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Joseph S. Mella

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, and publisher, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Ned Adams, an electrician and occasional sign painter, and Laura. Adams first explored art making by mimicking his father, who, according to Adams, enjoyed drawing. After the divorce of his parents around 1944, Adams lived with his aunt and uncle, Claudia and Caleb Spivey. Although he sought to attend a program for gifted children at the Detroit Institute of Arts, his uncle vehemently prohibited it, preferring that Adams spend his free time working jobs such as delivering newspapers. Adams attended Northwestern High School in Detroit while continuing to live with the Spiveys until age fifteen, when he moved to his father's home.

After graduating from high school in 1951 Adams moved to Romeo Michigan a then rural town forty one miles north of Detroit There Adams worked at ...

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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 ...

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Philip Herbert

Composer, contralto, successful vocal coach, accompanist, and teacher. She was the youngest daughter of the famous African‐American actor Ira Aldridge, and born in Upper Norwood, London. Early on she was educated at a convent school in Belgium. At the age of 17 she was awarded a scholarship to study singing at the Royal College of Music. Her teachers included Jenny Lind and George Henschel for singing, along with Frederick Bridge and Frances Edward Gladstone for harmony and counterpoint.

Aldridge's career was successful and varied, as a contralto until an attack of laryngitis damaged her voice, an accompanist, vocal coach, and later a composer. She accompanied her brother Ira Frederick Aldridge on musical tours until his death in 1886. She also accompanied her sister Luranah in concerts at many well‐known London venues at the turn of the 20th century.

Aldridge also played a seminal ...

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Maxwell Akansina Aziabah

Ghanaian musicologist, teacher, and preacher, was born on 13 September 1899 in Peki Avetile in the Volta region of Ghana. He was one of the six children of Stephen Amuyao (popularly known as Papa Stefano in his community) and Sarah Akoram Amma. He was named Koku (Kwaku in Akan) because he was born on a Wednesday. Amu was baptized Ephraim by the Reverend Father Rudolf Mallet of the Bremen Mission, now the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, in Peki.

His father was a farmer and woodcarver, who made musical instruments, among other artifacts. Native music, drumming, and dancing were thus an integral part of Amu’s daily life in his formative years and would greatly influence his future career. He began his basic education in the Bremen Mission School in 1906 at the age of six Initially reluctant to attend he was placed under the care of an older schoolgirl so he ...

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Glenn Allen Knoblock

Korean and Vietnam War veteran and Medal of Honor winner, was born in Winnboro, South Carolina, the son of Frizell Anderson, a carpenter, and Blanche Rabb Anderson, a homemaker. Webster's parents had seven children, daughters Frances, Alberta, Marjorie, and Marie, and sons Frizell Jr., Webster, Billy, and Larry.

In 1953, Anderson was drafted by the Army to serve in the Korean War. Although racism suffused the armed forces despite President Harry Truman's executive order to integrate the military, Anderson's initial Army experiences were largely positive. He would later tell his son Davis that joining the Army was “a good thing for him.” He believed that his white commanding officers as much as his fellow soldiers “helped pave the way” for his military career (Anderson). Webster enjoyed a happy private life too, marrying Ida Davis in 1959 In their ...

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Wallace McClain Cheatham

opera singer and college professor, was born in New York, the second child of Demetrio Arroyo, a mechanical engineer who moved to the United States from Puerto Rico at eleven years of age, and Lucille Washington Arroyo, a Charleston, South Carolina native. Her father studied engineering at the University of Florida and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. With the exception of piano lessons from her mother and occasional singing at church, Arroyo received very little musical training during her childhood. Her family, however, ensured that films, concerts, plays, and other performances were a part of her upbringing.

After completing junior high school, Arroyo attended the Hunter College–operated special high school for gifted children. Her interest in opera, which took root during those years, developed from her experience with the Hunter College Opera Workshop. Upon listening to her performance of the “Jewel Song,” a piece from Gounod'sFaust ...

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K. Wise Whitehead

music teacher, violinist, and the first African American woman to earn a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, was born free in Philadelphia to David Bustill Bowser, an ornamental painter, and Elizabeth (Liz) Harriet Stevens Gray Bowser, a seamstress. David Bowser's grandfather was the educator, abolitionist, and baker Cyrus Bustill. Cyrus was both the son and the slave of the white attorney Samuel Bustill and was later freed by Thomas Prior, a Quaker member of the Society of Friends, in Burlington, New Jersey. He was also the grandfather of the abolitionist Sarah Mapps Douglass. In 1787 Cyrus was one of the founders of Philadelphia's Free African Society. Elizabeth Bowser was the daughter of Satterthwait, a Delaware Indian, and Richard Morey, the son of Humphrey Morrey, a white Quaker who was the first mayor of Philadelphia appointed by William Penn in 1691.

