Classic in Black

A Dialogue of Civilizations
African Culture and Classical Music

presented by
Fountainhead® Tanz Théâtre

Concept / Research / Development
Harry Louiserre/Managing Director & Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith/Production Director

The
Black Classical tradition

Outstanding Artists

Composers

Conductors

Musicians

Singers

Ballet Dancers

 

Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson in recital

 

"I really want to induce my brother -

whether he be black or white -

to most forcibly shake that deplorable wall

built through centuries of incomprehension."

Frantz Fanon

 

The principles underlying Classic In Black, are to further introduce, encourage and support the development,
production and dissemination of the musical and cultural structures of Europe, The America's, Africa,
The Caribbean, Asian and Arabic societies, in a cross-cultural effort to enhance the creation of regional,
national and when desired, an increasingly multi-influenced Classical Music experience.
An integral pursuit of Classic In Black is to provide opportunities within the aforementioned goals for the
indigenous people of Africa and the African Diaspora.
A Classic In Black radio program is presented monthly at the Open Channel Berlin on 92.6 and
on the internet at www.okb.de by Harry Louiserre. Classic In Black is also televised periodically
by The Collegium Television Program and presented during the annual Black International Cinema
Festival, directed by Fountainhead® Tanz Theatre.

 

Marian Anderson
Marian Anderson
Contralto

PART I
At the peak of her career, Marian Anderson was regarded as the world's greatest contralto.
When she made her Town Hall debut in New York on December 31, 1935, Howard Taubman,
the New York Times reviewer, described it as "music-making that probed too deep for words."

Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1902 in Philadelphia and as a young choir girl,
demonstrated her vocal talents by singing parts from soprano, alto, tenor and bass. At the age of 19,
she began studying with Giuseppi Boghetti and four years later, appeared as soloist with the
New York Philharmonic. After a short engagement with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra,
she travelled to Europe on a scholarship granted by the National Association Of Negro Musicians.

It was on Easter Sunday in 1939 that Miss Anderson gave what is perhaps her most memorable concert,
singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after having been barred from making an appearance at
Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

In 1955, after years of succesfull concert work, she made her Metropolitan debut in
Verdi's, A Masked Ball. Two years later, a state department tour took her around the world.
In September of 1958, Miss Anderson was named to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

 

On January 7, 1955, Marian Anderson became the first African American
to perform at the Met, America's most highly esteemed opera house. 
Anderson sang the role of a fortuneteller in an opera by the Italian composer 
Giuseppe Verdi, called Un Ballo in Maschera ("A Masked Ball"). 

 

PART II
Introduction
Many African American operatic and concert singers, including Leontyne Price, Jessye Norman, Shirley Verrett,
and Kathleen Battle, have credited Marian Anderson as their inspiration to seek professional vocal careers.
Norman recalled the first recording she heard of the contralto: "I listened, thinking,
'This can't be just a voice, so rich and beautiful.' It was a revelation. And I wept."1
Other "Black Divas" have come before Anderson: Elizabeth Taylor-Greenfield, Marie Selika, and Sissieretta Jones;
none, however, was able to break through the glass ceiling of race and obtain more than modest notoriety.
What was it about Marian Anderson that allowed her to go beyond the level of professional success obtained by her
antecedents and even her contemporaries?
Anderson's Early Years
Contralto Marian Anderson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A variety of sources suggested February 17, 1902,
as her birthdate; however, Anderson's birth certificate, released after her death, listed the date as February 27, 1897.
Her father was an ice and coal salesman, and her mother was a former teacher.
Although Anderson had early showed an interest in the violin, she eventually focused on singing. The Black community,
recognizing her talent, gave her financial and moral support. She also gained the notice of tenor Roland Hayes,
who provided guidance in her developing career. Anderson faced overt racism for the first time when she tried to apply
for admission to a local music school. She recalled her reaction to the admissions clerk's racial comments:
"I don't think I said a word. I just looked at this girl and was shocked that such words could come from one so young.
If she had been old and sour-faced I might not have been startled. I cannot say why her youth shocked me as much as her words.
On second thought, I could not conceive of a person surrounded as she was with the joy that is music without having some sense
of its beauty and understanding rub off on her. I did not argue with her or ask to see her superior. It was as if a cold, horrifying hand
had been laid on me. I turned and walked out." 2
She did, however, find a teacher who gave her lessons for free. Later, with donations from a local church, Anderson studied
with tenor/coach Giuseppe Boghetti. She toured regionally, gaining knowledge and confidence with each performance.
In 1924, she gave her first recital at New York's Town Hall. The concert revealed Anderson's discomfort with foreign
languages and almost caused her to end her vocal career.
Boghetti convinced her to continue her studies, but when Anderson was unable to establish an active career in the United States,
she went to London in 1925 to study. She visited Germany and Finland, where composer Jean Sibelius dedicated the song
"Solitude" to her. During the next ten years, she performed extensively in Europe, including an appearance during a 1935
Mozart festival in Austria. She sang before the Archbishop of Salzburg and many of Europe's leading musicians.
Her performance led the archbishop to request an encore of Schubert's "Ave Maria" and Arturo Toscanini to state
"Yours is a voice one hears once in a hundred years."

 

Un Ballo in Maschera ("A Masked Ball"), Giuseppe Verdi

 


The Milestones
Anderson returned to the United States in 1935 for a recital at Town Hall, which this time was a critical success.
Under the management of Sol Hurok, she became the country's third highest concert box office draw.
Her successes, however, did not exempt her from racial discrimination. She was often refused accommodations
at restaurants, hotels, and concert halls. The most highly publicized racial instance involving Anderson occurred
in 1939 when Hurok and officials from Howard University tried to arrange a concert for her in Constitution Hall,
the largest and most appropriate indoor location in Washington, D.C. The hall's owners, the Daughters of the
American Revolution, sparked national protests when they refused to allow her to sing there.
In answer to the protests, the United States Department of the Interior, with active encouragement from First Lady
Eleanor Roosevelt, scheduled a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939. The Easter Sunday
program drew a crowd of 75,000 people and millions of radio listeners, and the entire episode caused the news media
to focus greater attention on subsequent cases of discrimination involving Anderson and other African Americans.
In 1954, Metropolitan Opera general manager Rudolf Bing signed Anderson for the role of Ulrica in the Met's production
of Un Ballo in Maschera by Giuseppe Verdi. Her debut on January 7, 1955, marked the first time that an African American
had sung on the Met stage. Although critics described her performance as beginning tentatively and her voice as showing
the effects of her age--she was 57, author Rosalyn Story explained:
Obviously, Bing could have given the honor of "first black" to someone younger and musically stronger, like soprano
Mattiwilda Dobbs, who had succeeded at La Scala and the Glyndebourne Festival in England, or baritone Robert McFerrin,
who was engaged at the Met immediately after Anderson. But the point was clear; Anderson, whose career had quietly
and continuously broken barriers, dissolved hostilities, and awakened the consciousness of an entire country, was the
only singer whose presence could signify the real meaning of the event. The length and contour of her own journey,
from poor prodigy to artist-ambassador in the span of half a century, mirrored the progress of an entire movement of
people advancing toward artistic and social equality. Anderson's life, in simple terms, defined that movement.3
The singer received numerous awards and honors during her life. She was given the NAACP's Spingarn Award by Roosevelt
in 1938 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson in 1963. She received honorary doctorates
from over two dozen universities. Anderson performed before heads of state, including the king and queen of England and
at the presidential inagurations of Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy. From 1957-58, she served as a goodwill
ambassador with the United States State Deparment. Anderson retired in 1965 with a final concert, conducted by her nephew,
James De Priest, in Philadelphia. She settled with her husband, Orpheus Fisher, on a farm in Connecticut until she moved
to De Priest's Portland, Oregon, home in July 1992. She suffered a stroke the following spring and died of congestive heart
failure on April 8, 1993. In June, over 2,000 admirers attended a memorial service held in her honor at Carnegie Hall in New York.
After short statements by violinist Isaac Stern and De Priest, the remainder of the service consisted of playing several
representative recordings from Anderson's repertoire. Allan Kozinn wrote that:
The memorial was a quiet, uncomplicatedly dignified affair, very much in keeping with Miss Anderson's public persona.
The printed program carried the title "Remembering the Art of Marian Anderson," and indeed the focus was on her singing,
not on her struggles and triumphs. . . . It was in the group of spirituals that Miss Anderson's expressive range was best illuminated.
Included were her haunting accounts of "Crucifixion," "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and "Were You There?,"
as well as representations of the brighter, more ebullient side of her artistry, captured in her recordings of "Let Us Break Bread Together"
and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."4
Conclusion
A true contralto, Anderson's vocal range went from a soul-stirring d to a soul-lifting c'''. Her voice was large but had the
flexibility to be equally at home with Negro spirituals and German lieder. Many used words such as rich, velvety, vibrant,
and expressive to try to describe her voice adequately. However, only those who listened to her live performances or her
sound recordings could explain within the wordless vernacular of their own souls what they heard.
De Priest said this about her personality:
She is obviously a tremendously strong person, and she had to go through a great deal, being a woman, and being a black woman
at that time trying to build a career. But her dignity was such a powerful force, and her faith was so strong, that while she obviously
was outraged, it would never be her style to be a seething cauldron, and in private, to rant and rave. She was positive.
She knew what she wanted to do, she knew that no one should be in her way preventing her from doing it because of her race.
And I think she probably felt that she was going to be clearing a path, not just for herself, but for others to follow.
Anderson had a combination of dignity, serenity, perseverance, and talent at a time when there was finally just enough tolerance
in this country to allow those traits to manifest themselves. She accepted the responsibility of role model for the future with grace
and passed on a vast legacy of accomplishments to be not only met, but surpassed by the African American singers who followed her.
by Randye L. Jones
1 Allan Kozinn, "Marian Anderson Is Dead at 96; Singer Shattered Racial Barriers," New York Times, 9 April 1993, A20.
2 Marian Anderson, My Lord, What a Morning (New York: Viking Press, 1956), 38.
3 Rosalyn M. Story, And So I Sing: African-American Divas of Opera and Concert (New York: Warner Books, 1990), 55.
4 Kozinn, "A Tribute to Marian Anderson, For the Most Part in Her Voice," New York Times, 8 June 1993, B8.
5 Story, 57.

 

 


Sissieretta Jones, (1869-1933)

She sang for kings, died in poverty

Sissieretta Jones was a pioneer of black operatic singing,
and she paved the way for a long list of black opera singers
to follow, including Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, Leontyne Price,
and Grace Bumbry, among others.

From 1890 to 1916, Sissieretta Jones was one of the best-known and highest-paid black singers in America.
She sang for U.S. presidents and for royalty in Europe, and drew sellout crowds with her own minstrel show,
Black Patti's Troubadors. But she died nearly penniless in Providence.
Born in Virginia in 1869, Matilda Sissieretta Joyner was the daughter of a minister of the African Methodist Church.
The family moved to Providence in 1876, and Sissieretta attended Meeting Street and Thayer Schools in Providence.
From an early age, she sang for the public - at school functions and festivals at Pond Street Church.
She married in 1883 when she was only 14, and had one child, Mabel, who died before the age of 2.
Her husband, David Richmond Jones, was her manager for several years but apparently squandered
and mismanaged her money. They divorced in 1899.
When she was 18, she attended the New England Conservatory in Boston, one of the best music schools in America.
By 1887, Sissieretta had begun to draw public acclaim, appearing in front of 5,000 people at Boston's Music Hall
in a benefit for the Parnell Defence Fund. In 1888, she made her successful New York debut and was engaged
to tour the West Indies with a black troupe.
During that tour, she was presented with the first of many medals she was often photographed wearing.
As Sissieretta's fame grew, she began to be known as "The Black Patti," a phrase coined by a
New York City newspaper, comparing her to the great Italian opera singer Adelina Patti.
Although Sissieretta reportedly disliked the name, it remained with her throughout her career.
In 1892, she sang for President Banjamin Harrison in the White House and starred in the Grand African Jubilee,
a three-day event at New York's Madison Square Garden.
After she signed a three-year contract with Maj. J.B. Pond, a manager of other well-known singers
and lecturers such as Mark Twain and the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, Jones's fees began to rise.
She was paid $2,000 for a week's appearance at the Pittsburgh Exposition, the highest fee ever paid to
a black artist. (By comparison, Adelina Patti was paid $4,000 a night.)
After legal troubles involving her husband's attempt to book appearances for her independent of Pond,
Jones went to Europe for an extended tour.
She sang for the Prince of Wales and the Kaiser, and in a letter home said that she encountered
much less racial prejudice in Europe.
"It matters not to them what is the color of an artist's skin," she wrote. "If a man or a woman is a great actor,
or a great musician, or a great singer, they will extend a warm welcome. . . .
It is the soul they see, not the color of the skin."
In 1896, Jones formed her own touring company, Black Patti's Troubadors, which toured for the next 20 years,
playing black and white audiences alike. The show included Jones's singing as well as vaudeville and minstrel acts.
Around 1916, she retired to her home in Providence. By the time she died in 1933, her savings were nearly gone
and she had sold three of her four houses and most of her jewels and medals.
In her final years, William Freeman, a real estate agent and president of the local chapter of the NAACP,
paid her taxes, water bill and provided coal and wood.
Source:
" 'An ornament and honor to her sex': New England Women from Valley Forge to Fenway Park,"
a history curriculum researched and written by Jane Lancaster.

By NORA LOCKWOOD TOOHER
Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

 

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Composer

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was one of England's most celebrated composers at the turn of the century.
Born to a doctor from Sierra Leone and a British mother, he showed musical gifts at age five and,
ten years later, entered the Royal College of Music in London. There he studied with Sir Charles Wood
and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Fame was his with the premiere of Hiawatha's Wedding Feast.
The beautiful aria "Onaway! Awake, Beloved," became one of the most popular and frequently recorded
songs of the periods.

