her career toward that of concert pianist or professional accompanist. She graduated from Wendell Phillips High School and was encouraged by Jones to pursue a career in music. Why Roberta chose “Martin” as her surname is not known.

Martin began playing for churches at ...


Barbara A. Seals Nevergold

minister, musician, and photographer, was born in Bayou Rapides, Louisiana, to Irene Lair and Giuseppe “Joe” Nasello. Nasello, who immigrated to the United States from his native Sicily in 1901, owned a dry goods store in Alexandria, Louisiana, that Willie remembered visiting with his mother from time to time. However, Joe Nasello had another family, and given the mores of the time, “Papa” Joe never acknowledged the two children he fathered with Irene. (A daughter, Alice, was born in 1912.) Although Joe Nasello lived until 1958, it appears that father and son never met face to face nor openly acknowledged their relationship. Seals talked freely yet sparingly of his paternity, and he jokingly noted to his children that he was an “Italian.”

According to Willie, “Seals” was a made-up name that he took from Lucille Ceil a favorite grade school teacher ...


Bruce Nemerov

singer, guitarist, songwriter, and evangelist, was born Ola Mae Long in Atlanta, Georgia, to Mary Long, a laundress. Mother and daughter lived in racially segregated Atlanta's Summerhill district, just a few blocks from Decatur Street, Atlanta's black commercial and entertainment center.

In 1922, Ola Mae was put out to work as a cook and housekeeper in the home of Devereaux F. McClatchey, a Southern Bell Telephone executive. This was her first experience living outside the segregated Summerhill neighborhood. The following year she underwent a conversion experience at a revival held at the Fire Baptized Holiness Church, a Pentecostal denomination organized in Anderson, South Carolina, in 1898 and originally an integrated association.

The black members of the Fire Baptized Holiness Church, in response to increasingly strict enforcement of “Jim Crow” laws, in 1908 withdrew and formed the Colored Fire Baptized Holiness Church with ...


Sholomo B. Levy

gospel singer and songwriter, was born Clara Mae Ward in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the last of three children of George Ward, a factory worker, and Gertrude Mae Walla Azalee Murphy Ward, a domestic worker. Her parents were farmers who left Anderson, South Carolina, in 1920 in search of the better job opportunities that were available to black people in the North. All of her family sang in the choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church, although at home on one occasion mischievous relatives reportedly encouraged young Clara to belt out the popular Thomas A. Dorsey tune “Tight Like That,” which was written when the legendary gospel composer was still a bluesman and long before the enthusiastic Clara was capable of understanding its meaning Her musical tastes would later become fixed on old Negro spirituals and she became a pioneer in creating modern gospel but her desire to sing ...