Ida s parents were ...

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Susan Richardson-Sanabria

musician, composer, educator, priest, and artist, was born James Hawthorne in Yamassee, South Carolina, to Mary Hugee and Roland Hawthorne. When he was still a boy he and his family moved to New Jersey, then to New York City—first to Brooklyn and later to Harlem. In Brooklyn James and his parents lived with his grandparents, and his grandfather encouraged him to join the church choir.

His musical talents became more evident after his move to Harlem, when he began to study dance and percussion with Isame Andrews, a specialist in African music and dance and a student of Asadata Dafora. Attracting notice with his vocal skills, Hawthorne was admitted to both the Eva Jessye and the Francis Hall Johnson choirs In the mid to late 1930s he studied African drum making and performance especially the ashiko drum with Moses Miannes Mianns a Nigerian who had come to ...

Article

Lois Bellamy

composer, educator, choral conductor, music professor, singer, and author, was born to Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner, former slave, and Sophie Stuart, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dr. Daniel Webster Boatner was born in South Carolina and was nine years old when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 Edward Boatner s grandmother was a slave who was determined that her son Daniel would receive a good education She worked very hard scrubbing floors washing cooking and nursing children of wealthy whites to send him to school Dr Boatner attended Fisk University in Nashville Tennessee and graduated from New Orleans University where he received his bachelor s and master s degrees After earning his doctorate from Gammon Theological Seminary at Atlanta Georgia he served on the faculty of Philander Smith College a Methodist School in Little Rock Arkansas where he taught Hebrew ...

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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 ...

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Ronald P. Dufour

composer and multi-instrumentalist specializing in alto saxophone and contrabass clarinet, was born in Chicago to Clarence Dunbar Braxton Sr., a railroad worker, and Julia Samuels Braxton. Braxton experienced a rich childhood centered in Chicago's Washington Park neighborhood. His parents and his stepfather, Lawrence Fouche, imbued Braxton and his siblings with values of tolerance and perseverance. Exposed to a wide range of popular media, Braxton developed an early interest in rock and roll, particularly Chuck Berry and Frankie Lymon, and he sang in his Baptist church's choir. He had begun to play clarinet at about the age of eleven, and in high school became interested in jazz and the alto sax. In 1959 he entered the Chicago Vocational High School, in part because of his interest in technology.

Through his teens Braxton studied both jazz and European classical music at the Chicago School of Music of Roosevelt University ...

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Suzanne Cloud

jazz trumpeter, composer, arranger, and educator, was born Cecil Vernon Bridgewater in Urbana, Illinois, into a family of musicians. His mother, Erma Pauline Scott Bridgewater, was the daughter of Ramon Mack Scott, who sang, played saxophone, piano, and drums, and led a band called Mack Scott and the Foot Warmers, in which Erma played piano for a time. Bridgewater's father, Cecil Bernard Bridgewater, played trumpet in the U.S. Navy band during World War II, and he was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base with other African American musicians such as Clark Terry, Marshall Royal, Jerome Richardson, and others. Bridgewater's grandfather, Preston Bridgewater, played trumpet and cornet professionally with the circus.

When Cecil Bridgewater was a student at Marquette Grade School in Champaign Illinois the school s band director noticed his potential and encouraged his parents to find a private trumpet teacher for ...

Article

Baron Kelly

concert opera singer and teacher, was the oldest of four girls born to Dr. Harry F. Brown and Mamie Wiggins in Baltimore, Maryland. Her mother was her first music teacher, and mother and daughters would frequently sing around the piano. Anne grew up listening to the recordings of Caruso, Melba, and Schumann-Heink. Toward the end of World War I, when Anne was six years old, she made her concert debut with her younger sister Henrietta singing for returning African American soldiers at Camp Meade in Baltimore. At age twelve Anne began attending Frederick Douglass Senior High School, then the city's only public high school open to blacks. During her high school years, she attended a wider range of concerts including performances by Marian Anderson and Roland Hayes at Baltimore s Lyric Theatre After graduation from high school Anne hoped to continue her education at the Peabody Conservatory Her audition ...

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Teresa Tomkins-Walsh

author, historian, teacher, and pianist, was born Olga Thelma Scott on 26 September 1905 in Houston's Third Ward, the only child of Ella and Walter Scott. Ella Scott, the daughter of slaves, was a full-time wife and mother; she was an excellent seamstress who sewed for her family but also taught neighbors to sew clothes, make quilts, and embroider. Walter Scott worked in a tobacco shop. Later, he followed in his father's footsteps to become a mail carrier, delivering mail to the homes of elite white families in the Second Ward.