In 1901, the Coleridge-Taylor Society was founded in Washington, D.C. specifically to study and perform
his music. Harry Burleigh was one of the soloists to perform under the composer´s baton soon after,
along with a 200-voice choir, 52 musicians from the United States Marine Band, and the supplementary
strings required by the Hiawatha music. The composer was very warmly received.
James Weldon Johnson and Booker T. Washington were among his friends, and he was President
Theodore Roosevelt´s guest at the White House.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

 

Grace Bumbry
Grace Bumbry
Mezzo-Soprano

Grace Brumbry is the first black performer to have sung at the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany,
and one of the few young singers who can boast of having been called to play a command performance
at the White House. Miss Bumbry, born in 1937, sang at a formal state dinner opening Washington´s
official social season in 1962 as a guest of the Kennedys and the nation.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Miss Bumbry, like many black singers, had her first exposure to music
in a church choir, singing with her brothers and parents at the Union Memorial Methodist Church
in St. Louis. After studying voice locally, she won a nationwide talent contest in 1954, and went on,
with scholarship aid, to study successively at Boston and Northwestern universities.
At the latter school, she attended master classes in opera and lieder taught by the famed teacher,
Lotte Lehmann. Later competitions led to several important cash awards, as well as contacts with
such important personages as Marian Anderson.
Beginning in 1959, Miss Bumbry traveled to various European countries, performing in the operatic
capitals of the world. On July 23, 1961, Wieland Wagner, grandson of Richard Wagner, shocked many
traditionalists by selecting Miss Bumbry to sing the role of Venus in Tannhauser, a role which
conventionally calls for a figure of so-called Nordic beauty, usually a tall and voluptuous blond.
Miss Bumbry proceeded to give a performance which won acclamation from both the harshest
and the kindest of critics, all of whom praised her both for her physical radiance and her brilliant singing.
After her Bayreuth engagement, Miss Bumbry returned to the United States for a concert debut
at Carnegie Hall. Her recital was only moderately successful, however.
Over the years, critics seemed to question her ability to evolve as a full-fledged interpreter of
German lieder, many preferring instead to view her as the possessor of a big voice whose
calibre and quality are more aptly suited for opera. To some extent, it would seem that she concurs
in this analysis, being on record as having once said: "My style is really Verdi. This is my heart and soul."
In 1974 Miss Bumbry returned to the "Met" to sing nine performances of Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

 

The intention of the C.I.B. program is to attract the attention of supporters:

Financial, academic, artistic institutions and individuals, who in tandem with the
C.I.B. production team of Mr. Harry Louiserre and Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith
(Co-founder/director: Black International Cinema/Fountainhead Tanz Theatre/
The Collegium-Forum & Television Program Berlin/Cultural Zephyr e.V.)
will enable the production of the proposed festival.

The focal points of the program are:

A benefit concert with an intercultural group of soloists and choir, in a Berlin performance venue.
The production of an opera relating to the festival theme and a photographic exhibition featuring the contribution
of Black artists to classical music.

 

James De Preist
James DePreist
Conductor

A gifted and versatile musician, James DePreist has been active in several areas of music
as a performer, composer, arranger and conductor. It is in the last-named field that he has been
most often acclaimed by musicians and critics alike, as a young man of rare ability.
This estimate was confirmed in 1965 when he was appointed assistant conductor of the
New York Philharmonic. Born in Philadelphia on November 21, 1936, DePreist studied piano
and percussion from the age of 10, but did not decide on a musical career until he reached his
early 20s. After graduating from high school, he entered the Wharton School at the
University of Pennsylvania as a pre-law student, receiving a B.S. in 1958 and an M.A. in 1961.
DePreist also studied music history, the theory of harmony and orchestration at the
Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, and composition with the distinguished American composer,
Vincent Persichetti. In 1962, the State Department sponsored a cultural exchange tour of
the Near and Far East, engaging DePreist as an American specialist in music. During this
tour, DePreist was stricken with polio, paralyized in both legs, and flown home for intensive therapy.
Within six months, he had fought his way back to the point where he could walk with the aid
of crutches and braces. Courage, determination and talent carried him to the semi-finals
of the 1963 Dmitri Mitropoulos International Music Competition for Conductors.
After another overseas tour as conductor in residence in Thailand, DePreist returned to the
United States, appearing with the Minneapolis International Symphony Orchestra, the New York
Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1964, he recorded what is perhaps his most
satisfying triumph, capturing first prize in the Mitropoulos International Competition.
Another highlight of his career occurred on June 28, 1965 when he conducted Marian Anderson´s
farewell concert at Philadelphia´s Robin Hood Dell.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

 

Leontyne Price Leontyne Price

Leontyne Price
Leontyne Price
Lyric Soprano

Leontyne Price is one of the world´s leading lyric sopranos. Her career in concerts and opera
has brought her the praise of public and critics alike. Miss Price was born in Laurel, Mississippi
on February 10, 1927, and received her B.A. in 1948 from the College of Educational and
Industrial Arts (now Central State College) in Wilberforce, Ohio. She later accepted a scholarship
to Juilliard where she studied with Florence Page Kimball. After seeing her in the student
production of Verdi´s Falstaff, Virgil Thompson, the noted critic selected her to sing in the
revival of his Four Saints in Three Acts which was performed on Broadway for two weeks
in 1952. She then played the role of Bess in the 1952 revival of Porgy and Bess, and continued
in the part on a tour sponsored by the U.S. State Department. During the run of Porgy and Bess,
she introduced works by Stravinsky, Henri Saguet, John La Montaine and others at such places
as the Metropolitan Museum in New York and Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C..
In 1954, she gave a successful Town Hall recital and, the following year, sang Tosca
for the NBC-TV Opera Company. She later appeared on this network in The Magic Flute (1956);
Dialogue of the Carmelites (1957), and Don Giovanni (1960). Miss Price made her
Metropolitan debut in Il Trovatore on January 27, 1961. Since then, she has made numerous
recordings of operas and operatic arias. She is married to the noted black bass baritone,
William Warfield. Just one season after she had made her Met debut as Leonora in Verdi´s
Il Trovatore, Miss Price had her first Met opening in 1961 in the title role of Puccini´s
The Girl of the Golden West. Since then, she has made numerous recordings of operas and
operatic arias. In September of 1966. Miss Price opened the Metropolitan Opera season in
the role of Cleopatra. The opera (Anthony and Cleopatra) was said to have been written
by composer Samuel Barber with her in mind. In the world of opera, Miss Price ranks alongside
Birgit Nilsson, Joan Sutherland and Renata Tebaldi as one of the most esteemed and celebrated
sopranos of the contemporary era. Her voice is said to be the perfect Verdi voice; her Aida is often
regarded as the paragon against which all others should be measured.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

 

Shirley Verrett
Shirley Verrett
Mezzo-Soprano

Mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett is a striking and talented recitalist and opera performer, whose
most electrifying role has been in the title role of Bizet´s Carmen which she has performed
to rave notices in the great opera houses of the world. Born of a musical family in New Orleans,
Miss Verrett moved to California at the age of five, but had no formal voice training during her
childhood, largely because her father felt singing would involve his daughter in too
precarious a career. Still, he offered his daughter the opportunity to sing in church choirs under
his direction, and provided her with an ample education at Ventura College, where she majored
in business administration. By 1954, she was a prosperous real-estate agent, but her longing
for an artistic career had become so acute that she decided to take voice lessons in Los Angeles
and train her sights on the concert stage after all. After winning a television talent show in 1955,
she enrolled at the Juilliard School on a scholarship, taking her diploma in voice some six years
later. Her debut at Town Hall in 1958 was not a sensational one, earning plaudits for her "sensitive,
imaginative...comprehension," even as it inspired the conclusion that she was perhaps only an
"earnest, conscientious" singer who was well coached and adequately prepared.
At Spoleto, Italy in 1962, she deliverd an excellent Carmen and was praised for a "warm vibrant
voice and earthy womanliness." A year later, she performed at Lincoln Center in New York,
where her recital was said to be "simply without flaws, simply a great event in the annals of
American music-making." By 1964, her Carmen had improved so dramatically that the New York
Herald Tribune critic was able to claim it was "the finest" performance "seen or heard in New York"
for the past generation. Other performances in such roles as Orfeo in Gluck´s Orfeo ed Euridice and
and as Ulrica in Verdi´s Un Ballo de Maschera have been met with comparable acclaim.
Possessed of a remarkable range, Miss Verrett sustains a steady low register, a velvety middle
register, and a clean, commanding, and opulent upper register. She does not add to her repertory
too rapidly, lest she sacrifice true understanding of the character in whom the tones and music
are supposed to realize their ultimate importance.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

 

Gwendolyn Bradley
Gwendolyn Bradley
Soprano

The American soprano Gwendolyn Bradley, who since 1988 has been a member of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
has become a favorite of the Berlin public. She made her debut in 1987 as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto.
With her bell like voice, her charm and sparkling stage presence, she is captivating not only in female roles
such as Gilda, Susanna, Nannetta, Sophie or Pamina but also the pert Blondchen, capricious Zerbinetta and Musetta
or the androgynous Oscar. After establishing herself at the Metropolitan Opera, debuting in 1981 where she sang
such roles as Fiakermilli in Arabella, Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Gilda in Rigoletto,
Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Olympia in Le Conte d'Hoffman, the title role of
Stravinsky's Le Rossignol and Clara in Porgy and Bess, Miss Bradley made her European debut
in 1983 with the Netherlands Opera in the title role of Handel's Rodelinda.
As an accomplished concert singer, she has worked with such conductors as Zubin Mehta, New York Philharmonic/Israeli
Symphony; Riccardo Muti, Philadelphia Orchestra; Mstislav Rostropovich and Fruebeck de Burgos,
Washington National Symphony Orchestra; Charles Dutoit, Montreal Symphony/Philadelphia Orchestra; Andre Previn,
Pittsburgh Symphony; Michael Tilson Thomas, Los Angeles Philharmonic; Marek Janowski, Hans Graf,
Christopher Hogwood, Ralf Weikert, Victor Pablo Perez, among others. A versatile artist, her concert repertoire
encompasses important works from the Barock to the 20th century.
Miss Bradley is a frequent guest on the stage of the Los Angeles Opera as Oscar, Blondchen, Zerbinetta, Romilda,
Zerlina, and in the 1997-98 season as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte. On European opera stages as Zerbinetta in Paris,
Montpellier, Nice, Monte Carlo, Susanna and Pamina in Madrid, Blonchen in Munich, Adina, Blondchen, Susanna,
Zerbinetta in Hamburg, Despina in Barcelona, Oscar in Vienna, Rodelinde in Amsterdam and Fiakermilli in Glyndebourne.
Highlights of recent concert engagements have included Brahms Requiem (Palermo, Segovia, San Sebastian),
Mahler Symphonies (Los Angeles Philharmonic), Festival D'Auvers-Sur-Oise, Mozart works, Haydn's
Orfeo and Euridice
in Madrid, as well as appearances with orchestras in Leipzig, Valencia, Warsaw, Krakow,
Lyon, Prag, Montreal, Berlin, among others.
As a recitalist in Paris, Tokyo, Lisbon, San Sebastian, Los Angeles and New York Miss Bradley has established her
reputation. Miss Bradley has recorded Fiakermilli in Arabella with Dame Kiri Tekanawa, Jeffrey Tate
conducting for Decca Records, Virgil Thomson's Four Saints in Three Acts for Nonesuch records and a live
concert recording of Mozart concert works, with members of the Orchestre Symphonique Français.

 

Denyce Graves
Denyce Graves
Mezzo-Soprano

Denyce Graves rose from modest origins to become one of the finest mezzo-sopranos in the world.
She was born in a rough area of southwest Washington, D.C. Her father left her family when Graves was one
year old, and her mother struggled to support the family through most of her childhood. Graves' early musical
education was limited to singing gospel in her church's choir. When a few of Graves' junior high school teachers
encouraged her to attend the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, one of Washington's most prestigious public schools,
she decided to go even though she had no particular interest in music. The interest, needless to say, developed;
at the Ellington School, she studied French melodies, German Lieder, and jazz in addition to the operatic arias
which would eventually make her famous. The Ellington School is a fine one, and upon graduation, Graves had
developed her gift enough that Oberlin College in Ohio granted her a scholarship.
Graves got her first major exposure at the Houston Grand Opera, for which she performed from 1988 to 1990.
Her reputation grew quickly, particularly on the strength of her exciting interpretations of the title roles in
Georges Bizet's Carmen and Camille Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila. Graves made her Metropolitan Opera
debut in the 1995 - 1996 season, singing Carmen. Her star has only risen since then. She has worked with conductors
including Riccardo Chailly, Charles Dutoit, Zubin Mehta, Placido Domingo, and Mstislav Rostropovich;
shared a stage with singers such as Domingo, Josi Cura, and the popular crossover sensation Andrea Bocelli;
and sung at opera houses including the Royal Opera at Covent Garden, La Scala Milan, Vienna Staatsoper,
and Opera Nationale de Paris. Graves' fame does not stem only from her concerts and operatic roles;
she had made efforts to branch out and draw nontraditional audiences into classical music.
The PBS special Denyce Graves: A Cathedral Christmas was taped at Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral,
and airs every year on PBS during the Christmas season. She also frequently appears on the children's program
Sesame Street. Crossover repertoire and spirituals make frequent appearances in her recitals.
Whether she is performing a Scarlatti cantata, a popular song, or something in between, Graves' voice is marvelously
expressive and vibrant. Intelligent musicianship and a mesmerizing stage presence
(due at least partially to her stunning beauty) complete the package. Graves is married to lutenist David Perry,
and resides in Leesburg, Virginia. ~ Andrew Lindemann Malone, All Music Guide

 

Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson

Personal Information
Born Paul Leroy Bustill Robeson, April 9, 1898, in Princeton, NJ; died of a stroke, January 23, 1976,
in Philadelphia, PA; son of William Drew (a clergyman) and Maria Louisa
(a schoolteacher; maiden name, Bustill) Robeson; married Eslanda Cardozo Goode, August 17, 1921;
children: Paul Jr. Education: Rutgers College (now University), A.B., 1919; Columbia University, LL.B., 1923.

