Coleridge Taylor Perkinson 

Some would say that it’s a bit of a burden to be named after a famous figure.  However, listening to and reading about the work of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) one can only think that here was a life as interesting…

Fela Sowande

Samuel-Coleridge Taylor served as inspiration for another composer who went on to “Westernize” the music of West Africa.  (Chief Olufela Obafunmilayo) Fela Sowande (1905-1987), was the son of an Anglican priest who was a main force in the development of…

Amanda Aldridge

There is not much recorded music of Amanda Aldridge (1866-1956), but her story and that of her family is perhaps even more interesting.  She was born the third child of African American Shakespearian actor Ira Frederick Aldridge and his Swedish…

Nina Simone

Since Mississippi made the news recently for finally deciding to get rid of the Confederate flag, only 126 years too late, today’s #Blackcomposer late edition will be about Nina Simone (1933-2003) 

Nina Simone (Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon) started out on…

Florence Price

Florence Beatrice Price (1887-1953) was born in a racially-integrated community in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her mother was a school teacher and her father, the city’s only black dentist. At the age of four, she played in her first piano recital…

Harry Burleigh

The story of Harry Thacker Burleigh (1866-1949) is one linked to that of Antonin Dvorak. 

Burleigh received his first musical training from his mother. As a youth, he was given a job as a doorman at the musical evenings hosted…

William Levi Dawson

William Dawson (1899-1992) was born to a former slave. In 1912, Dawson ran away from home to study music full-time as a pre-college student at the Tuskegee Institute (now University) under the tutelage of school president Booker T. Washington. Dawson…

Irene Britton Smith

It is difficult to find much recorded music of composer Irene Britton Smith (1907-1999).  She was born to parents of African-American and African-American and Crow-Cherokee descent. In her early years she played first piano, then violin; she wished to study…

George Theophilus Walker

George Walker (1922-2018) is often identified as an "African-American" composer instead of simply an American composer. In a 1987 interview, Walker said there are two sides to that label. 

"I've benefited from being a black composer in the sense that…

Julia Amanda Perry

Another one of Nadia Boulanger’s Paris students,  Julia Perry (1924-1979)  was born in Kentucky.  Her father was a doctor and amateur pianist, who once accompanied the tenor Roland Hayes on tour (unclear in what role).  Julia started off on the…

Harry Lawrence Freeman

In researching the opera composer Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869-1954) again I come to a troubling theme running through accounts of all these black composers.  “First black composer to…” “the black Mozart” (referring to Chevalier de Saint-Georges/Joseph Bologne, who was born…

George Bridgetower

18th century classical violinist George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower is now best remembered for his association with Ludwig von Beethoven, who originally dedicated his Violin Sonata Op. 47 to the young Afro-European musician, and first performed the sonata with Bridgetower. A…