• Bob Cole, 1868-1911

    Biography. Biography. James Weldon Johnson later referred to Cole as "the single greatest force in the middle period of the development of black theatricals in America." Although he is still not well known today, history bears out much of Johnson's claim. Cole was one of the handful of truly pioneering black composers and performers of his time.

  • James Scott, 1885-1938

    Biography. Biography. Scott, Joplin, and Joseph Lamb form the acknowledged triumvirate of ragtime greats. In many ways, Scott's pieces were more virtuosic than those of his two colleagues'--except for some of Lamb's "heavy" rags.

  • Sidney Perrin

    Biography. Biography. Perrin also had a production company. Sid Perrin's High Flyers Company produced at least two shows--Show Folks (1920) and High Flyers (1921).

  • Margaret R. Lang (1867-1972)

    Biography. Lang was self critical of her works and frequently destroyed them. None of her orchestral works are extant. After her father's death in 1909, she became caretaker of her elderly mother. She stopped composing in 1919. A zealous Episcopalian, she published a series of devotional pamphlets titled "Messages from God" between 1927 and 1939. At her own expense, she printed and distributed 6,000 ...

    • Date: 1972-05-29
  • Shepard N. Edmonds, 1876-1957

    Biography. Biography. Little is known of Shepard N. Edmonds, except that he published some music. He was part of a vaudeville team with J. Leubrie Hill which performed on the East Coast around 1898.

  • Harvey Bartlett Gaul (1881-1945)

    Biography. Gaul's choral compositions include both church anthems and secular cantatas. One of his most enduring works for choir is I Hear America Singing (1925), a setting of Walt Whitman poetry published in separate versions for mixed chorus, women's chorus, and men's chorus with soprano soloist. Today Gaul is memorialized through the Harvey Gaul Composition Competition, a biennial contest created by the Friends of ...

  • Daniel Gregory Mason (1873-1953)

    Biography. In 1913, Mason studied in Paris with Vincent d'Indy, who became his primary compositional influence. A fervent classicist, Mason's instrumental works include three symphonies, more than a dozen chamber pieces, several keyboard compositions, and other orchestral works and transcriptions. He is best known as a composer for his festival overture Chanticleer (1928) and his three symphonies, especially the Lincoln Symphony (1936). His vocal ...

    • Date: 1953-12-04
  • Alton A. Adams

    Biography. Biography. Alton Augustus Adams, born in the Virgin Islands in 1889, remains an iconic figure there. When the United States took over the islands in 1917, the new governor appointed Adams chief musician. The band that Adams assembled entered the U.S. Navy as a unit, making Adams the first black bandmaster to serve in the U.S. Navy. He composed a great deal of ...

  • R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943)

    Biography. Dett was opposed to the style of "swinging the spirituals" that was becoming popular during the 1930s. He held a poll among his students at Bennett College regarding their opinions of the popular style. One of his students, reflecting Dett' s teaching, wrote: "I like the music, but I don't like the way it was sung. . . . I think it lowers ...

  • J. Rosamond Johnson (John Rosamond), 1873-1954

    Biography. Biography. When World War I broke out, Johnson received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 15th Regiment. After the war, he toured with his own groups, and even sang and played the part of a lawyer in the original production of Porgy and Bess in 1935. J. Rosamond Johnson died in New York City on November 11, 1954.

    • Date: 1954-11-11
  • Amy Beach (1867-1944)

    Biography. Biography. Beach assumed many leadership positions, often in advancing the cause of American women composers. She was associated with the Music Teachers National Association and the Music Educators National Conference. In 1925, she was a founding member and first president of the Society of American Women Composers. Following her death on December 27, 1944, Beach's royalties were given to the MacDowell Colony, as ...

    • Date: 1944-12-27
  • Horace Weston, 1825-1890

    Biography. Biography. One of Weston's principal champions was Samuel Swain Stewart, a proponent of the banjo, who published pieces by Weston and other banjo players. Among Weston's compositions are: "Horace Weston's Home Sweet Home," "Horace Weston's New Schottische," "Horace Weston's Old-Time Jig," "The Egyptian Fandango," and "Weston's Great Minor Jig."

  • Billy Johnson, 1858-1916

    Biography. Biography. After a period in Chicago, where Johnson got married, dabbled in politics, wrote some songs, and appeared in the last Pekin Stock Company production, he returned to the New York stage around 1911. The last show he performed in was Twenty Miles from Home in 1914. Billy Johnson died in 1916 after a fall.