Career
Admitted to the Bar of New York; employed in a law firm, 1923; actor; stage appearances include Simon the Cyrenian,
1921, All God's Chillun Got Wings, 1924, Show Boat (musical), 1928, Othello, 1930 and 1943, and
Toussaint L'Ouverture, 1936; films appearances include Body and Soul, 1924, The Emperor Jones, 1933,
Sanders of the River, 1935, and Show Boat, 1936; singer; recording and performing artist.

Awards:
Badge of Veterans of Abraham Lincoln Brigade, 1939; Donaldson Award for outstanding lead performance, 1944,
for Othello; American Academy of Arts and Letters medal, 1944; NAACP Spingarn Medal, 1945;
Champion of African Freedom Award, National Church of Nigeria, 1950; Afro-American Newspapers Award, 1950;
Stalin Peace Prize (U.S.S.R.), 1952; Peace Medal (East Germany), 1960; Ira Aldridge Award, Association for the
Study of Afro-American Life and History, 1970; Civil Liberties Award, 1970; Duke Ellington Medal, Yale University,
1972; Whitney M. Young, Jr., National Memorial Award, Urban League of Greater New York, 1972.
Honorary degrees from Rutgers University, Hamilton College, Morehouse College, Howard University,
Moscow State Conservatory, and Humboldt University.

Paul Robeson--singer, actor, civil rights activist, law school graduate, athlete, scholar, author--was perhaps
the best known and most widely respected black American of the 1930s and 1940s.
Robeson was also a staunch supporter of the Soviet Union, and a man, later in his life, widely vilified
and censored for his frankness and unyielding views on issues to which public opinion ran contrary.
As a young man, Robeson was virile, charismatic, eloquent, and powerful. He learned to speak more than
20 languages in order to break down the barriers of race and ignorance throughout the world, and yet,
as Sterling Stuckey pointed out in the New York Times Book Review, for the last 25 years of his life his was
"a great whisper and a greater silence in black America."

Born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1898, Robeson was spared most of the daily brutalities suffered by
African Americans around the turn of the century. But his family was not totally free from hardship.
Robeson's mother died from a stove-fire accident when he was six. His father, a runaway slave who became
a pastor, was removed from an early ministerial position. Nonetheless, from his father Robeson learned
diligence and an "unshakable dignity and courage in spite of the press of racism and poverty."
These characteristics, Stuckey noted, defined Robeson's approach in his beliefs and actions throughout his life.
Having excelled in both scholastics and athletics as a youth, Robeson received a scholarship to Rutgers College
(now University), where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in his junior year and chosen valedictorian in his senior.
He earned varsity letters in four sports and was named Rutgers' first All-American in football.
Fueled by his class prophecy to be "the leader of the colored race in America," Robeson went on to earn a
law degree from Columbia University, supporting himself by playing professional football on the weekends.
After graduation he obtained a position with a New York law firm only to have his career halted,
as was recalled in Martin Baulm Duberman's Paul Robeson, when a stenographer refused to take down a memo,
saying, "I never take dictation from a nigger." Sensing this episode as indicative of the climate of the law,
Robeson left the bar. While in law school, Robeson had married fellow Columbia student Eslanda Cardozo Goode,
who encouraged him to act in amateur theatrical productions. Convinced by his wife and friends to return to
the theater after his departure from law, Robeson joined the Provincetown Players, a group associated with
playwright Eugene O'Neill. Two productions in which he starred, The Emperor Jones and
All God's Chillun Got Wings, brought Robeson critical acclaim. Contemporary drama critic George Jean Nathan,
quoted by Newsweek's Hubert Saal, called Robeson "thoroughly eloquent, impressive, and convincing."
Thus Robeson continued on the stage, winning applause from critics and audiences, gaining an international
reputation for his performances on the London stage, and eventually extending his acting repertoire to include films.
His stage presence was undeniable, and with the musical Show Boat and Shakespeare's Othello,
Robeson's reputation grew even larger. In Show Boat he sang the immensely popular "Ol' Man River,"
displaying a powerful, warm, soothing voice. Robeson, realizing his acting range was limited both by the
choice of roles available to him as a black performer and by his own acting abilities, turned to singing full time
as an outlet for his creative energies and growing social convictions.
Robeson had been giving solo vocal performances since 1925, but it wasn't until he traveled to Britain
that his singing became for him a moral cause. Robeson related years later in his autobiography,
Here I Stand, that in England he "learned that the essential character of a nation is determined not by the upper
classes, but by the common people, and that the common people of all nations are truly brothers in the great
family of mankind." Consequently, he began singing spirituals and work songs to audiences of common citizens
and learning the languages and folk songs of other cultures, for "they, too, were close to my heart and expressed
the same soulful quality that I knew in Negro music." Nathan Irvin Huggins, writing in the Nation, defined this
pivotal moment: "[Robeson] found the finest expression of his talent. His genuine awe of and love for the common
people and their music flourished throughout his life and became his emotional and spiritual center."
Continued travels throughout Europe in the 1930s brought Robeson in contact with members of politically
left-leaning organizations, including socialists and African nationalists. Singing to, and moving among,
the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, the working classes, Robeson began viewing "himself and his art
as serving the struggle for racial justice for nonwhites and economic justice for workers of the world," Huggins noted.
A critical journey at that time, one that changed the course of his life, was to the Soviet Union.
Paul Robeson author Duberman depicted Robeson's time there: "Nights at the theater and opera, long walks
with [film director Sergei] Eisenstein, gala banquets, private screenings, trips to hospitals, children's centers,
factories ... all in the context of a warm embrace." Robeson was ecstatic with this new-found society, concluding,
according to New York Times Book Review contributor John Patrick Diggins, "that the country was entirely free of
racial prejudice and that Afro-American spiritual music resonated to Russian folk traditions.
'Here, for the first time in my life ... I walk in full human dignity.'" Diggins went on to assert that Robeson's
"attraction to Communism seemed at first more anthropological than ideological, more of a desire to discover old,
lost cultures than to impose new political systems. ... Robeson convinced himself that American blacks as
descendants of slaves had a common culture with Russian workers as descendants of serfs."
Regardless of his ostensibly simple desire to believe in a cultural genealogy, Robeson soon become a vocal
advocate of communism and other left-wing causes. He returned to the United States in the late 1930s, Newsweek' s
Saal observed, becoming "a vigorous opponent of racism, picketing the White House, refusing to sing before
segregated audiences, starting a crusade against lynching, and urging Congress to outlaw racial bars in baseball."
After World War II, when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union froze into the Cold War,
many former advocates of communism backed away from it. When the crimes of Soviet leader Josef Stalin
became public--forced famine, genocide, political purges--still more advocates left the ranks of communism.
Robeson, however, was not among them. National Review contributor Joseph Sobran explained why:
"It didn't matter: he believed in the idea, regardless of how it might be abused. In 1946 the former All-American
explained his loyalty to an investigating committee: 'The coach tells you what to do and you do it.'
It was incidental that the coach was Stalin." Robeson could not publicly decry the Soviet Union even after he,
most probably, learned of Stalin's atrocities because "the cause, to his mind," Nation contributor Huggins theorized,
"was much larger than the Soviet Union, and he would do nothing to sustain the feeding frenzy of the American right."
Robeson's popularity soon plummeted in response to his increasing rhetoric. After he urged black youths not to
fight if the United States went to war against the Soviet Union, a riot prevented his appearing at a concert in
Peekskill, New York. But his desire was never to leave the United States, just to change, as he believed,
the racist attitude of its people. In his autobiography Robeson recounted how during the infamous McCarthy hearings,
when questioned by a Congressional committee about why he didn't stay in the Soviet Union, he replied,
"Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay right here
and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear?"
In 1950 the U.S. Department of State revoked Robeson's passport, ensuring that he would remain in the United States.

Robeson's passport was restored in 1958 after a Supreme Court ruling on a similar case, but it was of little
consequence. By then he had become a nonentity. When Robeson's autobiography was published that year,
leading literary journals, including the New York Times and the New York Herald-Tribune refused to review it.
Robeson traveled again to the Soviet Union, but his health began to fail. He tried twice to commit suicide.
"Pariah status was utterly alien to the gregarious Robeson. He became depressed at the loss of contact with
audiences and friends, and suffered a series of breakdowns that left him withdrawn and dependent on
psychotropic drugs," Dennis Drabble explained in Smithsonian. Slowly deteriorating and virtually unheard
from in the 1960s and 1970s, Robeson died after suffering a stroke in 1976.

During his life Paul Robeson inspired thousands with his voice--raised in speech and song.
But because of his singular support for communism and Stalin, because his life in retrospect became
"a pathetic tale of talent sacrificed, loyalty misplaced, and idealism betrayed," according to Jim Miller in Newsweek,
Robeson disappeared in sadness and loneliness. His life, full of desire and achievement, passion and conviction,
"the story of a man who did so much to break down the barriers of a racist society, only to be brought down
by the controversies sparked by his own radical politics," New York Times Book Review contributor Diggins
pronounced, "is at once an American triumph and an American tragedy."

Writings
Here I Stand, Othello Associates, 1958, Beacon, 1971. (Contributor) Paul Robeson: The Great Forerunner,
Freedomways, 1971, Dodd, 1985. Paul Robeson: Tributes, Selected Writings, edited by Roberta Yancy Dent,
The Archives, 1976. Paul Robeson Speaks: Writings, Speeches, Interviews, 1918-1974,
edited by Philip S. Foner, Brunner, 1978.
Columnist for People's Voice, 1940s; editor and columnist for Freedom, c. 1951-55. Contributor to periodicals.

Selected Discography
American Balladeer--Golden Classics, Volume 1, Collectables. Man & His Beliefs--Golden Classics, Volume 2,
Collectables. Historic Paul Robeson--Golden Classics, Volume 3, Collectables. Collector's Paul Robeson, Monitor.
Essential Paul Robeson, Vanguard. Favorite Songs, Volume 1, Monitor. Favorite Songs, Volume 2, Monitor.
Live at Carnegie Hall, Vanguard. Paul Robeson, Pearl. Paul Robeson Sings "Ol' Man River" & Other Favorites, Angel.
The Odyssey of Paul Robeson, reissue, Omega/Vanguard Classics, 1992.

Sources
Books: Duberman, Martin Baulm, Paul Robeson, Knopf, 1988. Robeson, Paul, Here I Stand, Beacon, 1971.
Periodicals: American Heritage, April 1989. Commentary, May 1989. Nation, February 7, 1976; March 20, 1989.
National Review, May 19, 1989. New Leader, February 20, 1989. Newsweek, February 2, 1976; February 13, 1989.
New York Review of Books, April 27, 1989. New York Times Book Review, October 21, 1973; February 12, 1989.
Smithsonian, October 1989. Time, February 2, 1976; March 13, 1989. Times Literary Supplement, September 5, 1958.

Biography: Paul Robeson Contemporary Musicians, September 1992, Volume: 8 by Rob Nagel

PAUL ROBESON

Paul Robeson was a famous African-American athlete, singer, actor, and advocate for the civil rights of people
around the world. He rose to prominence in a time when segregation was legal in the United States,
and Black people were being lynched by racist mobs, especially in the South.
Born on April 9, 1898 in Princeton, New Jersey, Paul Robeson was the youngest of five children.
His father was a runaway slave who went on to graduate from Lincoln University, and his mother came from
an abolitionist Quaker family. Robeson's family knew both hardship and the determination to rise above it.
His own life was no less challenging.
In 1915, Paul Robeson won a four-year academic scholarship to Rutgers University.
Despite violence and racism from teammates, he won 15 varsity letters in sports (baseball, basketball, track)
and was twice named to the All-American Football Team. He received the Phi Beta Kappa key in his junior year,
belonged to the Cap & Skull Honor Society, and graduated as Valedictorian. However, it wasn't until 1995,
19 years after his death, that Paul Robeson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
At Columbia Law School (1919-1923), Robeson met and married Eslanda Cordoza Goode, who was to become
the first Black woman to head a pathology laboratory. He took a job with a law firm, but left when a white secretary
refused to take dictation from him. He left the practice of law to use his artistic talents in theater and music
to promote African and African-American history and culture.
In London, Robeson earned international acclaim for his lead role in Othello, for which he won the Donaldson Award
for Best Acting Performance (1944), and performed in Eugene O'Neill's Emperor Jones and
All God's Chillun Got Wings. He is known for changing the lines of the Showboat song "Old Man River"
from the meek "...I'm tired of livin' and 'feared of dyin'....," to a declaration of resistance, "...
I must keep fightin' until I'm dying....". His 11 films included Body and Soul (1924), Jericho (1937), and
Proud Valley (1939). Robeson's travels taught him that racism was not as virulent in Europe as in the U.S..
At home, it was difficult to find restaurants that would serve him, theaters in New York would only seat Blacks
in the upper balconies, and his performances were often surrounded with threats or outright harassment.
In London, on the other hand, Robeson's opening night performance of Emperor Jones brought the audience
to its feet with cheers for twelve encores.
Paul Robeson used his deep baritone voice to promote Black spirituals, to share the cultures of other countries,
and to benefit the labor and social movements of his time. He sang for peace and justice in 25 languages
throughout the U.S., Europe, the Soviet Union, and Africa. Robeson became known as a citizen of the world,
equally comfortable with the people of Moscow, Nairobi, and Harlem. Among his friends were future African leader
Jomo Kenyatta, India's Nehru, historian Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, anarchist Emma Goldman, and writers
James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway. In 1933, Robeson donated the proceeds of All God's Chillun to Jewish
refugees fleeing Hitler's Germany. At a 1937 rally for the anti-fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War,
he declared, "The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative."
In New York in 1939, he premiered in Earl Robinson's Ballad for Americans, a cantata celebrating the multi-ethnic,
multi-racial face of America. It was greeted with the largest audience response since Orson Welles' famous
"War of the Worlds." During the 1940s, Robeson continued to perform and to speak out against racism,
in support of labor, and for peace. He was a champion of working people and organized labor.
He spoke and performed at strike rallies, conferences, and labor festivals worldwide.
As a passionate believer in international cooperation, Robeson protested the growing Cold War and worked
tirelessly for friendship and respect between the U.S. and the USSR. In 1945, he headed an organization
that challenged President Truman to support an anti-lynching law. In the late 1940s, when dissent was
scarcely tolerated in the U.S., Robeson openly questioned why African Americans should fight in the army
of a government that tolerated racism. Because of his outspokenness, he was accused by the House
Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of being a Communist. Robeson saw this as an attack on the
democratic rights of everyone who worked for international friendship and for equality.
The accusation nearly ended his career. Eighty of his concerts were canceled, and in 1949 two interracial
outdoor concerts in Peekskill, N.Y. were attacked by racist mobs while state police stood by.
Robeson responded, "I'm going to sing wherever the people want me to sing...and I won't be frightened
by crosses burning in Peekskill or anywhere else."
In 1950, the U.S. revoked Robeson's passport, leading to an eight-year battle to resecure it and to travel again.
During those years, Robeson studied Chinese, met with Albert Einstein to discuss the prospects for world peace,
published his autobiography, Here I Stand, and sang at Carnegie Hall. Two major labor-related events took place
during this time. In 1952 and 1953, he held two concerts at Peace Arch Park on the U.S.-Canadian border,
singing to 30-40,000 people in both countries. In 1957, he made a transatlantic radiophone broadcast from
New York to coal miners in Wales. In 1960, Robeson made his last concert tour to New Zealand and Australia.
In ill health, Paul Robeson retired from public life in 1963. He died on January 23, 1976, at age 77, in Philadelphia.

