Stephen Collins Foster, 1826-1864
Austin, William W. "Susanna", "Jeanie", and "The Old Folks at Home": The Songs of Stephen C. Foster from His Time to Ours. 2d ed. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988.
Arthur Farwell (1872-1952)
Biography. Waters, Edward N. "The Wa-Wan Press: An Adventure in Musical Idealism." In A Birthday Offering to C[arl] E[ngel], comp. and ed. Gustave Reese, 214-33. New York: G. Schirmer, 1943.
H. T. Burleigh (1866-1949)
Biography. Simpson, Anne Key. "Hard Trials: The Life and Music of Harry T. Burleigh." Composers of North America, no. 8. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1990.
Scott Joplin, 1868-1917
Biography. Biography. Sedalia continues to celebrate its unique ragtime heritage with the annual Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival held under the auspices of the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Foundation (http://www.scottjoplin.org).
Ben Harney, 1872-1938
Biography. Biography. Harney later played a world tour, leaving the stage in the early 1920s, when health issues made it impossible for him to continue his career. He retired to Philadelphia, where he died in poverty in 1938.
John Stark, 1841-1927
Biography. Biography. Because of business disagreements, Joplin eventually left Stark for other publishers. Nevertheless, Stark was successful enough to move to New York where he competed with the myriad publishers of Tin Pan Alley. After a profitable career as a ragtime publisher, Stark returned to St. Louis, where he died in November 1927.
Joseph Lamb, 1887-1960
Biography. Biography. Lamb died in September of 1960 in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, recognition of his contributions to ragtime came only at the end of his life.
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.
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."
Will Accooe (d. 1904)
Biography. Biography. Accooe also composed for other musicals. Williams and Walker's The Sons of Ham (1900) included some Accooe material. He also wrote a musical in 1901 with Will Marion Cook called The Cannibal King, but this was never staged.
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...
Maurice Arnold, 1865-1937
Biography. Biography. Maurice Arnold was one of many African-American students of Antonin Dvorak during Dvorak's 1894 stay in the United States. Arnold participated in Dvorak's famous January 23, 1894, concert at the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. Arnold's four "American Plantation Dances" were performed at the conservatory and garnered him a small measure of fame. He was also the author of...
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.
J. Tim Brymn, 1881-1946
Biography. Biography. After the revival of black musicals in 1921, Brymn immediately returned to stage work, appearing in Put and Take and conducting the orchestra for Liza. In 1923 Brymn introduced the "Black Bottom" dance to the world at large as part of the musical Dinah. Brymn also wrote several blues songs during the 1920s blues craze. In the 1930s Brymn conducted American military...
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.
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.
Will Marion Cook (1869-1944)
Biography. Biography. Biography. Cook also followed his own advice. Thomas Riis, in his study of early black musical theater, singles out Cook's remarkable harmonic skill and compositional sophistication. When the pursuit of his classical career was stymied, Cook brought his exceptional talent to bear on popular music, perhaps paving the way for the marriage of popular spirit and classical complexity which became jazz. Either...
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...