Biographical Notes

Akers, Doris (1923- )
Simmons-Akers Singers: one of the most important gospel groups in the late 1940s and 1950s; Akers wrote or arranged many of the standards in gospel music from this period.
Return to 1948

Anderson, Marian (1899-1993)
African-American contralto. One of the most highly respected singers of opera and spirituals, Toscanini is said to have told her, "A voice like yours is heard only once in a hundred years."
Return to 1939, 1952, 1955

Anderson, Thomas Jefferson (1928- )
African-American composer. He received his Ph.D. in composition from the University of Iowa in 1958; he also taught in High Point public schools (1951-54) and at Tufts University (1971-). Currently, he is retired and living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Return to 1928, 1978

Armstrong, Louis (c1898-1971)
Jazz trumpeter, singer, and bandleader; popularly known as "Satchmo" (short for "Satchel Mouth"). One of the most popular and important figures in the history of jazz music.
Return to 1925, 1960, 1964, 1971

Arvey, Verna (1910-1987)
Arvey was also Still's librettist on several of his works, including A Bayou Legend and the author of a biography on Still entitled In One Lifetime (Fayetteville, Ark.: University of Arkansas Press, 1984).
Return to 1910, 1939

Bailey, Pearl (Mae) (1918-1990)
Popular nightclub singer; she starred in the first all-Black version of Hello, Dolly! in 1967, and also appeared in numerous films, plays, and frequently on television.
Return to 1918, 1946, 1970, 1990

Baker, David (1931- )
African-American composer and jazz musician. He played trombone with many of the leading jazz bands of the day and his compositions fuse modern techniques with jazz.
Return to 1968

Basie, Count (1904-1984)
Jazz bandleader and pianist; he led one of the most important big bands in jazz history, giving many important musicians their first national exposure.
Return to 1937, 1957, 1984

Battle, Kathleen (1948- )
African-American soprano/opera singer who has sung with major American and European opera companies and orchestras.
Return to 1972

Belafonte, Harry (1927- )
Actor and singer. Began career as a singer in New York clubs, then appeared in shows and films. Known also for his folk music performances (Grammy awards 1960, 1961, and 1965)
Return to 1954

Berry, Chuck (1926- )
Rock singer, song writer and guitarist. His early hits topped rhythm-and-blues, country-and-western and pop music charts. He was one of the first black rock-and-roll singers to achieve widespread popularity. Films: Rock, rock, rock; American hot wax.
Return to 1955

Bethune, Blind Tom (1849-1908)
Born a slave, his prodigious musical talent allowed him to tour extensively in the late nineteenth century and he was one of the most well-known pianists and composers of his day.
Return to 1898

Blake, Eubie (1883-1983)
Jazz pianist, dancer, and composer; both of his parents had been slaves. He composed popular and serious music and remained active as a performer throughout his long life.
Return to 1921, 1969, 1983

Boatwright, McHenry (1928- )
African-American bass-baritone opera singer, especially known for his interpretation. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in Schuller's The Visitation and has recorded Porgy and Bess
Return to 1956

Bonds, Margaret Allison (1913-1972)
African-American composer, pianist and teacher. In 1932 she won the Wanamaker prize (composition) for the song, Sea Ghost. She was the first black soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Florence Price's piano concerto. Later in her career, she made arrangements of spirituals for Leontyne Price.
Return to 1933, 1961

Brice, Carol (1918-1985)
African-American contralto known for opera and concert performances. She was the first black American to win the Naumberg award. She was awarded a Grammy for a recording of Porgy and Bess. Other recordings include Bach arias, De Falla's El amor brujo, Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, and the operas Regina and Saratoga.
Return to 1918

Brown, James (1928- )
African-American popular singer, songwriter and band leader. In 1963 he made a recording of a concert at the Apollo Theader that sold over one million copies (James Brown Show)
Return to 1956, 1968

Bumbry, Grace (1937- )
African-American mezzo-soprano/soprano especially known for her interpretation of the operatic roles Carmen and Amneris. She was the first black performer to appear at Bayreuth (Germany)
Return to 1961

Burleigh, Henry Thacker (1866-1949)
Composer and singer, pupil of Antonín Dvorák. He is known primarily for his songs and arrangements, especially arrangements of spirituals for solo voice and piano.
Return to 1916, 1917

Caesar, Shirley (1938- )
Internationally known gospel singer.
Return to 1938, 1960