 

Jessye Norman
Jessye Norman
Contralto, Mezzo and High Soprano

Born on September 15, 1945, in Augusta, Georgia, Jessye Norman was reared in a musical family.
Both her mother and grandmother were pianists and her father sang in church. Her mother was a
teacher and her father an insurance broker. She started singing spirituals in the local baptist church
when she was four years old. She won a scholarship to Howard University in Washington, D.C.,
where she studied voice. She graduated in 1967 and received further training at the Peabody Conservatory
in Baltimore, Maryland, and at the University of Michigan. After winning the Bavarian Radio Corporation
International Music Competition in 1968, Norman made her operatic debut as Elisabeth in Wagner's
Tannhauser in 1969 in Berlin. The beauty, range, and flexibility of Norman's vibrant soprano voice
assured her further operatic engagements, the most notable being the title role in Aida in productions
in Berlin and at La Scala in Milan, Italy, and the role of Cassandra in Berlioz' Les Troyens
(The Trojans; Covent Garden, 1972). In 1989 she appeared at the Metropolitan Opera for a historic performance
of that company's first single character production, Erwartung by Arnold Schoenberg. Norman also enjoyed
success as a recitalist with her thorough scholarship and her ability to project drama through her voice.
She toured throughout the 1970s, giving recitals of works by Schubert, Mahler, Wagner, Brahms, Satie,
Messiaen and contemporary American composers. By the mid-1980s she was one of the most popular and
highly regarded dramatic soprano singers in the world. She produced numerous award-winning records,
and many of her performances were televised. She holds honorary doctorates from
Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and Edinburgh.


Jessey Norman and Marek Janowski

What makes Jessye Norman great?:
Her large voice - described as "oceanic" or the "dark continent" - has a range encompassing contralto,
mezzo and high soprano, though she is less free at the top. Always musicianly and intelligent,
she has a commanding stage presence and an opulent, dark voice capable of rare subtlety of nuance
and dynamics in phrasing. One cool fact about her career is that in Tokyo in 1985 she had a 47 minute
ovation and a 55 minute ovation in Salzburg in 1986!

Kathleen Battle
Kathleen Battle
Lyric Soprano

Kathleen Battle

Kathleen Battle's lyric soprano voice and unique artistry have captivated audiences around the world,
making her one of the most acclaimed singers of her time. Her latest recording for Sony Classical -
Classic Kathleen Battle - brings together the best of her recent recordings for the label, embracing a
repertoire that includes opera, Baroque and sacred music, jazz, spirituals and an excerpt from
Vangelis' Mythodea, released in 2001.
In a repertoire that ranges from Handel to Richard Strauss, the singer has appeared on the stages
of the world's leading opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera, the opera houses of Vienna, Paris,
San Francisco and Chicago, and London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Miss Battle has enjoyed
close collaborations with most noted artists of our time and has performed with the world's great orchestras
in Vienna, Berlin, Paris, New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Los Angeles.
She has also appeared regularly in the festivals of Salzburg, Ravinia, Tanglewood, Blossom, Hollywood Bowl,
Mann Music Center, Caramoor and Cincinnati's May Festival. In recital, she has performed extensively
throughout the U.S. and Canada, South America, Europe and Asia, regularly performing in the music
capitals of the world. A five-time Grammy Award winner, Miss Battle has made many recordings and television
appearances that have brought her voice and musicianship into millions of homes worldwide.
Her repertoire embraces jazz and spirituals as well as an uncommonly wide range of classical music,
from the Baroque to composer André Previn's song cycle Honey and Rue, commissioned by Carnegie Hall
for Miss Battle, with texts by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.
A native of Portsmouth, Ohio, Kathleen Battle earned both her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the
College Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati. She made her professional debut at the Spoleto Festival,
and her Metropolitan Opera debut followed only five years later. Miss Battle is the recipient of six honorary
doctorates from American universities and, in 1999, was inducted into the NAACP Image Hall of Fame.

 

Willard White
Willard White
Bass-Baritone

Willard White was born in Kingston, Jamaica on October 10, 1946, where he commenced his musical training at the
Jamaican School of Music and then went on to the Juilliard School in New York.
Since making his debut with the New York City Opera he has sung in the Opera Houses of San Francisco,
London – both the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and English National Opera, Munich, Amsterdam, Geneva,
Hamburg, Madrid, Paris, Los Angeles, Brussels and at the Glyndebourne, Aix en Provence and Salzburg Festivals.
His performances include Golaud in Pelléas and Mélisande in Amsterdam and San Francisco,
Khovanschina in Brussels, Faust at the Bastille, Nick Shadow in the Peter Sellars productions of
The Rake's Progress and Oedipus Rex at the Chatelet, Mephistopheles in David Alden's production of
La Damnation de Faust, the title-role in Stein Winge's production of The Flying Dutchman for
English National Opera, Nekrotzar Le Grand Macabre at the Salzburg Festival and at the Chatelet in Paris,
the title-role Boris Godunov for Welsh National Opera, Nick Shadow at the Netherlands Opera and Parsifal
at the Bastille. He appeared as the soloist at the Last Night of the Proms in 1999, Proms in the Park on the
Last night of the Proms in 2000, and in the opening ceremony of the Millennium Dome in London.
Last season his appearances included the Missa Solemnis with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under
Seiji Ozawa, the world première of John Adams's opera El Nino at the Chatelet in Paris,
with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in San Francisco and with the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester
in Berlin under Kent Nagano, Turandot for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Falstaff at the Aix-en-Provence Festival
and Don Carlos at the Orange Festival.
Willard White's large repertoire includes the bass-baritone roles in operas by Monteverdi, Handel,
Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Debussy, Shostakovich, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev and Gershwin.
His regular concert appearances include working with London Symphony Orchestra,
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, La Scala Orchestra,
Berlin Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Cleveland Orchestras and he is much in demand as a recitalist.
His concert programme "An Evening with Willard White - a tribute to Paul Robeson," performed with a small
group of versatile musicians, continues to be a huge success at festivals throughout the UK and will shortly be
issued on CD. Engagements in the 2001/2 season include Rigoletto at the Bastille, Kutuzov in the new production
of War and Peace for English National Opera, Parsifal and Bluebeard's Castle for the Royal Opera,
Covent Garden, the Beethoven Choral Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle,
Falstaff at the Théâtre du Champs Elysées, as well as recitals and concerts throughout Europe and in the U.S.A.
Willard White appeared as Porgy in the television film of Porgy & Bess and as Shakespeare's Othello
with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and this acclaimed performance was also filmed for television.
Recordings include oratorios, operas and recitals.
Willard White is one of the world's great basses, known for his enormous rich voice and powerful stage presence.
Born in Jamaica, he studied in New York, and made his debut with New York City Opera in 1974 as Colline in
'La Bohème'. He has sung with a number of American and European opera companies, and in 1976
made his London opera debut with English National Opera as Seneca in Monteverdi's
'L'Incoronazione di Poppea', having appeared in London earlier in the same year in 'Porgy and Bess'.
He sang the King in Prokofiev's 'Love for Three Oranges' at Glyndebourne in 1982.
In many people's minds, his most outstanding role is as Mephistopheles in 'The Damnation of Faust',
which he has sung many times to memorable effect and with huge acclaim.

Barbara Hendricks
Barbara Hendricks
Soprano

Barbara Hendricks is one of the most popular and versatile artists in the music world today.
Equally at home in opera, recital, jazz and popular song her recordings have sold all over
the world and received many accolades. She is also a tireless campaigner for Human Rights
and the importance of her work in this area has been recognized by such organisations as
the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and UNESCO.
Barbara Hendricks was born in Stephens, Arkansas, USA. She received her musical training
and her Bachelor of Music at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, where she studied
with mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel. Earlier, she had completed her studies at the University
of Nebraska where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics and Chemistry.
Barbara Hendricks made her opera debut with the San Francisco Opera in Poppea in 1976 and
appeared thereafter with the opera-companies of Boston, Santa Fe, Glyndebourne, Amsterdam,
Hamburg, Vienna, Munich, Paris, La Scala and Metropolitan Opera. In 1978, she scored a
personal triumph in Berlin as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro in a new production conducted
by Daniel Barenboim. She later repeated this role in Berlin with Karl Böhm,
at the Aix-en-Provence Festival with Neville Marriner and in Vienna, Hamburg and Munich.
Hendricks made her Paris Opera debut in 1982 as Juliette in Roméo et Juliette,
followed by Nanetta in Falstaff and Mélisande. She also sang the role of Nanetta
in the co-production of Falstaff staged by the opera companies of Los Angeles,
London and Florence conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini. In 1986 she made her debut at the
Metropolitan Opera as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier and in 1987 her opera debut at
La Scala as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro conducted by Riccardo Muti.
Acclaimed as one of the leading recitalists of her generation, Barbara Hendricks has
appeared at every major music centre in Europe, Japan and North America and has also
toured extensively in the Soviet Union. Among the accompanists she has worked with are
Dmitri Alexeev, Daniel Barenboim, Michel Béroff, Radu Lupu, Michel Dalberto, Andras Schiff,
Peter Serkin and Ralf Gothoni. She has also performed with the leading orchestras and
conductors of our time: conductors such as Barenboim, Bernstein, Davis, Dorati, Giulini,
Karajan, Maazel, Marriner, Mehta, Solti, Prêtre, Plasson, Tate, Gardiner and Haitink.
Hendricks has also performed at many major music festivals such as Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence,
Dresden, Edinburgh, Florence, Montreux, Orange, Osaka, Prague, Tanglewood and Vienna.
The first collaboration between EMI Classics and Barbara Hendricks took place in 1978
with the recording of Verdi's Don Carlo conducted by Karajan. Other operas for EMI Classics
include the prizewinning recording of Georges Enesco's Oedipe under Lawrence Foster,
Bizet's Les Pêcheurs des Perles under Michel Plasson, Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice
(in Berlioz's edition) under John Eliot Gardiner and an appearance as the Sandman in
Jeffrey Tate's recording of Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel. Her most recent operatic
role on EMI Classics is Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier under Bernard Haitink.
In choral repertoire she has recorded Orff's Carmina Burana with the conductor
Franz Welser-Möst, the Bach Magnificat and Vivaldi's Gloria, both conducted by
Neville Marriner. Gounod's Oratorio/Chronicle, Mors et Vita, with Michel Plasson,
the Orféon Donostiarra and the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, and a disc of Operetta
Arias with Lawrence Foster and the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Barbara Hendricks has an exclusive contract with EMI France for solo recordings.
In April 1995 Hendricks released a collection of American songs by two of the most accessible
and popular of 20th century composers, Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland. She is joined on
the disc by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.
Other solo releases on EMI Classics include the Strauss Vier letzte Lieder,
with The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, and an album of French
melodies, Plaisir d'Amour. In 1996 she released a recording of songs by Korngold accompanied
by The Philadelphia Orchestra under Franz Welser-Möst, and an album of well-known songs
from the films of Walt Disney. In October 1997 EMI France released an album entitled,
A Tribute to Jennie Tourel, which features a collection of songs by Debussy, Dvorak, Liszt,
Rachmaninov and Rossini. More recently her releases have included a disc of Mozart arias
with Ion Marin and the ECO and an album of South American Music with the guitarist
Manuel Barrueco, both released in April 1998. In November 1998, EMI Classics (EMI France)
released an album of negro spirituals with Barbara Hendricks and the Moses Hogan Choir
entitled Give me Jesus.
Since 1987 Barbara Hendricks has been ceaselessly active in her role as Goodwill Ambassador
to the United Nations High Commission, visiting refugee camps in Zambia, Malaysia, Thailand,
Cambodia and Tanzania. Her special concern for the fate of the people of former Yugoslavia
led her to perform two solidarity concerts in the war-ridden country, both on December 31st
at midnight. The first, at Dubrovnik in 1991, was organized by the association A la Première
Heure du Premier Jour (At the first hour of the first day) and the second in Sarajevo in 1993,
in coordination with the Association for Humanitarian Action, was at the invitation of the
Sarajevo Orchestra. The concert in Sarajevo presented a formidable challenge because the city
was under constant siege, bombings and snipers' fire, making it necessary for Barbara Hendricks
to wear a bullet-proof vest while walking around the city. Barbara Hendricks is also
Special Advisor on Intercultural Relations for UNESCO, and participates in the Organisation
of European Youth Campaign against xenophobia, anti-Semetism and intolerance launched by the
Council of Europe in 1994.
The Association for Humanitarian Action has recently created the International Tribunal
for Children's Rights of which Barbara Hendricks is a member of the board of directors.
Its mission is to investigate violations of children's rights recognized by the International
Convention on the Rights of the Child, to denounce and judge the violators and to make the
necessary recommendations to end such situations.
In 1986, Barbara Hendricks was given the honour of Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the
French Government, the youngest person ever to receive the honour, and in 1987 she was
appointed Goodwill Ambassador by the High Commissioner for Refugees at the United Nations.
In 1988 the Nebraska Wesleyan University honoured her with the title Doctor of Music:
Hendricks is also a Doctor Honoris Causa of the Nebraska and Louvain Universities.
In 1990 she was made an Honorary Member of the Institute of Humanitarian law in San Remo,
Italy, and was awarded a Doctor in Law by the University of Dundee. In January 1993 Hendricks
was invited by President Bill Clinton to perform at his Inaugural Gala in Washington DC.
In 1992 she was awarded the Legion d'Honneur by the French President François Mitterrand,
and in 1996 was asked to sing at the President's memorial service in Notre Dame, a service
attended by many world leaders and televised worldwide.
She has lived in Europe since 1977, is a Swedish citizen and the proud mother of a teenage son and daughter.

