Edward Bland

Listening to the music of Ed Bland (1926-2013)  transports me my youth growing up in New York City in the 70s.  His use of texture in instruments and rhythms to build tension and energy is probably the greatest factor, but…

Francis Johnson

There is a question about the birthplace of Francis Johnson (1792-1844), a performer of the bugle and violin.  Some sources cite Martinique, while some say Philadelphia. Regardless, by his early 20s he was building a reputation as a bandleader in…

Adolphus Hailstork

(condensed from the composer's biography page )

Adolphus Cunningham Hailstork (1941-) born  in Rochester, New York, began his musical studies with piano lessons He studied at Howard University and Manhattan School of Music. After returning from service in the U.S…

Errollyn Wallen

Errollyn Wallen (1958-) is a Belize-born British composer. She was the first black woman to have a work performed at The Proms ("Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra"). Her output includes eighteen operas, oratorios, concerti, chamber works, large orchestral works, songs…

Samuel Coleridge Taylor

In the foreword to the 1969 edition of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Musician, His Life and Letters, Blydon Jackson writes: 

“American Negroes who were born in the earlier years of this century grew up in black communities where the name of Samuel…

William Grant Still

So much has been written about the life of William Grant Still (1895-1974) that I can't do it justice. “I am waiting patiently,” he said in his autobiography, “for that man who wrote the book about how most Negro Spirituals…

Eleanor Alberga

In 2017 when Janet Arms and I were running the 20/20 chamber ensemble at the Hartt School, I contacted Eleanor Alberga (1949- )  to see if we could do the U.S. premiere of her work “Animal Banter” for flute, guitar…

Zenobia Powell Perry

Zenobia Powell Perry (1908-2004) was born in what was once a predominantly African American town of Boley, Oklahoma to a physician, Dr. Calvin B. Powell and Birdie Thompson Powell (who had some Creek Indian heritage). Her family was well-educated and…

Ulysses Kay

Ulysses Kay (1917-1995), born in in Tucson, Az (and went to my high school), was the nephew of the New Orleans jazz legend and cornet player, Joe "King" Oliver, who influenced him in his formative years. After finishing his undergrad…

Undine Smith Moore

Today’s composer is Undine Smith Moore. (1904-1989)  You can read the details of her life by googling her, but here is an excerpt of a speech she made at the First National Congress of Women in Music in 1981: 

“I…

Edmond Dédé

Edmund Dédé (1827-1901) was born in New Orleans. His parents were free Creoles of color who moved to New Orleans from the French West Indies around 1809. Dede took his first music lessons from his father who was a bandmaster…

Nathaniel Dett

Canadian composer Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) was one of the many black composers that found their way to Oberlin. He was a double major in piano (studying with Howard Handel Carter, who also taught Jessie Covington Dent, another Black prodigy) and…