Chadwick, George Whitefield
One of the leading composers of the "Boston Classicist" school.
Return to 1922

Checker, Chubby (1941- )
Singer. Films: Twist around the clock; Don't knock the twist (Grammy: Rock & roll, 1961)
Return to 1960

Cole, Nat "King" (1917-1965)
Pianist and singer. His early career as a pianist in jazz combos was somewhat overshadowed by his singing career in the 1950s and 1960s, when he became one of the most popular and well-loved singers in the world, appearing frequently on radio and television.
Return to 1917, 1943, 1956, 1965

Cole, Bob (Robert) (1863-1911)
African-American lyricist, composer and vaudeville performer. He joined forces with Billy Johnson, J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson to produce hit songs. He was one of the first blacks to become part of "white" musical entertainment (in "blackface")
Return to 1898, 1906

Coleman, Ornette (1930- )
Jazz saxophonist and composer.
Return to 1960

Cook, Will Marion (1869-1944)
Composer and conductor. He studied conducting at the Oberlin Conservatory and later studied violin with the famous German violinist, Joseph Joachim. After a short career as a concert violinst, he became famous for his musical comedy productions.
Return to 1895, 1898

Davis, Gussie Lord (1863-1899)
African-American songwriter. He became one of the top Tin Pan Alley songwriters.
Return to 1895

Davis, Miles (1926-1991)
Trumpeter and bandleader. One of the founders of "cool" jazz, a reaction to the more frenetic pace of bebop; Davis also led the way into experiments with modal music and the fusion of jazz and rock music.
Return to 1970

Dawson, Mary Cardwell (1894-1962)
African-American opera director and teacher. She founded the Cardwell School of Music in Pittsburg, the Cardwell Dawson Choir as well as the National Negro Opera Company.
Return to 1941

Dawson, William Levi (1898-1990)
African-American composer; he studied and later taught at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He is especially remembered for conducting the famous Tuskegee Institute Choir.
Return to 1934, 1990

Dett, R. Nathaniel (1882-1943)
African-American composer, pianist, and conductor; he directed the well-known Hampton Institute Choir, which toured internationally, and was involved in preserving black folk music.
Return to 1913, 1920

Dixon, Dean (1915-1976)
Return to 1948, 1970

Domino, "Fats" (Antoine Domino) (1928- )
Pianist, singer, songwriter. Known especially for his particular boogie-woogie style.
Return to 1955

Dorsey, "Georgia Tom" Thomas (1899-1993)
African-American blues singer, gospel songwriter and pianist. He was very influential in the gospel song movement.
Return to 1921, 1927

Dunbar, Paul Laurence (1872-1906)
African-American poet, author of the poems used by William Grant Still in the Afro-American Symphony
Return to 1896, 1898

Ellington, Duke (1899-1974)
Jazz composer, bandleader, and pianist; one of the leading figures in Big Band jazz during the 1930s and 1940s.
Return to 1899, 1931, 1932, 1965, 1974

Europe, James (1881-1919)
African-American composer, conductor, and bandleader; Europe's orchestras included traditional symphonic instruments and such instruments as mandolins, banjos, harp-guitars, and saxophones, specializing in music by black composers. He was stabbed to death by one of his drummers in 1919, at the height of his musical popularity.
Return to 1912, 1918

Fitzgerald, Ella (1918- )
Jazz singer; she worked with most of the leading performers and groups of the day. She is especially well-known for her scat-singing and vocal improvisations. Grammys: vocal (1958, 1959, 1960, 1962), jazz vocal (1958, 1959, 1976, 1979), vocal album (1960)
Return to 1934

Franklin, Aretha (1942-- )
Singer and recording artist. Grammys: rhythm & blues (1967), rhythm & blues vocal (1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974), gospel (1972)
Return to 1987

Garner, Errol L (1921-1977)
Jazz pianist. He was completely self-taught and never learned to read music. His style was unique and called for a level of virtuosity seldom approached since.
Return to 1950

Gillespie, Dizzy (1917-1993)
Jazz trumpeter and bandleader, one of the founders of the bebop jazz style. His nickname is said to have come from his wild playing and facial expressions.
Return to 1944

Hampton, Lionel (1909- )
Drums and vibraharp. Worked with Les Hite, Eddie Elkins, Benny Goodman Quartet, Louis Armstrong and organized his own band that had international tours. Documentary film: No maps on my taps.
Return to 1936