Robert McFerrin
Robert McFerrin
Singer

Born in Marianna, Arkansas, Robert McFerrin studied at Fisk University (1940-41), Chicago
Municipal College (1941-42; 1946-48), and Kathryn Turney Long School (1953).
He sang the title role in Rigoletto with the New England Opera Company (1950), was a baritone
soloist in the Lewisohn Stadium Summer Concert Series (1954), and made his Metropolitan
Opera debut with the role of Amonasro in Aida (1955). He has been a guest professor of voice
at Sibelius Academy, Finland (1959) and served as a member of the voice faculty
at Nelson School of Fine Arts in Nelson, B.C., Canada.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

Robert McFerrin
Robert McFerrin

 

Mattiwilda Dobbs
Mattiwilda Dobbs
Coloratura Soprano

One of the world´s most gifted coloratura sopranos is Mattiwilda Dobbs. Now residing in Sweden
where she is a national favorite, Miss Dobbs has gained international fame with a voice which has
been described as one "of often miraculous beauty...fascinating ease and uncanny accuracy."
Born in Atlanta, Georgia on July 11, 1925, Miss Dobbs graduated from Spelman College in 1946
as class valedictorian, having majored in voice training. After studying Spanish at Columbia,
where she received her master´s degree, she went to Paris for two years on a Whitney Fellowship.
In October 1950, competing against hundreds of singers from four continents, she won the
International Music Competition held at Geneva. She made her professional debut in Paris,
and then became the first black person to sing a principal role at La Scala Scala in Milan.
On March 8, 1954, she made her Town Hall debut in New York in the miniature opera Ariadne auf Naxos,
and received a rousing ovation. A year later, she repeated the success with her first concert recital
on the same stage. Since then, she has made numerous recordings, including The Pearl Fishers
and Zaide, and has toured the world with great success. She is currently
a mainstay in the world of Swedish opera.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

 

Martina Arroyo
Martina Arroyo
Soprano

New York-born soprano Martina Arroyo is today one of a handful of black divas who have launched
impressive and rewarding careers as operatic and orchestral soloists.
Miss Arroyo made her debut at the Metropolitan in February 1965 in the title role of Aida and has
already sung engagements with opera houses in Vienna, Berlin, Buenos Aires, London and Hamburg.
In addition to operatic appearances, she has also been a frequent guest soloist with many of the
world´s major orchestras. In addition to Aida, Miss Arroyo´s Metropolitan repertoire includes Donna Anna
in Don Giovanni, Liu in Turandot, Leonora in Il Trovatore, Elsa in Lohengrin, and
the title role of Madame Butterfly. These have been developed since 1958, the year she made her
debut in Carnegie Hall in the American premiere of Pizzetti´s Murder in the Cathedral: that same
year she made her Metropolitan debut as the celestial voice in Don Carlo. On opening night of the
1970-71 Met opera season Miss Arroyo sang Elvira in Ernani and opened the 1971-72 season
as Elizabeth in Don Carlo.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

Martina Arroyo
Martina Arroyo

 

Reri Grist
Reri Grist
Coloratura Soprano

PART I
Reri Grist is today one of America´s most promising coloratura sopranos. She has already sung
at most of the world´s great opera houses, including La Scala, Vienna State, and Covent Garden.
Miss Grist first came to national attention in the role of Consuela in Leonard Bernstein´s
West Side Story, and compounded this success in a performance of Mahler´s Fourth Symphony with
the New York Philharmonic. When Dr. Herbert Graf, the former stage director of the Met, left in 1960
to become Director of the Zurich Opera, he persuaded many operatic talents, including Miss Grist,
to accompany him there. While in Europe, Miss Grist was asked by Stravinsky to sing under his
baton in Le Rossignol. In July 1964, she made a successful debut at the renowned
Salzburg Festival in Austria.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

Reri Grist
Reri Grist

PART II
PERSONAL
Born about 1934 in New York. From childhood performed in musicals. Studied singing with Claire Gelda;
appeared on Broadway in West Side Story, 1957; opera debut as Blonde in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, Santa Fe, 1959;
sang Konigin der Nacht in Die Zauberflote in Cologne and Zurich, 1960; Covent Garden debut in The Golden Cockerel, 1962;
Metropolitan Opera debut as Rosina in Il barere di Sivigliabi, 1966; appeared at Salzburg as Blonde in 1965 and Despina in 1972;
appeared as Adina in L'elisir d'amore, Vienna, 1973.
NARRATIVE ESSAY
Reri Grist is one of several twentieth-century singers (Teresa Stich-Randall and Rita Streich are others) whose repertory
was based firmly on the operas of Mozart and Richard Strauss. This aspect of her repertory may be related to the fact that,
like Stich-Randall, Grist is an American singer who spent most of career singing in German-speaking parts of Europe.
Her voice and stage personality were quite similar to those of her older contemporary Streich,
with whom she shared much the same repertory.
With her light, high, and focused soprano voice, and her capacity for impressive flights of coloratura, Grist won applause
as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflote and Zerbinetta in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos,
as Despina (Cosi fan tutte) and Sophie (Rosenkavalier). Comic roles were her speciality: she won audiences
over with her soubrettish wit and lively charm, even after age robbed her voice of much of its sweetness and warmth.
When she was not singing Mozart or Strauss, Grist gave fine performances of some of the lighter roles in
nineteenth-century opera. She was praised for both her singing and her acting in the role of Adina when she sang
in Donizetti's Elisir d'amore at the Metropolitan in 1971. She was also successful as Oscar in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera
and as Marie in Donizetti's La fille du regiment.
A certain shrillness entered Grist's voice in the 1970s; critics began to describe her voice as edgy and thin.
Sometimes her performances were marred by a tendency to exaggerate the playfulness of a role at the expense of vocal quality.
She was criticized in 1972 for her portrayal, in Munich, of Aminta in Strauss's Die schweigsame Frau. Although
her infectious high spirits won applause, critics found her voice lacking in the warmth and lyricism that the role demanded.
A recording of Mozart's Der Schauspieldirektor with Grist in the role of Madame Herz shows the singer well past her prime.
Her portrayal of Strauss's Sophie at the Metropolitan in 1978 was criticized as "hard-edged and brittle." Yet the same year
she was still able to triumph as Despina, a role in which she could make the most of her talents as a soubrette.
Grist's interpretation of the page Oscar in Ballo in maschera was applauded in many of the world's leading opera houses.
"Charming"; "boyish"; "bouncy": these are some of the adjectives that critics used to describe Grist's Oscar. The playful song
"Volta la terrea fronte" in act I of Un ballo in maschera, recorded in the 1960s under Erich Leinsdorf, shows Grist at her charming best.
Listen to the way she pertly leaps, with perfect accuracy of pitch, to the high notes at the words "E con Lucifero."
Listen to the subtle change in vocal color as she responds to the chromatic descending line in the orchestra at the words
"Quando alle belle." Grist's light, detached articulation and bright vocal color seem to be perfectly in tune with the character of the music.
Biography Resource Center
(c)2001, Gale Group, Inc.

 

George Shirley
George Shirley
Tenor

Tenor George Shirley has sung more than 20 leading roles at the Metropolitan since his debut
there as Fernando in Cosi Fan Tutte on October 24, 1961.
Shirley, winner of the 1960-61 Metropolitan Opera auditions, was born April 18, 1934
in Indianapolis, and moved to Detroit in 1940. There he began giving vocal recitals in churches,
deciding on a musical career after playing baritone horn in the community band.

Rodolfo: "La Bohème", Milano/Italy 1960


In 1955, he graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit with a B.S. in musical education.
After his discharge from the Army in 1959, he began serious vocal studies with Themy S. Georgi.
In June of that year, he made his operatic debut as Eisenstein in Strauss´s Die Fledermaus,
performing with the Turnau Players in Woodstock. A year later, he won the American Opera
Auditions, whereupon he journeyed to Milan, Italy, making his opera debut there in Puccini´s
La Boheme.

Pelléas: "Pelléas et Mélisande", Covent Garden, London/UK 1969

In 1961, his career was given tremendous impetus by his victory in the
Metropolitan Opera auditions. Recording, opera, and television engagements were numerous
that year.

Eumete: "Il Ritorno Di Ulisse In Patria", Opera Cooperstown, New York, USA 1999

In 1963, he made his debut at Carnegie Hall with the Friends of French Opera,
singing opposite Rita Gorr in Massenet´s La Navarraise. Since then, he has sung with several of the
Met´s leading divas, including Renata Tebaldi in Simon Boccanegra and Birgit Nilsson in Salome.

Loge: "Das Rheingold", Deutsche Oper Berlin, Germany 1987

By now, Shirley has so broadened and refined his repertory that he is at home in virtually
every major opera culture in Europe. He has made several European tours, performing with the
leading orchestras on the continent and at the most prestigious opera houses there.

George Shirley

George Shirley

In 1973 Shirley initiated a radio program on WQXR (N.Y.) entitled Afro-American Artists in
the Classical Field
. In 1974 he sang the title role in Mozart´s Idomeneo at the Glyndeburne Festival.

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976


 

William Grant Still
William Grant Still
Composer

William Grant Still is acclaimed as the "dean of black composers." He has numerous firsts to his
credit, and his musical inspiration and skills unite both classical and folk traditions.
Born in Woodville, Mississippi, Still received his early musical training at home.
He attended Wilberforce University and then studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music
and the New England Conservatory. Work with George W. Chadwick and Edgar Varese
completed his formal studies. Still´s early work was as an arranger for jazz orchestras,
but he soon turned to composition, making use of his jazz background in a more classical
framework. It was the performance of his Afro-American Symphony in 1931 by the Rochester
Philharmonic under Howard Hanson, that brought him real recognition. This was the first time
a major orchestra had performed a full-length piece by a black American composer.
In 1936, Still became the first black to conduct a major American orchestra when he gave a program
of his own compositions at the Hollywood Bowl. Still wrote seven operas as well as composing
music for films (Pennies from Heaven). radio, and television (Perry Mason and Gunsmoke).
His numerous serious works reflect many sides of black life. Stokowski has called him
"one of our greatest American composers."

Source: The Negro Almanac-A Reference Work on the Afro American, New York 1976

 

Leading African American Composers in the 30s
left to right, seated: William Grant Still, Harry Lawrence Freeman,
W.C. Handy, J. Rosamund Johnson, Will Vodery
left to right, standing: Chappie Gardener, Teddy Blackman, Charles Cooke,
Bessie Bearden, Noble Sissle, (Unknown), Valdo Freeman

 

Akin Euba

Professor Akin Euba is the most literary Nigerian scholar, composer, and performer.
He is one of the world's leading authorities on African musicology with research work covering areas
of traditional, popular, church and art music from various countries and ethnic groups in the continent.
He is a trail blazer in the field of modern African art music and his creative output is extensive.
According to Euba, his scholarly interests include the musicology and ethnomusicology of modern interculturalism
(in which non-Western ideas are brought into the mainstream of international practice)
and the methodology that enables the analyst to proceed to synthesis (creative musicology)
and from synthesis to analysis (auto-musicology).
12 Dec 2003, by Godwin Sadoh - Ethnomusicologist, organist & composer

 

Christiane Eda-Pierre


Le Dialogue des Carmélites de Francis Poulenc
 Christiane Eda Pierre Christiane Eda Pierre
Christiane Eda Pierre
Christiane Eda-Pierre (Fort-de-France, Martinique, 1932)
Fr. soprano

Studied Paris Cons. Début Nice 1958 (Leila in Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles). Sang Pamina at Aix-en-Provence 1959,
Lakmé at Paris Opéra-Comique 1961, and Fatima in Rameau's Les Indes galantes, Paris Opéra 1962,
later singing Lucia di Lammermoor, Constanze, and Milhaud's Médée there. CG début 1966 (Teresa in Benvenuto Cellini).
Wexford 1966 (Imogene in Il pirata). Amer. début NY Met 1976 with Paris Opéra (Countess in Le nozze di Figaro),
then returning from 1980 as Constanze (Die Entführung), Gilda (Rigoletto), and Antonia (Les Contes d'Hoffmann).
Salzburg Fest. début 1980 (three sop. roles in Les Contes d'Hoffmann). Created Angel in Messiaen's St François d'Assise (Paris 1983).
Sang in f.p. of Amy's D'une espace déployé, 1973. Prof., Paris Cons. from 1977.
The Oxford Dictionary of Music, © Oxford University Press 1994

 

Prof. Gayle McKinney Griffith
Prof. Gayle McKinney Griffith
Co-Founder/Director: Black International Cinema Berlin,
Fountainhead® Tanz Theatre, The Collegium- Forum & Television Program Berlin,
Cultural Zephyr e.V.

