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Biography William H. Tyers, 1876-1924

Image: Cover of Maori
Maori: a Samoan song by Wm. H. Tyers. (New York: Gotham and Attucks Music Co., 1909). Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.

Born in 1876, William H. Tyers was a prominent musician among the new generation of black musicians and performers who burst upon the New York City scene after 1898. He arranged the songs for The Policy Players, Bert Williams and George Walker's second New York City musical.

Tyers conducted an orchestra at the Strand Roof Garden and was assistant conductor of James Reese Europe's Clef Club Symphony Orchestra at its 1912 Carnegie Hall concert. The ensemble consisted of 125 musicians and included mandolins and banjos; the repertoire consisted entirely of compositions by black composers.

In 1919 Tyers was the assistant director of Will Marion Cook's New York Syncopated Orchestra. The orchestra toured England and played for King George V.

Tyers' songs, especially "Panama," "Maori," and "Trocha," were popular with black bands. Both "Panama" and "Maori" were recorded by Duke Ellington for Brunswick Records in 1928.

One of the first black composers to join ASCAP, Tyers died in 1924.