Handy, W[illiam] C[hristopher] (1873-1958)
The "Father of the Blues"; as a composer, he helped bridge the lighter ragtime sound to the more direct emotional appeal of the blues. His two most famous compositions are "Memphis Blues" and "St. Louis Blues."
Return to 1909, 1912, 1914, 1916, 1919, 1921, 1928

Hanson, Howard (1896-1981)
American composer, conductor, and educator; he helped the Eastman School of Music achieve national prominence during his long tenure there.
Return to 1931

Hines, Earl (1905-1983)
Composer, jazz pianist and band leader. First of a small number of pianists whose playing had an impact on the direction of jazz. He formed his own band and also recorded with Louis Armstrong.
Return to 1945

Holiday, Billie (1915-1959)
Jazz singer. Billie Holiday is considered to be one of the foremost female jazz singers and "master of the blues."
Return to 1938

Jackson, Mahalia (1911-1972)
Gospel singer; she toured internationally and was one of the most widely-recognized black gospel singers. Her tastes in music were strictly spiritual-- she refused to appear in night clubs.
Return to 1934, 1946, 1950

Jackson, Michael (1958- )
Popular singer and songwriter. He is a best selling recording artist known for his distinctive style and inventive stage performances.
Return to 1969, 1982

Jessye, Eva (1895-1992)
Choir: toured widely throughout the U.S. Jessye also helped to train numerous black choruses and promoted the performance of black spirituals.
Return to 1926

Johnson, Hall (1887-1970)
African-American choral conductor and composer. His choir had notable appearances in productions of Green pastures and Lost horizons.
Return to 1933

Johnson, James Weldon (1871-1938)
African-American Lyricist and writer on music. He and his brother, J. Rosamond Johnson produced many "hit" songs. He was alsoFlorida's first black attorney.
Return to 1900, 1901, 1906

Johnson, J[ohn] Rosamond (1873-1954)
African-American songwriter, composer and performer. He and his brother, James Weldon Johnson, produced many "hit" songs.
Return to 1900, 1901, 1906

Joplin, Scott (1868-1917)
Pianist and composer; he developed the piano rag as a combination of European form and African-American dance music. His piano miniatures have been compared to the "native" dances of such European composers as Chopin.
Return to 1899, 1911, 1917, 1972

Kay, Ulysses Simpson (1917-1995)
African-American composer. Unlike other composers of his generation, Kay was only moderately influenced by folk music, composing in a neoclassical style with masterly use of instrumentation.
Return to 1972, 1976

Lewis, Henry (1932- )
Conductor, double bassist. Lewis played bass in the Los Angeles Philharmonic during the first part of his career. Later he conducted many of the major American and European orchestras.
Return to 1968

Logan, Wendell (1940- )
Composer and educator. He was influenced by the music of James Brown, Fats Domino. He is the author of Primer for keyboard improvisation in the jazz/rock idiom.
Return to 1940

Maynor, Dorothy (1910- )
African-American soprano. She has sung with all the major American and European orchestra. In 1963 she founded the Harlem School of the Arts.
Return to 1965

Monk, Thelonius (1917-1982)
Jazz pianist and composer; he spent most of his life in New York City. Monk was at the forefront of bebop jazz in the 1940s and 1950s, creating a highly individual style.
Return to 1917, 1964

Moore, Undine Smith (1904-1989)
African-American composer and educator. She attended Fisk University, Julliard School of Music, Manhattan School of Music and the Eastman School of Music. She co-founded the Black Music Center in 1969.
Return to 1969

Morton, Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" (1890-1941)
Ragtime, blues, and jazz pianist and composer; he was also a night-club owner and professional gambler. His music shows the influence of black, white, and Hispanic styles and occupies an important place in the early history of jazz.
Return to 1915, 1939

Norman, Jessye (1945- )
African-American soprano; her wide-ranging repertoire includes opera and German, French, and Russian songs. She is regarded as one of the most versatile singers in music.
Return to 1969

Parker, Charlie (Charles Christopher, Jr.) (1920--1955)
Jazz alto saxophonist, nicknamed "Bird" or "Yardbird." He was one of the key originators and leaders of the bebop style, which emphasized virtuosic technique, speed, complex harmonies, and small ensembles.
Return to 1920, 1944