Prof. Gayle McKinney Griffith studied at the New York Juilliard School of Music and Connecticut College (School of Dance). She aspired to a dance career and subsequently became the first Ballett Mistress and Soloist in the original Dance Theatre of Harlem. She appeared on world famous stages such as Carnegie Hall, Sadlers Wells and the Palladium. As a teacher of different dance techniques, she taught at many schools and companies. By extending her work to film, television and musicals, she enriched her knowledge in the entertainment and production field. Thus, she owns a rich treasure of experience which now finds its expression through the productions of FOUNTAINHEAD. Currently she specializes in the training of classical ballet and special body placement.

 


John Coltrane

Born September 23, 1926 in Hamlet, NC
Died July 17, 1967 in New York, NY
The most influential jazz musician of the past 40 years (only Miles Davis comes close),
one of the greatest saxophonists of all time and a remarkable innovator, John Coltrane
certainly made his impact on jazz!
Unlike most musicians, Coltrane's style changed gradually, but steadily over time.
His career can be divided into at least five periods: Early days (1947-54),
searching stylist (1955-56), sheets of sound (1957-59), the classic quartet (1960-64)
and avant-garde (1965-67). Originally an altoist, he played in a Navy band during his period
in the military, recording four privately issued songs in 1946. He settled in Philadelphia
and then toured with King Kolax (1946-47), switched to tenor when he played with
Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson (1947-48), joined the Dizzy Gillespie big band (1948-49) and was
with Dizzy's sextet (1950-51). Radio broadcasts from the latter association find Coltrane
sounding heavily influenced by Dexter Gordon and hinting slightly at his future sound.
He followed that gig with periods spent with the groups of Gay Crosse (1952),
Earl Bostic (1952), Johnny Hodges (1953-54) and in Philadelphia for a few weeks with
Jimmy Smith (1955). The John Coltrane story really starts with his joining the Miles Davis
Quintet in 1955. At first some observers wondered what Miles saw in the 28-year old tenor,
who had an unusual sound and whose ideas sometimes stretched beyond his technique.
However Davis was a masterful talent scout who could always hear potential greatness.
Coltrane improved month-by-month and by 1956 was competing with Sonny Rollins as the top
young tenor; he even battled him to a draw on their recording of "Tenor Madness."
Coltrane (along with Red Garland, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones) formed an important
part of the classic Miles Davis Quintet, recording with Miles for Prestige and Columbia
during 1955-56. In addition Trane was starting to be featured on many of Prestige's
jam-session-oriented albums. 1957 was the key year in John Coltrane's career.
Fired by Miles Davis due to his heroin addiction, Coltrane permanently kicked the habit.
He spent several months playing with Thelonious Monk's Quartet, an mutually beneficial
association that gave Monk long-overdue acclaim and greatly accelerated the tenor's growth.
His playing became even more adventurous than it had been, he recorded Blue Train
(his first great album as a leader) and, when he rejoined Miles Davis in early 1958,
Coltrane was unquestionably the most important tenor in jazz. During his next two years
with Davis, Trane (whose style had been accurately dubbed "sheets of sound" by critic
Ira Gitler) really took the chordal improvisation of bop to the breaking point,
playing groups of notes with extreme speed and really tearing into the music.
In addition to being one of the stars of Davis' recordings (including Milestones and
Kind of Blue), Coltrane signed a contract with Atlantic and began to record classics
of his own; "Giant Steps" (with its very complex chord structure) and "Naima" were among
the many highlights. By 1960 John Coltrane was long overdue to be a leader and Miles Davis
reluctantly let him go. 'Trane's direction was changing from utilizing as many chords as
possible (it would be difficult to get any more extreme in that direction) to playing
passionately over one or two-chord vamps. He hired pianist McCoy Tyner, drummer Elvin Jones
and went through several bassists (Steve Davis, Art Davis, Reggie Workman) before settling
on Jimmy Garrison in late 1961. The first artist signed to the new Impulse label,
Coltrane was given complete freedom to record what he wanted. He had recently begun doubling
on soprano, bringing an entirely new sound and approach to an instrument previously associated
with the Dixieland of Sidney Bechet (although Steve Lacy had already started specializing on it)
and Coltrane's 1960 Atlantic recording of "My Favorite Things" became a sort of theme song
that he revisited on a nightly basis.
John Coltrane continued to evolve during 1961-64. He added Eric Dolphy as part of his group
for a period and recorded extensively at the Village Vanguard in late 1961; the lengthy
explorations were branded by conservative critics as "anti-jazz." Partly to counter their
stereotyping (and short memories), 'Trane recorded with Duke Ellington in a quartet,
a ballad program and a collaboration with singer Johnny Hartman; his playing throughout
was quite beautiful. But live in concert his solos (which could be 45 minutes in length)
were always intense and continually searching. He utilized such songs as "Impressions"
(which used the same two-chord framework as Miles Davis' "So What") and "Afro Blue" for
long workouts and took stunning cadenzas on the ballad "I Want yo Talk About You."
In addition to the Impulse! recordings, European radio broadcasts have since been released
that show Coltrane's progress and consistency. And in December 1964 he displayed his vast
interest in Eastern religion by recording the very popular A Love Supreme.
In 1965 it all began to change. Influenced and inspired by the intense and atonal flights
of Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders, Coltrane's music dropped most of the
melodies and essentially became passionate sound explorations. Ascension from mid-year
featured six additional horns (plus a second bassist) added to the quartet for almost
totally free improvisations. Fast themes (such as "One Down, One Up" and "Sun Ship")
were quickly disposed of on the way to waves of sound. Coltrane began to use Pharoah Sanders
in his group to raise the intensity level even more and when he hired Rashied Ali as second
drummer, it eventually caused McCoy Tyner (who said he could no longer hear himself)
and Elvin Jones to depart. In 1966 Coltrane had a quintet consisting of his wife Alice
on piano, Sanders, Ali and the lone holdover Jimmy Garrison. After a triumphant visit to
Japan, Coltrane's health began to fail. Although the cause of his death on July 17, 1967
was listed as liver cancer, in reality it was probably overwork. Coltrane used to practice
ten to twelve hours a day and when he had a job (which featured marathon solos),
he would often spend his breaks practicing in his dressing room! It was only through
such singlemindedness that he could reach such a phenominal technical level, but the net
result was his premature death. Virtually every recording that John Coltrane made throughout
his career is currently available on CD, quite a few books about him have been written and a
video (The Coltrane Legacy) gives today's jazz followers an opportunity to see him performing
on a pair of half-hour television shows. Since Coltrane's passing no other giant has dominated
jazz on the same level. In fact many other saxophonists have built their entire careers on
exploring music from just one of John Coltrane's periods! -- Scott Yanow

 


Katherine Dunham
Choreographer, Dancer

Born in Chicago on June 22, 1909, and raised in Joliet, Illinois, Katherine Dunham did not
begin formal dance training until her late teens. In Chicago she studied with
Ludmilla Speranzeva and Mark Turbyfill, and danced her first leading role in Ruth Page's ballet
"La Guiablesse" in 1933. She attended the University of Chicago on scholarship
(B.A., Social Anthropology, 1936), where she was inspired by the work of anthropologists
Robert Redfield and Melville Herskovits, who stressed the importance of the survival of
African culture and ritual in understanding African-American culture. While in college she
taught youngsters' dance classes and gave recitals in a Chicago storefront, calling her
student company, founded in 1931, "Ballet Negre." Awarded a Rosenwald Travel Fellowship in 1936
for her combined expertise in dance and anthropology, she departed after graduation for the
West Indies (Jamaica, Trinidad, Cuba, Haiti, Martinique) to do field research in anthropology
and dance. Combining her two interests, she linked the function and form of Caribbean dance
and ritual to their African progenitors.
The West Indian experience changed forever the focus of Dunham's life (eventually she would
live in Haiti half of the time and become a priestess in the "vodoun" religion), and caused
a profound shift in her career. This initial fieldwork provided the nucleus for future
researches and began a lifelong involvement with the people and dance of Haiti.
From this Dunham generated her master's thesis (Northwestern University, 1947) and more
fieldwork. She lectured widely, published numerous articles, and wrote three books about her
observations: JOURNEY TO ACCOMPONG (1946), THE DANCES OF HAITI (her master's thesis,
published in 1947), and ISLAND POSSESSED (1969), underscoring how African religions and rituals
adapted to the New World. And, importantly for the development of modern dance,
her fieldwork began her investigations into a vocabulary of movement that would form the core
of the Katherine Dunham Technique. What Dunham gave modern dance was a coherent lexicon of
African and Caribbean styles of movement -- a flexible torso and spine, articulated pelvis
and isolation of the limbs, a polyrhythmic strategy of moving -- which she integrated with
techniques of ballet and modern dance.
When she returned to Chicago in late 1937, Dunham founded the Negro Dance Group,
a company of black artists dedicated to presenting aspects of African-American and
African-Caribbean dance. Immediately she began incorporating the dances she had learned into
her choreography. Invited in 1937 to be part of a notable New York City concert,
"Negro Dance Evening," she premiered "Haitian Suite," excerpted from choreography she was
developing for the longer "L'Ag'Ya." In 1937-1938 as dance director of the Negro Unit of the
Federal Theatre Project in Chicago, she made dances for "Emperor Jones" and "Run Lil' Chillun,"
and presented her first version of "L'Ag'Ya" on January 27, 1938. Based on a Martinique
folktale (ag'ya is a Martinique fighting dance), "L'Ag'Ya" is a seminal work, displaying
Dunham's blend of exciting dance-drama and authentic African-Caribbean material.
Dunham moved her company to New York City in 1939, where she became dance director of the
New York Labor Stage, choreographing the labor-union musical "Pins and Needles."
Simultaneously she was preparing a new production, "Tropics and Le Jazz Hot: From Haiti to
Harlem." It opened February 18, 1939, in what was intended to be a single weekend's concert
at the Windsor Theatre in New York City. Its instantaneous success, however, extended the run
for ten consecutive weekends and catapulted Dunham into the limelight.
In 1940 Dunham and her company appeared in the black Broadway musical, "Cabin in the Sky,"
staged by George Balanchine, in which Dunham played the sultry siren Georgia Brown -- a
character related to Dunham's other seductress, "Woman with a Cigar," from her solo
"Shore Excursion" in "Tropics." That same year Dunham married John Pratt, a theatrical
designer who worked with her in 1938 at the Chicago Federal Theatre Project, and for the
next 47 years, until his death in 1986, Pratt was Dunham's husband and her artistic
collaborator. With "L'Ag'Ya" and "Tropics and Le Jazz Hot: From Haiti to Harlem,"
Dunham revealed her magical mix of dance and theater -- the essence of "the Dunham touch" -- a
savvy combination of authentic Caribbean dance and rhythms with the heady spice of American
showbiz. Genuine folk material was presented with lavish costumes, plush settings, and the
orchestral arrangements based on Caribbean rhythms and folk music. Dancers moved through
fantastical tropical paradises or artistically designed juke-joints, while a loose storyline
held together a succession of diverse dances. Dunham aptly called her spectacles "revues."
She choreographed more than 90 individual dances, and produced five revues, four of which
played on Broadway and toured worldwide. Her most critically acclaimed revue was her 1946
"Bal Negre," containing another Dunham dance favorite, "Shango," based directly on "vodoun"
ritual. If her repertory was diverse, it was also coherent. "Tropics and le Jazz Hot:
From Haiti to Harlem" incorporated dances from the West Indies as well as from Cuba and
Mexico, while the "Le Jazz Hot" section featured early black American social dances,
such as the Juba, Cake Walk, Ballin' the Jack, and Strut. The sequencing of dances,
the theatrical journey from the tropics to urban black America implied -- in the most
entertaining terms -- the ethnographic realities of cultural connections. In her 1943
"Tropical Revue," she recycled material from the 1939 revue and added new dances,
such as the balletic "Choros" (based on formal Brazilian quadrilles), and "Rites de Passage,"
which depicted puberty rituals so explicitly sexual that the dance was banned in Boston.
Beginning in the 1940s, the Katherine Dunham Dance Company appeared on Broadway and toured
throughout the United States, Mexico, Latin America, and especially Europe, to enthusiastic
reviews. In Europe Dunham was praised as a dancer and choreographer, recognized as a serious
anthropologist and scholar, and admired as a glamorous beauty. Among her achievements was her
resourcefulness in keeping her company going without any government funding. When short of
money between engagements, Dunham and her troupe played in elegant nightclubs, such as
Ciro's in Los Angeles. She also supplemented her income through film. Alone, or with her
company, she appeared in nine Hollywood movies and in several foreign films between 1941
and 1959, among them CARNIVAL OF RHYTHM (1939), STAR-SPANGLED RHYTHM (1942),
STORMY WEATHER (1943), CASBAH (1948), BOOTE E RIPOSTA (1950), and MAMBO (1954).
In 1945 Dunham opened the Dunham School of Dance and Theater (sometimes called the Dunham
School of Arts and Research) in Manhattan. Although technique classes were the heart of the
school, they were supplemented by courses in humanities, philosophy, languages, aesthetics,
drama, and speech. For the next ten years many African-American dances of the next generation
studied at her school, then passed on Dunham's technique to their students, situating it in
dance mainstream (teachers such as Syvilla Fort, Talley Beatty, Lavinia Williams, Walter Nicks,
Hope Clark, Vanoye Aikens, and Carmencita Romero; the Dunham technique has always been taught
at the Alvin Ailey studios). During the 1940s and '50s, Dunham kept up her brand of political
activism. Fighting segregation in hotels, restaurants and theaters, she filed lawsuits and
made public condemnations. In Hollywood, she refused to sign a lucrative studio contract when
the producer said she would have to replace some of her darker-skinned company members.
To an enthusiastic but all-white audience in the South, she made an after-performance speech,
saying she could never play there again until it was integrated. In São Paulo, Brazil, she
brought a discrimination suit against a hotel, eventually prompting the president of Brazil
to apologize to her and to pass a law that forbade discrimination in public places.
In 1951 Dunham premiered "Southland," an hour-long ballet about lynching, though it was only
performed in Chile and Paris. Toward the end of the 1950s Dunham was forced to regroup,
disband, and reform her company, according to the exigencies of her financial and physical
health (she suffered from crippling knee problems). Yet she remained undeterred.
In 1962 she opened a Broadway production, "Bambouche," featuring 14 dancers, singers, and
musicians of the Royal Troupe of Morocco, along with the Dunham company. The next year she
choreographed the Metropolitan Opera's new production of "Aida" -- thereby becoming the
Met's first black choreographer. In 1965-1966, she was cultural adviser to the President of
Senegal. She attended Senegal's First World Festival of Negro Arts as a representative from
the United States. Moved by the civil rights struggle and outraged by deprivations in the
ghettos of East St. Louis, an area she knew from her visiting professorships at Southern
Illinois University in the 1960s, Dunham decided to take action. In 1967 she opened the
Performing Arts Training Center, a cultural program and school for the neighborhood children
and youth, with programs in dance, drama, martial arts, and humanities. Soon thereafter she
expanded the programs to include senior citizens. Then in 1977 she opened the Katherine Dunham
Museum and Children's Workshop to house her collections of artifacts from her travels and
research, as well as archival material from her personal life and professional career.
During the 1980s, Dunham received numerous awards acknowledging her contributions.
These include the Albert Schweitzer Music Award for a life devoted to performing arts and
service to humanity (1979); a Kennedy Center Honor's Award (1983); the Samuel H. Scripps
American Dance Festival Award (1987); induction into the Hall of Fame of the National Museum
of Dance in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (1987). That same year Dunham directed the reconstruction
of several of her works by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and "The Magic of
Katherine Dunham opened Ailey's 1987-1988 season.
In February 1992, at the age of 82, Dunham again became the subject of international attention
when she began a 47-day fast at her East St. Louis home. Because of her age, her involvement
with Haiti, and the respect accorded her as an activist and artist, Dunham became the center
of a movement that coalesced to protest the United States' deportations of Haitian
boat-refugees fleeing to the U.S. after the military overthrow of Haiti's democratically
elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. She agreed to end her fast only after Aristide
visited her and personally requested her to stop.
Boldness has characterized Dunham's life and career. And, although she was not alone,
Dunham is perhaps the best known and most influential pioneer of black dance.
Her synthesis of scholarship and theatricality demonstrated, incontrovertibly and joyously,
that African-American and African-Caribbean styles are related and powerful components of
dance in America. -- Sally Sommer

