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Allen, Geri Antoinette  

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 ...

Article

Anderson, Hallie L.  

Mary Krane Derr

multi‐instrumental musician, teacher, and orchestra conductor, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. Some sources give her birth year as 1885; however, according to U.S. census data, it was most likely 1882. Her mother, Betty Anderson, was born March 1849 in Virginia. Little is known about Hallie Anderson's father except that he was also a Virginia native. When Hallie was three, the family migrated to New York City. As a child, Hallie took public school and private music lessons. She received classical training at the New York German Conservatory of Music. Although it did not record her occupation, the 1900 census noted that Hallie's mother was a widow who could neither read nor write, and who had seven living children. Betty Anderson was then living with three of her children, all of whom could read and write: Charles (born Sept. 1872), a waiter; John ...

Article

Barker, Danny  

Michael Mizell-Nelson

jazz guitarist and banjoist, vocalist, and author, was born Daniel Moses Barker in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Moses Barker, a drayman, and Rose Barbarin Barker. Barker grew up in New Orleans with a largely absent Baptist father of rural origins and a mother whose familial connections to the Barbarin family, famed in New Orleans music, rooted him in the city's Creole of Color musical community. His childhood experiences immersed him in the cultures of both sides of his family: rural Protestant and urban Roman Catholic.

Barker's uncle, the drummer Paul Barbarin composer of the jazz standard Bourbon Street Parade started Danny on drums after trying the clarinet Danny decided to play multiple string instruments guitar banjo and ukulele A teenaged Barker played in spasm bands children s bands that featured rudimentary instruments often created from discarded objects Playing ukulele Barker led a spasm band named ...

Article

Bethune, ‘Blind Tom’  

Philip Herbert

Alias of Thomas Wiggins (1849–1908), famous slave pianist, described by Mark Twain as a musical prodigy. He was born in May 1849 in Columbus, Georgia, being blind, and in today's terms an ‘autistic savant’. The renowned lawyer James N. Bethune bought Wiggins's parents as slaves. Recognizing that Wiggins was a musical genius capable of imitating noises, improvising, and composing at 6, Bethune's daughter Mary taught him to play the piano.

In 1857 Bethune paraded Wiggins's talent across Georgia, meeting rapturous responses. Consequently, Bethune had tours organized by Perry Oliver (concert promoter) earning them $100,000 a year. Wiggins would play European classical music, improvisations, popular ballads, and his own compositions, examples of the last being ‘The Rainstorm’ (1865) and ‘Cyclone Gallop’ (1887).

The Bethune family forced him to tour the South performing to raise funds during the Civil War for the confederacy and its army ...

Article

Blind Boone  

John Davis

pianist and composer, was born John William Boone in a Union army camp in Miami, Missouri, to Rachel Boone, an army cook and former slave to descendants of Daniel Boone, and to a white bugler for the Seventh Missouri State Militia, Company I, suggested by the historian Mike Shaw to have been Private William S. Belcher (Shaw, 2005). Although Boone's early biographer, Melissa Fuell, referred to Boone as having had five brothers—Ricely, Edward, Sam, Tom, and Harry (Fuell, 137)—according to Shaw it is likely that, except for a half brother, Edward (alternately referred to in census records as both Wyatt and Edward), all were step siblings via Rachel Boone's 17 May 1871 marriage to James Harrison Hendrick (a.k.a. Harrison Hendrix).

Little Willie as the newborn John William was called and his mother soon moved to Warrensburg Missouri where at the ...

Article

Bologne, Joseph  

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 ...

Article

Bridgetower, George Augustus Polgreen  

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 ...

Article

Bridgetower, George Augustus Polgreen  

Jane Poyner

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 ...

Article

Bridgetower, George Frederick Polgreen  

Roanne Edwards

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 ...

Article

Butler, Picayune  

Tony Thomas

was a black banjoist of the early 1800s who played for coins (picayunes) in the streets of New Orleans. Butler was celebrated as far away as Louisville and Cincinnati. Possibly from the French-speaking Caribbean or Louisiana, Butler may not have been his real name. Already described as “old” by 1830, there are no reports of Butler from after 1830. The popular minstrel song “Picayune Butler's Coming to Town” created an international legend about him.

The closest thing to what may be a contemporary New Orleans account of Picayune Butler is music historian Henry Kmen's conjecture that the words “old Butler's banjow [sic]” in the 24 December 1830Louisiana Advertiser refer to Picayune Butler.

In 1860 T. Allison Brown wrote in the New York “sporting” newspaper The Clipper that in 1834 George Nichols a white Cincinnati circus clown learned the song Jim Crow from a French darkie a ...

Article

Dédé, Edmond  

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 ...

Article

Emidy, Joseph Antonio  

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 ...

Article

Franciscote  

Ana María Seoane

was the leader of an anticolonial rebellion in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Charcas (a jurisdiction belonging to the kingdom of Spain), at the beginning of nineteenth century. He was born in Circa, Brazil, in 1780. He entered the territory of Santa Cruz (now Bolivia), presumably escaping from slavery in Brazil, and settled in Santa Cruz de la Sierra at the service of the rich landowner Joseph Salvatierra.