Peterson, Oscar (1925- )
Jazz pianist. One of the greatest solo pianists in jazz history, he combined classical technique with jazz impovisation.
Return to 1949

Price, Florence (1888-1953)
African-American teacher and composer; one of the first black women to write symphonies. She studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
Return to 1933

Price, Leontyne (1927- )
African-American soprano from Mississippi. She is known especially for her performances of Verdi operas.
Return to 1955, 1961, 1985

Pride, Charley (1938- )
African-American country-music singer and guitarist. As a young man he played minor league baseball. He was the first black country singer to record for a major record company (RCA)
Return to 1967

Rainey, Gertrude "Ma" (1886-1939)
Blues, jazz and vaudeville singer. Ma Rainey was a significant early female blues singer and had many tours of southern states and Mexico.
Return to 1923

Robeson, Paul Bustill (1898-1976)
Internationally known bass-baritone singer and actor. He established his reputation in Emperor Jones. Films include: Sanders of the river, Show boat, Proud valley.
Return to 1925

Ross, Diana (1944- )
Singer and actor. Member of the Supremes as a teenager. She made her TV screen debut in 1973 in Lady sings the blues. In 1977 received a special Tony award.
Return to 1961

Sissle, Noble (1889-1975)
Singer, lyricist and composer. He played in the band with Eubie Blake and collaborated with Flournay Miller in Shuffle along
Return to 1921

Smith, Bessie (1894-1937)
African-Amercian blues and jazz singer, popularly known as the "Empress of the Blues." Her many recordings have made her one of the most highly respected blues singers in history.
Return to 1923, 1927, 1937

Smith, Hale (1925- )
African-American composer. His works show a free compositional technique within traditional forms, subtly influenced by jazz.
Return to 1952

Smith, Mamie (1883-1946)
Jazz singer and vaudeville entertainer. She was the first black jazz-blues singer to be recorded.
Return to 1920

Southern, Eileen Jackson (1920- )
African-American musicologist; she received a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Chicago (1940, 1941) and studied with Gustave Reese at New York University, where she completed her Ph.D. in 1961. She taught at Harvard University from 1976 and is currently retired and living in St. Albans, New York.
Return to 1920, 1982

Still, Judith Anne (1942- )
William Grant Still's daughter and founder of the William Grant Still Music, the "official" source of information about the composer.
Return to 1942

Swanson, Howard (1907-1978)
Composer. He utilized a neoclassical style with free use of dissonance, influenced by his interests in Negro folk music.
Return to 1951, 1978

Tatum, Art (1910-1956)
Jazz pianist. Despite impaired vision, he received formal training in music and developed a unique improvisational style.
Return to 1956

Tindley, Charles A. (1859-1933)
Popular preacher and composer of gospel songs (I'll overcome someday, What are they doing in Heaven)
Return to 1916

Varese, Edgar (1883-1965)
French-born American composer; his highly original style was based on complex acoustic and theoretical principles which broke down the distinctions between music and noise, and dissonance and consonance.
Return to 1923

Vaughan, Sarah (1924-1990)
Jazz and popular singer, pianist. She often performed on radio and television and made many recordings as a singer; she also appeared as a soloist with symphony orchestras.
Return to 1945

Waller, Fats (1904-1943)
Jazz pianist, organist, singer, bandleader, and composer; he developed the "stride piano" style and was an important innovator in the early history of jazz. The 1978 musical revue, Ain't Misbehavin', was a musical tribute to his life and music.
Return to 1904, 1929, 1932

Warfield, William (1920- )
Baritone; he was married to Leontyne Price from 1952-1972. Warfield has performed several times with the North Carolina Symphony.
Return to 1951

Washington, Dinah (1924-1963)
Pop and gospel singer, known especially for rhythm and blues, pop and country songs. She was once a member of Lionel Hampton's big band.
Return to 1946

Waters, Ethel (1896-1977)
Pop singer and actress. She was the first black entertainer to move from vaudeville to "white" entertainment.
Return to 1921

Watts, André (b. 1946- )
Pianist. He has appeared with major orchestras in the United States and Europe, including the North Carolina Symphony.
Return to 1963

Williams, Bert (1874-1922)
Comedian, actor and singer from Antigua. Williams and George Walker appeared in a series of musicals shows performed by black touring companies.
Return to 1922

Williams, Mary Lou (1910-1981)
Jazz pianist and arranger. She was one of the few successful women in the field of jazz music, performing, composing, and arranging for such bandleaders as Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Dizzy Gillespie.
Return to 1977, 1981