 


Miles Davis

Part I
Miles Davis is more than a jazz musician: he is a cultural icon, known even to people who can't tell bebop from fusion.
That may seem strange considering that Davis made a career of defying the expectations of critics and audience alike,
but it is just one more paradox associated with this mercurial artist.
Miles was born in Alton, Illinois on May 26, 1926. He grew up in East St. Louis in a middle class family, playing in his
high school band as well as with several local R&B groups. He quickly became enamored of jazz, particularly the
new sounds being created by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Davis' father sent him to Julliard to study music, but
Miles didn't spend much time there, dropping out to play with Parker's quintet from 1946 to 1948. That proved to be a
humbling experience at first, since Miles didn't yet have the chops to keep up with Parker's breakneck tempos and
chord substitutions. He learned quickly, though, and grew immensely as a musician during his tenure with Bird.
Next, Miles hooked up with a group of musicians who were doing something completely different. This group included
J.J. Johnson, Lee Konitz, Gerry Mulligan, John Lewis, and Max Roach. While all were excellent bop players, they
were developing a style that was less volatile and more relaxed, which suited Davis' temperment. The arrangements
crafted by Lewis, Mulligan, John Carisi, and Gil Evans added more uniqueness to the nine-piece group's sound.
Davis became the group's ad-hoc leader, and the classic Birth of the Cool was the result.
The early 50s were an erratic time for Davis, mostly due to his heroin addiction, and he was a disappointing
performer during this time. By the middle of the decade, however, he had cleaned up and formed his first quintet,
comprised of Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. This group became very
popular and recorded several essential albums for the Prestige label: Cookin', Steamin', Workin', and Relaxin'.
When the quintet broke up, Davis spent time collaborating again with arranger Gil Evans, resulting in great albums
like Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. He finished the decade out by recording one of the best known jazz
albums of all time, Kind of Blue, with a sextet that included Coltrane, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Bill Evans,
Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.
In the 1960s Davis put together a second quintet, this time utilizing Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams,
and Ron Carter. The music of this group was more complex, moving through post-bop modal experimentation and
eventually into some of the group improvisation and open forms of free jazz. Some of Davis' fans were mystified by
the group's music, but it was uniformly applauded by critics, other musicians, and avid music fans eager for new sounds.
The group's output has recently been collected in the 6-disc set The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings, 1965-'68.
As the 1970s beckoned, Miles realized that rock had replaced jazz as the music of choice for the younger generation.
In order not to be left behind, he began to perform with an electronic band: electric guitar, electric bass, banks of
electronic keyboards, and even an amplified trumpet. The sound was bubbling, dark, and dense, and it further
alienated some jazz fans and many critics as well. There was no denying the power of the music Davis was producing,
however: upon its release in 1970, Bitches Brew sold 400,000 copies, making it the best-selling jazz album of all time.
The group included Chick Corea, Hancock, John McLaughlin, and others who went on to become mainstays of the
jazz fusion movement.
Davis continued to perform and record throughout the 1970s and 1980s, continuing to perform with primarily
electronic groups, often playing organ instead of trumpet, and playing with his back to the audience.
Some of the minimalist experiments he performed at the close of the 70s foreshadowed the ambient and electronic
music that would become common in the 80s and 90s. Miles died on September 28, 1991, but his music, style,
and collaborators all continue to influence not only jazz music, but popular culture as well.

Part II
He was known to the general public primarily as a trumpet player. However, in the world of music he had a great deal
of influence not only as a innovative bandleader but also as a composer. His music and style were important in the
development of improvisational techniques incorporating modes rather than standard chord changes.
Miles experiments with modal playing reached its apotheosis in 1959 with his recording of Kind of Blue.
Many of the great improvisers and their ideas within the Davis groups were nurtured through Miles Davis, as he acted
as inspirational overseer. The music and styles of Miles Davis from one period of his life to the next varied quite
differently. He has composed many tunes that today are considered standard repertoire for aspiring jazz musicians.
Tunes such as Nardis, Milestones, and So What are typical examples. Miles Davis had an uncanny ability of always
selecting great sidemen for his recording sessions. These recordings are full of original and creative sensitivity and
are outstanding examples of jazz recordings made at that time.
His popularity was so great that he mistakenly received composer credit for a number of modern jazz standards such
as Blue in Green (by Bill Evans) Tune Up and Four (by Eddie Vinson).
His creative and innovative approach to performing such great standards as Bye Bye Blackbird and On Green Dolphin
Street has resulted in these tunes becoming great jazz standards. Considered one of the all time great melodic
soloists of our time, Miles Davis can be characterized as having unusual and very skillful timing with simple or
complex melodic phrases. As were his counter parts, Thelonious Monk Count Basie, Miles was a true master of
restraint with regard to the creative process of his improvised lines.
His recording in 1954 of The Man I Love with Milt Jackson and Thelonious Monk and Bags Grove are typical
examples of his inner ability of restraint with regard to phrasing and time. Other dramatic technique Miles used was
his placement of notes and the use of silence during his solos. Known in the 1950s for his ability to vary the color of
his sound, pitch, and the use of a Harmon mute, Miles solos resulted in a warm, rich, wispy, and even intimate
improvisation. Examples are Seven Steps to Heaven and Kind of Blue, and today are part of every jazz musicians
repertoire. Late in the 1960s Miles began to play more in the upper register.
Listen to Miles recordings in 1963 of Miles In Europe and Four and More (1964). In 1969 facing swirling social and
musical currents, Miles incorporated the use of electronic instruments into his music. Using harsh dissonance's
sounds from electronic instruments he changed the way music of the time was performed and understood.
If you listen to his recordings in 1970 you notice his more explosive and violent style with long burst, shattered tones,
electronic echoes, and numerous other alterations on his trumpet. Listen to Live -Evil and Bitches Brew.
Although Miles Davis does not seem to play as fast or as high as other trumpet players such as, Maynard Ferguson,
Dizzy Gillespie, or Clifford Brown, he always maintained a constant momentum at any tempo. The fact that Davis
may or may not have been as technical as other trumpet players, still does not detract from the fact that his lines
are more varied and original than any other trumpeter of his time.
It should be mentioned that Miles Davis is also considered a great artistic painter. In 1988 he created a series of
abstract paintings. He was inspired by a Milan -based design movement known as "Memphis" founded by
Ettore Sottsass. Known for "hot colors" and "clashing shapes" Memphis mixed and matched a variety of historical
motifs and closely resembled a "postmodernism" style. Miles found this style appealing and created a large quantity
of paintings. Most of the time Miles appeared on-stage in bright colored clothing that matched his painting style.
He always seemed to dazzle his audiences with the color of sound that emanated from his horn and from his
clothing. His paintings in New York City (1990) received enthusiastic reviews,
as they did in Spain, West Germany and Japan.
Davis had a great artistic gift for painting and creating music. He is one of the very few jazz musicians of our time
who had the ability to improvise and swing at a constant tempo. When Miles played a tune it became part of his
soul and it never lost character. He passed away September 28, 1991 and he will be deeply missed.
His music and influence in the world of jazz and art will remain with us for eternity.
(c) 2001 Miles Davis Properties, LLC and The Estate of Miles Davis

 

Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Composer - Musician

Wynton Marsalis is the most accomplished and acclaimed jazz artist and composer of his generation, in addition to
being a distinguished classical musician. Mr. Marsalis has helped propel jazz to the forefront of American culture
through his brilliant performances, recordings, compositions, educational efforts, and his vision as Artistic Director
of the world-renowned arts organization Jazz at Lincoln Center (J@LC).
Mr. Marsalis's prominent position in the performing arts was secured in April 1997, when he became the first jazz
artist to be awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in music for his work Blood on the Fields, commissioned by J@LC.
Born near New Orleans, Louisiana, on October 18, 1961, Mr. Marsalis began his classical training on trumpet at
age 12 and gained experience as a young musician in local marching bands, jazz and funk bands, and classical
youth orchestras. He entered The Juilliard School in 1979 when he was 17 years old and soon became recognized
as the most impressive trumpeter at the prestigious conservatory. That year he also joined Art Blakey and the
Jazz Messengers, the acclaimed band in which generations of emerging jazz artists honed their craft.
Mr. Marsalis made his recording debut as a leader in 1982 and over the last two decades he has produced an
incomparable catalogue of close to 40 outstanding jazz and classical recordings for Columbia Jazz and Sony
Classical, which have won him nine Grammy Awards. In 1983 he became the first and only artist to win both
classical and jazz Grammy Awards in one year and, remarkably, repeated this feat in 1984.
In 1999, he released 8 new recordings in his unprecedented "Swinging into the 21st" series, which included a
seven-CD boxed set of live performances from the Village Vanguard.
Mr. Marsalis is the Music Director of the world-renowned Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO),
which spends over half the year on tour. Mr. Marsalis also devotes a significant amount of time to composing
new works, many of which are commissioned from and premiered by J@LC. Mr. Marsalis's rich body of work
includes Them Twos, from the second collaboration between J@LC and the New York City Ballet in 1999;
Big Train, commissioned and premiered in 1998 by J@LC; Sweet Release, a score for ballet written in 1996 for
the LCJO and choreographed by Judith Jamison for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; At the Octoroon Balls,
a 1995 piece performed by the Orion String Quartet with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center;
Jazz: Six Syncopated Movements, from the 1993 J@LC collaboration with the New York City Ballet; Jump Start,
a score written for the noted dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp; Citi Movement/Griot New York,
a three-movement composition scored for jazz septet created in collaboration with choreographer Garth Fagan;
and In This House, On This Morning, an extended piece based on the form of a traditional gospel service,
commissioned and premiered by J@LC in 1992. His latest work, All Rise, is an evening-length twelve-part
composition that was commissioned and premiered by the New York Philharmonic with the LCJO and the
Morgan State University Choir in December 1999, and released on CD in September 2002.
Mr. Marsalis is internationally respected as a teacher and spokesman for music education, having received
honorary doctorates from more than a dozen universities and colleges. Through J@LC education programs,
he regularly conducts master classes, lectures, and concerts for students of all ages, including the popular J@LC
Jazz for Young PeopleSM concerts. He has also been featured in the TV production of Marsalis on Music
for the Public Broadcasting System and the series Making the Music for National Public Radio, which won a
Peabody Award in 1996. Mr. Marsalis has also written a companion book for the PBS series, as well as
Sweet Swing Blues on the Road, a collaboration with J@LC photographer Frank Stewart.
Mr. Marsalis was named one of "America's 25 Most Influential People" by Time magazine and one of "The 50 Most
Influential Boomers" by Life magazine in recognition of his critical role in stimulating an increased awareness of
jazz in the consciousness of an entire generation of jazz fans and artists. In March 2001, Mr. Marsalis was
awarded the United Nations designation of "Messenger of Peace" by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
and in June 2002, received the Congressional "Horizon Award."

 

Tania Leon
Tania Leon
Composer/Conductor/Music Director

"My chosen purpose in life is to be a musician, a composer, a conductor.
This is the way I am making my contribution to mankind."

A multi-faceted musician, Tania León is an international figure in the music world. She has carved a niche for
herself in contemporary music as a composer, conductor, and music director, in the process receiving numerous
commissions and awards. Tania León "has distinguished herself as a proponent of music without category
beyond a standard of excellence," remarked long-time music commentator Howard Mandel in an article for
Ear Magazine. "Her enthusiasm for contemporary composers regardless of gender, race, or national origin indicates
an all-embracing worldview as befits a warm, lively woman who accepts no imposed limits to her own activity."