  • May Aufderheide, 1888-1972

    Biography. Biography. Despite a serious grounding in art music, Aufderheide turned her attentions to ragtime. Her first rag, "Dusty," was published in 1908, the same year that she wed Thomas Kaufman. The early years of her marriage inspired a series of other compositions, among them "The Richmond Rag," "The Thriller Rag," and the "Novelty Rag."

  • Victor Herbert (1859-1924)

    Biography. Herbert championed composers' rights and was instrumental in advocating for the passage of the American copyright law of 1909. He co-founded, along with John Philip Sousa and Irving Berlin, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in 1914. He served that landmark organization as a vice-president and director until his death in 1924. He was elected to the National Institute of Arts ...

  • Henry F. Gilbert (1868-1928)

    Biography. In 1905 he wrote Americanesque, which was a suite for orchestra based on minstrel show tunes. His first major success was Comedy Overture on Negro Themes (1910) for orchestra. He completed a work based on Creole music in 1908, but it was refused a public performance in Boston because of its hybrid style. Gilbert rewrote the work as a ballet, and The Dance ...

  • J. Leubrie Hill (John Leubrie), d. 1916

    Biography. Biography. Florenz Ziegfeld, producer of the Ziegfeld Follies, was impressed enough to buy the rights for a few of the numbers from My Friend from Kentucky including "At the Ball, That's All" to use in his next Follies production. Parts of My Friend from Kentucky also were used in 1914's Darktown Follies, which played in a more conventional Broadway theater; this production was ...

  • Patty Stair (1869-1926)

    Biography. Stair's compositions include two light operas, an intermezzo for orchestra, some fifty songs, anthems, and instrumental works for violin, piano, and organ. Some of her better-known pieces are Minuet and Little Dutch Lullaby (for women's voices), and These Are They, an anthem for mixed voices. Her many unpublished songs were donated to the Library of Congress in 1917. Never married, Stair died of ...

    • Date: 1926-04-26
  • Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, 1875-1912

    Biography. Biography. In England, Coleridge-Taylor continued an active life in music. He composed, taught at Trinity College of Music, conducted numerous choral societies, and even conducted in the famed Handel Society from 1904 until his death. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died on September 1, 1912, of pneumonia contracted due to overwork.

    • Date: 1912-09-01
  • Maceo Pinkard, 1897-1962

    Biography. Biography. Composer Maceo Pinkard was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, in 1897. After his "Oh, You Darktown Regimental Band" was published in 1920 by the first black-owned music publishing company, Pace and Handy, Pinkard went on to write music for the shows Bon Bon Buddy, Jr. (1922), Liza (1922), and Broadway Rastus (1925 edition). He also composed several blues songs as well as ...

  • Benjamin Shook

    Biography. Biography. A musician who was well-versed in almost all musical idioms except the blues, Benjamin Shook was a bandleader in Detroit from the end of the 19th century into the 1930s. According to Blesh and Janis, authors of They All Played Ragtime, the bands of Theodore Finney, Fred S. Stone, and Benjamin Shook "...monopolized the city's entertainment and social world to the almost ...

  • Peter C. Lutkin (1858-1931)

    Biography. In addition to his position as Dean and Director of Choirs at Northwestern University, he also served as Professor of Theory, Piano, Organ, and Composition in the School of Music, 1895-1931; Director of the School's Department of Church and Choral Music, 1926-28; and Lecturer in Church Music at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from Syracuse University. He ...

    • Date: 1931-12-27
  • Chris Smith, 1879-1949

    Biography. Biography. Chris Smith "wrote songs that pointed to black folk styles," according to music historian Eileen Southern. One of his biggest hits, "Good Morning, Carrie," was recorded as early as 1901. Both black and white musicals of the first decade of the 20th century used many of his songs as "interpolations,"or extra songs not especially connected to the plot. Some interpolations were "He's ...

  • Gena Branscombe (1881-1977)

    Biography. Branscombe's compositional output includes some 150 art songs, piano and chamber music, a few orchestral works, and a large body of choral pieces. Her most important orchestral work is Quebec Suite from her unfinished opera The Bells of Circumstance. In addition to her many choral compositions for women's voices, she wrote Coventry's Choir (1962), which was widely performed in Great Britain. Her hymn, ...

  • Eubie Blake, 1883-1983

    Biography. Biography. Blake was one of the principle figures of the ragtime and early jazz revival of the 1970s, giving talks and performances well into his nineties. In 1979 the musical Eubie was created from his work; Blake himself made several cameo appearances in performances. Eubie Blake passed away shortly after his 100th birthday.