At the end of the eighteenth century, there was an important influx of free and enslaved Afro-descendants from Brazil to Charcas, partly due to the promise of finding better living conditions if they pledged allegiance to the king of Spain, Ferdinand VII. The Spanish Crown, through their representatives in Santa Cruz, hoped that their presence would help to people the vast border between the two kingdoms (Spanish and Portuguese), and they kept the territory safe from the bandeirantes Portuguese settlers ...

Article

Gil, Ramón  

Baptiste Bonnefoy

was born Juan Ramón Gil Ibáñez in 1780 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Bermundo Gil, bassist for that city’s Coliseum Theater orchestra, and María Ibáñez. Ramón Gil’s baptismal record describes him as a pardo, a designation commonly applied in the eighteenth-century Viceroyalty of Río de la Plata to free persons of color. By 1804 Gil was hired as a cellist in the Coliseum Theater orchestra, becoming a close friend of its director, the Spanish composer Blas Parera (1776–1840), under whom his father also worked.

In 1793 the cathedral in Santiago, Chile, hired José Campderrós (1742–1812), a Catalonian composer then active in Lima, Peru, to reorganize its chapel music. As part of this project, Campderrós traveled to Buenos Aires in the early 1800s in search of talented musicians. He found and hired Gil as well as the pardo violinist Teodoro Guzmán At the time Santiago ...

Article

Gottschalk, Louis Moreau  

John Davis

pianist and composer, was born in New Orleans to Edward Gottschalk, a Londoner of German-Jewish extraction who emigrated to Louisiana to trade in real estate, commodities, currency, and slaves, and Aimee-Marie Bruslé, whose murkier ancestry has contributed to much confusion over her musician son's ethnic heritage. Virtually all period sources identify Gottschalk's mother as “Creole,” a term “synonymous with native” in early-nineteenth-century New Orleans and embracing “all objects indigenous to Louisiana, from cabbage to cotton, and all people, regardless of hue” (Gary B. Mills, “Creole,” in Encyclopedia of Southern Culture 426 By the late 1800s however the word was reserved both for those of pure white ancestry who were wealthy and aristocratic and rooted in the Delta country of lower Louisiana as well as for those uniformly poor in worldly goods quaint in customs and mixed of blood Mills 427 That Edward Gottschalk in addition to ...

Article

Guzmán, Teodoro  

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 ...

Article

Holland, Justin  

David Bradford

guitarist, teacher, composer, arranger, and civil rights advocate, was born in Norfolk County, Virginia, to Exum Holland a farmer. His mother's name is not recorded.

Justin Holland recognized at an early age that rural Virginia offered few opportunities for an ambitious young African American. Born on a farm in Norfolk County to free parents in 1819, Holland was only fourteen when he set out for Boston. Massachusetts was the first state to abolish slavery (in 1783 and Boston had a small but comparatively thriving black population Holland found work that provided in his words a good living in nearby Chelsea and became immersed in the energetic cultural life of the city He had shown a knack for music from a young age but farm life provided little opportunity to develop musical talent Now inspired by the performances of Mariano Perez one of the ...

Article

Lew, Barzillai  

Paul Devlin

professional musician and soldier in the French and Indian War and War of Independence, was the freeborn progenitor of a large Groton, Massachusetts, family. The family later spent time in Dracut and Pepperell, where they owned land. His father, Primus Lew, was a skilled artisan (a cooper, or barrel maker) and it is unclear if he was ever a slave and later freed, or was himself freeborn. The historian Benjamin Quarles claimed that Barzillai Lew was also a cooper, and it has been claimed that Primus was also a musician. His mother was named Margret; nothing else about her is known. Father and son both served in the French and Indian War, with Barzillai (also known as “Zeal”) serving for thirty-eight weeks in 1760 under the command of Thomas Farrington. In 1768 he married Dinah Bowman whose freedom he bought for $400 They later had at ...

Article

Saint-Georges, Chevalier de  

Roanne Edwards

A singular figure on the musical landscape of pre-Revolutionary France, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges gained renown as a composer and violinist. Influenced by the French classical tradition, he wrote in a variety of forms: concertos for violin and orchestra, symphonies, string quartets, operas, sonatas for keyboard and violin, and simphonies concertantes, the popular French form of concerto that featured two or more soloists and an orchestra. He was also recognized throughout Europe as one of the outstanding swordsmen of his time, and in 1792 became colonel of his own regiment in France's National Guard. In 1838 he was the subject of a four-volume adventure novel by Roger de Beauvoir.

The Chevalier de Saint-Georges, born Joseph de Boulogne near Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe, West Indies was the son of an African slave woman and an aristocratic French plantation owner from whom he inherited his name and title At the ...

Article

Saint‐Georges, le Chevalier de  

Philip Herbert

Assumed name of Joseph de Bologne (or Boulogne) (c.1740–1799), international composer and violinist and one of the best fencers in Europe. He was born in Guadeloupe as Joseph, the son of George de Bologne, a wealthy plantation owner. His mother, Nanon, was an African slave. He and his mother were taken to France in 1753. He received a gentleman's education at the fencing school La Boëssière's Royal Academy of Arms. Its focus was on academic study, music, dance, and languages. His fame at fencing was such that he was called le Chevalier de Saint‐Georges.

François‐Joseph Gossec (1734–1829) invited him to be leader of the Concerts des Amateurs orchestra in 1769, and later, its musical director. Between 1772 and 1777 he composed premiered and published violin concertos some of the earliest string quartets in France violin sonatas and symphonies concertantes ...