Encouraged by the example of her paternal uncle, Emmett J. Scott, Bryant studied hard. She spoke as salutatorian at her Douglass Elementary School graduation in 1918 presenting her essay America s Share Is Our Share Bryant s family expected her to attend college and she expected to study out of state Although there ...

Article

Sunny Nash

Grammy Award–winning guitarist, composer, and jazz educator, was born Kenneth Earl Burrell in Detroit, Michigan, during the Depression to parents about whom little information is available. It is known that he was the youngest of three sons, and that his family enjoyed music as part of their daily lives. His mother played piano and sang in the choir at Second Baptist Church, Detroit's oldest black congregation. Burrell's father played banjo and ukulele, which may account for Burrell's and his brother's mastery of stringed instruments.

Because there was a piano in the home, it became the first instrument Burrell played as a child. He performed once before an audience in a school auditorium. Listening to saxophonists like Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins saxophone was his first love but his family could not afford to buy him one Burrell began playing guitar and at age 12 settled for the inexpensive instrument ...

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Scott Yanow

blues and jazz singer and pianist, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Butler, who was born blind due to glaucoma, started playing piano when he was six and sang in the choir of the Louisiana State School for the Blind when he was seven. While at the school, he studied classical piano and, starting in eleventh grade, voice training that included opera. He also studied drums, baritone horn, and valve trombone although he did not pursue a career on those instruments.

Butler began playing piano professionally when he was fourteen in Baton Rouge area clubs. While attending the Southern University in Baton Rouge in the late 1960s, he studied with Alvin Batiste, who guided him toward the recordings of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane along with Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and Caribbean music. He also had private lessons with Professor Longhair Harold Mabern and Roland Hanna and received a grant ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz pianist and saxophonist, was born John Arthur Byard Jr. in Worcester, Massachusetts. His mother played piano for the African Methodist Episcopalian Zion Church, and his father had performed on trombone and baritone horn years earlier in a marching band. One of his grandmothers played piano and accompanied silent movies at movie theaters in the 1920s. Byard started with piano lessons when he was eight in 1930. He performed in public with the Worcester Boys Club as a youth and worked in local bands in Massachusetts during 1938–1941 until he was drafted into the army.

Byard performed in army bands during 1941–1946. After his discharge, he continued working locally in Boston during 1946–1949. His first major musical job was with Earl Bostic during 1949–1950. Byard next worked with Jerry Tyler's band during 1950–1952 and made his recording debut in 1951 with altoist Charlie Mariano ...

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Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter, was born Donaldson Touissant L’Ouverture Byrd II in Detroit, Michigan. His father was both a minister for the Methodist Church and a musician. Byrd studied at Cass Technical High School and, while still a teenager, performed with Lionel Hampton. During 1951–1953 he was in the U.S. Air Force, where he had the opportunity to play with military bands. After his discharge, he finished earning a degree in Music from Wayne Street University in 1954. Byrd moved to New York in mid-1955, where he earned a master's degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music.

Very busy as a trumpeter as soon as he arrived in New York, Byrd worked with pianist George Wallington, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (during part of 1956) and drummer Max Roach. He also co-led the Jazz Lab with altoist Gigi Gryce.

At that time ...

Article

Alexander J. Chenault

was born in Washington, DC, and raised by her adopted mother Beullah Hanson Caldwell, in Baltimore, Maryland. Caldwell had a solidly middle class upbringing. Her father was a carpenter and her mother was an elementary school teacher, who later retired as a principal. Caldwell began piano lessons at the age of four with one of only two African American piano teachers in Baltimore. By the age of seven, Caldwell had given her first piano recital at Morgan State University. She attended the Hamilton Elementary School and Pimlico Middle School—which were both segregated. However, Hansonia attended the racially integrated, all‐girls, Eastern High School where she served as accompanist for the school’s choir. Caldwell graduated from high school in February of 1962.

She then attended Boston University’s School of Performing Arts, and was initiated into the Epsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha in1963 and received her B Mus ...

Article

Kip Lornell

gospel composer and teacher, was born in Duck Hill, Mississippi, the daughter of Burrell Campbell, a railroad worker, and Isabella Wilkerson. Lucy's mother was widowed several months after Lucy's birth, and the family soon moved from Carroll County to Memphis, Tennessee, the nearest major city. Lucie and her many siblings struggled to survive on their mother's meager wages, which she earned by washing and ironing clothing. Given the family's insubstantial income, it could afford a musical education for only one child, Campbell's older sister Lora. Lucie eventually learned to play piano, however, through her own persistence, a gifted ear for music, and a little help from Lora.

Lucie Campbell was a bright student who easily mastered elementary school and middle school, winning awards in both penmanship and Latin. Even before graduating from Kortrecht Senior High School (later Booker T. Washington High School as the class valedictorian she ...