Wilson, Olly (1937- )
African-American composer. He style involves both avant-garde and electronic music, and he has also written a number of scholarly articles.
Return to 1968, 1976

Wilson, Teddy ((1912-1986)
Jazz pianist. He was one of the most important pianists of the swing era and was one of the first blacks to appear prominently with white artists. He played with Benny Carter and the Benny Goodman band and trio.
Return to 1936

Wonder, Stevie (1950- )
Singer, songwriter, record producer. Grammys: Superstition (rhythm & blues song and rhythm & blues vocal 1973), You are the sunshine of my life (pop vocal 1973), Boogie on a reggae woman (rhythm & blues vocal 1974), Fiving for the city (rhythm & blues song 1974), I wish (rhythm & blues vocal 1976); Inner visions (artist & producer 1973), Fullfillingness first finale (artist, producer, pop vocal 1974), Songs in the key of life (artist, pop vocal, producer of the year 1976). Films: Bikini beach, Muscle beach party, CS blues.
Return to 1963

Young, Lester (1909-1959)
Jazz tenor saxophonist who had a profound influence on the course of jazz.
Return to 1909


Black Patti's Troubadours
Vaudeville company led by the soprano Sissieretta Jones ("Black Patti"); they toured internationally until 1915, performing operatic arias, art songs, and sentimental ballads.
Return to 1896

Cotton Club
A night club in New York (founded 1937 or 1938). The entertainment included a floor show, chorus line, comic acts, and many of the most important black musicians of the period. The name has been used for several other nightclubs since the original's closing in 1940.
Return to 1937, 1940

Gospel music
American religious songs with Protestant evangelical texts. Originating in the last half of the nineteenth century, gospel music evolved into a distinct category of popular music by the 1950s.
Return to 1921

Motown Records
Organized by Berry Gordy Jr., the recording and publishing company takes its name from Detroit ("Motortown") and came to be applied to a style of music.
Return to 1959, 1961

Negro spiritual
One of the largest and best-known bodies of American folk song, the Negro spiritual developed alongside the white spiritual in the camp meetings of the American South. Both black and white versions of the genre have exerted mutally influences on each other throughout much of their history.
Return to 1925

Oberlin College
Founded in 1833, a private college near Cleveland, Ohio with one of the most highly acclaimed conservatories of music in the U.S. Much of the surviving material on Still's early career can be found at Oberlin.
Return to 1917

Opera company in Jackson, Mississippi (founded in 1970) by three local black colleges: Jackson State University, Utica Junior College, and Tougaloo College. It specialized in the music of black composers including William Grant Still.
Return to 1972, 1974

Original Dixieland Jazz Band
White jazz ensemble from New Orleans; the grouped toured widely in the U.S. and in Europe, bringing the jazz style to unfamiliar audiences.
Return to 1917

Race Records
A term for 78 r.p.m. phonograph records made especially for black consumers from 1921-1942. The term was coined by Ralph Peer of Okeh records to apply to jazz, blues, and gospel music; it was replaced by "rhythm-and-blues" after World War II.
Return to 1920, 1949

Popular American music style from 1896-1918; the name comes from the use of syncopated or "ragged" rhythms. Primarily associated with the piano today, ragtime also included instrumental and vocal music, as well as music for dancing.
Return to 1899

Tin Pan Alley
Nickname of the popular song publishing industry centered in New York City from the 1890s to the 1940s. The name is said to be suggestive of the "tinny" quality of the inexpensive upright pianos used by the composers.
Return to 1895


A Bayou Legend was inspired by a legend about a love triangle between a woman who spurns the honest man who loves her a for man who does not, but who loves a spirit instead.
Return to 1941, 1974, 1981.
Minette Fontaine is about a visiting prima donna who is ignored by the creole population. She seeks the help of a voodoo High Priestess to steal the wealthy Diron Hachard from the daughter of a respectable family. However, the spell wears off after the wedding. When Diron realizes what has happened he becomes so enraged that he has a stroke which leaves him paralyzed for life. Minette has gotten what she wants but it is bittersweet because she is married to a living corpse until God chooses to release them both.
Return to 1984.
Troubled Island is the story of Haiti's fight for freedom from slavery and the subsequent problems of their leader, Jean Jacques Dessalines.
Return to 1941, 1949.