Spends Early Years in Cuba
The daughter of Oscar León Mederos and Dora Ferran, León was born in Havana, Cuba, on May 14, 1943,
of a mixed ethnic background. Her ancestors hailed from China, Nigeria, France, and Spain.
In Havana León studied piano, violin, and music theory, earning multiple bachelors degrees and a
masters degree in music from the Carlos Alfredo Peyrellado Conservatory. While still a student she wrote
her first compositions - boleros, bossa novas, and popular music. From 1964 to 1967 León performed as
a piano soloist in her native country and acted as music director for a television station in Havana.
León immigrated to New York City in 1967. Two years later, she accidentally met Arthur Mitchell, who asked her to
accompany on piano, his new dance troupe - Dance Theater of Harlem. León improvised music to fulfill Mitchell's
rehearsal needs, and before long Mitchell offered León the music directorship of the troupe, a position she held
until 1980. In addition to her artistic managerial activities, León began composing works for the troupe,
such as Tones, which she and Mitchell collaborated on in 1970. The ballets The Beloved and Dougla quickly followed.
Dougla, in particular, met with success, becoming a regular part of the repertoire of European dance companies.

Takes Up the Baton
Although composing was well within the realm of imagination for León, at the time there were no women conductors,
so she did not consider conducting a viable career choice. "Women conducting a symphony orchestra? Taboo.
It was completely unheard of," León recalled to Mandel. "It never crossed my mind." Yet when the Dance Theater
of Harlem performed at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy, in 1971, León was unexpectedly given the
opportunity to conduct the Julliard Orchestra, which was accompanying the troupe. "I was encouraged by
Arthur Mitchell and Gian-Carlo Menotti to work with the orchestra," reminisced León to Anne Lundy in the
Black Perspective in Music. "They encouraged me to do that, and I had never done it in my life. It was my very
first time, but I picked up the baton, and I conducted the performance."
Upon returning to the United States, León began to study conducting formally with Laszlo Halasz, one of the founders
of the New York City Opera. Encouraged, she enrolled at the Julliard School of Music to study with Vincent LaSilva.
While working with the Dance Theater, León earned a bachelor's degree in music and then a master's degree in
composition from New York University. Three years later, León studied at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood
with many guest conductors, among them the world famous Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa.
León's conducting activities extended far beyond the Dance Theater. At the invitation of composer-conductor
Lukas Foss, she founded the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series in 1977, which she conducted for the
next 11 years. León also served as the music director-conductor of the 1978 Broadway production of The Wiz
and the Dance in America series for public television. In 1979 she directed Robert Wilson's Death, Destruction,
and Detroit
, and several years later she composed and directed the music for the plays Maggie Magalita
and The Golden Window. After leaving her position with the Dance Theater, León appeared as a guest conductor
at venues in the United States and Puerto Rico. León saw this as a pioneering time for her, and she faced
problems "like any pioneer would," she told Ebony. "It's not common for a woman of my skin color to conduct serious
music, so I have to know the score inside out, or work twice as hard as male conductors."

Finds Musical Voice
In the mid-1980s, León began to express her diverse musical background in her compositions. She assimilated
gospel and jazz, as well as Latin American and African elements into pieces, creating a highly rhythmic and
colorful signature sound. For example, in Carabali, a piece for orchestra, León employed rhythms and improvisation
from Cuban jazz, in a far-ranging blend of tonal colors and rhythmic patterns. Explaining that the Carabali are
Africans who fought off slave traders to become known as an indomitable people, León described in Peer-Southern
Concert Music the piece named Carabali as "a symbol of a spirit that cannot be broken." León added,
"I have tried to convey such an image by creating a body of sounds propelled by a persistent rhythmic language."
Upon the premier of the work, a reviewer for the Cincinnati Enquirer remarked, "Highly intellectual, and a demanding
piece for both orchestra and conductor, Carabali is both accessible and powerful."
León's compositions garnered praise and soon earned her recognition as a new voice in the music world.
In 1985 she was awarded a residency at the Lincoln Center Institute in New York City and won the Dean Dixon
Conducting Award. She also joined the composition faculty of the Brooklyn College Conservatory,
where she was made full professor in 1994.
In the 1990s, León hit her stride, with a steady stream of residencies, guest conducting appearances, and
commissions for new pieces. In the fall of 1992, she conducted the Johannesburg Symphony during the
Dance Theater of Harlem's historic trip to South Africa, when the company became the first multi-racial arts group
to perform and teach there in modern times. León has been invited to appear as a guest conductor-composer
at Harvard University, Yale University, the Cleveland Institute, the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, the Bellagio Center
in Italy, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and the Beethovenhalle Orchestra in Germany, and elsewhere.
In 1993 León accepted a three-year appointment as Revson Composer Fellow for the New York Philharmonic.
Her responsibilities included advising conductor Kurt Masur on contemporary music, which she believes puts off
many potential listeners. The antidote, according to León, is using orchestras in community outreach; otherwise,
audiences for classical music will continue to dwindle, seriously threatening its existence.
"An orchestra, for me, is an educational institution, and each orchestra member is a specialist,
as well as a teacher," León explained in the I.S.A.M. Newsletter (Institute for Studies in American Music).
"It is terribly important that we walk constantly into schools and community centers to offer master classes
that expose our youngsters to the art of music." "If all of us, players, conductors, administrators reassess our
priorities and devote some time to community work, we will take important steps toward rebuilding our image
and our audiences," she added. León has long put her words into action, beginning with the Brooklyn Philharmonic
Community Concert Series in the late 1970s and extending to the master classes
she taught at the Hamburg Musikschule in Germany in 1995.

Starts Latin American Music Festival
León also acts as artistic director for the concert series on Latin American music sponsored by the
American Composers Orchestra (ACO). She cited a historical precedent for the series in the interest by
North Americans in Latin American music during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. However, this interest fizzled
out in the 1960s with the heightening of North-South political tensions. León would like to see the interest in
Latin American works rekindled. She was instrumental in organizing the American Composers Orchestra's Sonidos
de las Americas - Sounds of the Americas - festival, which first took place in February of 1994 in New York City.
As early as 1991, she and ACO Managing Director Jesse Rosen traveled to Central and South America to
search out new sounds. "We met with composers, with leaders in contemporary music in Venezuela, Brazil,
Argentina, and Mexico," León recounted to Octavio Roca of Symphony Magazine. "The first thing we realized
is just how much is out there - and how rich the variety." With such diverse music available, León and Rosen
decided to focus the first annual festival on the music of Mexico. By festival time, they had organized,
with the help of the Mexican Cultural Institute and the cooperation of Carnegie Hall, concerts, symposia,
and master classes dealing with the works of Mexican composers. Calling the festival "long overdue,"
León voiced her aspirations to Roca. "Maybe in future years more orchestras can model programs after this one,
and we will have a new movement of interconnections between countries, so that whole communities of composers
can be known. Now that the door is open, this program can continue." León plans for future festivals to spotlight
the music of other Latin American countries.
León's composing process seems to mirror her life in its complexity. Like all creative activity, composing is a
process of bringing together disparate elements to create a whole. "My ideas have to do with my present,"
León told a Symphony Magazine reporter. "They come when I least expect it, in the street, sitting at home, in the car.
Ideas start tapping in anywhere, anytime. They wake me up and all of a sudden I'm hearing an entire orchestra
playing something." The composer keeps a notebook available to jot down her ideas as they come.
She can be inspired by such varied events as a visit to a museum or getting stuck in a traffic jam.
León collects these varied musical ideas, which she crafts into a commissioned work based on the parameters
of the piece. She prefers to work on a single composition at a time.
One commission seemed so daunting at first that León almost turned it down — an opera. "When I had the invitation
to write an opera, I almost slammed down the telephone. I just couldn't deal with it," the composer was quoted as
saying in the I.S.A.M. Newsletter. Fortunately León reconsidered, for the award-winning Scourge of Hyacinths
was the result. Adapted from a radio play by Nobel Prize-winning dramatist Wole Soyinka of Nigeria, the opera
deals with the plight of three political prisoners in an unnamed dictatorship. The fate of the prisoners is linked
to a goddess of the native Yoruban religion, the music of which León remembered from her childhood.
The hyacinths represent corruption and literally and figuratively prevent the protagonists from escaping their
horrible fate. The opera's 12 quick scenes play continuously, with León's lightly orchestrated and highly rhythmic
music propelling the action. León herself conducted the premier performances in Munich, Germany, in May of 1994.
For Scourge of Hyacinths, she won the BMW Prize for Best Composition at the Munich Biennale for
New Music Theater. In 1999, the opera will be co- produced by the Grand Théâtre de Genève and the
Opéra de Nancy et de Lorraine, with León conducting. Also, the Dortmund Opera has commissioned a new opera
from León based on a short story by Isabel Allende. Her other recent commissions include a major multi-media
work entitled Drummin, which premiered in November of 1997 at the Lincoln Theatre in Miami;
Sol de Doce for the men's vocal ensemble Chanticleer, with poetry by Pedro Mir; Singing Sepia, a song cycle
in collaboration with poet Rita Dove for the chamber ensemble Continuum; Para Viola y Orquesta, premiered
by a consortium of four U.S. orchestras; and Hechizos (Spells), commissioned and premiered by Frankfurt's
Ensemble Modern in March 1995.

Receives Numerous Awards
Winning prizes is nothing new for León. She has received awards for her compositions from
Chamber Music America, Readers' Digest, ASCAP, Cintas, Meet the Composer, and Women of Hope.
She has also been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Copland Fund, Rockefeller
Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which have allowed for recordings to be made of
her works. Indigena, a compact disc of León's chamber music was released on the CRI label. A compact disc
that includes Bata and Carabali is available from the Louisville Orchestra's First Edition Records.
Other pieces can be found on the Albany Records, Newport Classic, Leonarda, and Mode labels.
Considering herself a global citizen, León does not like to be categorized by race or gender.
"I have come to a place where I have no citizenship and I have a global consciousness," she once told
Ear Magazine. And as a global citizen, she desires to bridge the gap between Latin American and European music,
a lofty- some would say impossible - aspiration. Yet León is not easily deterred from pursuing her goals.
"My chosen purpose in life is to be a musician, a composer, a conductor," she told Lundy. "This is the way I am
making my contribution to mankind" and for these contributions, she wishes to be judged.

FURTHER READING
Books
Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. New York: Schirmer, 1992.
Cohen, Aaron I. International Encyclopedia of Women Composers. Volume 1: Books & Music, 1987.
The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers.New York: W.W. Norton, 1995.
Southern, Eileen.Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians.
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982.

Periodicals
Adams, J., et al. "Remaking American Opera." I.S.A.M. Newsletter, Spring 1995, p. 2.
American Record Guide, January/February 1995, p. 48.
Ashley, R. "Music and Money: Two Discussions." Ear Magazine, April 1991, pp. 21-29.
Brooks, Iris. "An American in Paris and Other Expatriate Composers Speak Out." Ear Magazine, October 1989, p. 32.
Cincinnati Enquirer,January 19, 1992, p. B4.
Ebony,February 1989, pp. 54-62.
"Festivals (Munich's Biennale)." Musical Opinion, June/July/August 1994, p. 211.
"Future Music." Ear Magazine, 1986-1987, p. 16.
"Kabiosile." Symphony Magazine, 1988, p. 27.
Kiraly, P. "Musical Melding." Symphony Magazine, October 1991, p. 29.
Lundy, A. "Conversations with Three Symphonic Conductors." Black Perspective in Music, Fall 1988, pp. 213-225.
Mandel, Howard. "Tania León: Beyond Borders." Ear Magazine, January 1989, pp. 12-13.
"Momentum: For Solo Piano." Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, 1988, pp. 581-82.
New York Times,December 10, 1991, p. C19.
Peer-Southern Concert Music,fall 1992, pp. 1-2.
Peer-Southern Concert Music, winter 1994-95, p. 4.
Roca, Octavio. "Sonidos de las Americas: Mexico — The Sound of America." Symphony Magazine,
May/June 1994, pp. 38-44.
San Francisco Chronicle,October 10, 1994, p. E3.
Schiff, D., et al. "Americanizing the American Orchestra." I.S.A.M. Newsletter, Fall 1933, pp. 9-10.
Schlueter, Paul. "The Western Wind. " American Record Guide, July/August 1992, p. 279.
Silsbury, E. "Munich Biennale: Sublime and Ridiculous." Opera, festival 1994, pp. 101-102.

Other
Kaylor Management, Inc. Biographical information. January 1998.
Source:Notable Hispanic American Women, Gale, 1998; Biography Resource Center, Gale, 1999.

 

André Watts
André Watts
Pianist

INTRODUCTION
Andre Watts is the first African-American concert pianist to achieve international superstardom.
Critics have called Watts electrifying, sensational, daring, colorful, imaginative, powerful, and a supervirtuoso.
One of today's celebrated superstars, Watts burst on the Philadelphia music scene at age nine and the world music scene at age 16.
He has subsequently performed all over the globe, always receiving rave reviews.
Born June 20, 1946, in Nuremburg, Germany, the son of an African American career soldier, sergeant Herman Watts,
and a Hungarian mother, Maria Alexandra Gusmits, Watts lived in Europe, mostly near army posts, until the age of eight.
A change in his father's military assignment caused the family to move to the United States and settle in Philadelphia.
NARRATIVE ESSAY
The family unit remained intact until 1962, when Herman and Maria were divorced. Maria Watts insists
that it was not a question of the husband deserting the family. Andre remained with his mother, whom he credits
with considerable influence in his development. In an interview for the New York Times Magazine, Watts described
his mother as " a very sharp woman. She never tells me that my performances are unqualified successes,
always picks out some obscure passage that needs polishing." Maria Watts worked to support herself and young Andre,
first as a secretary and later as a receptionist in an art gallery.
Watts began studying the violin at age four. By the time he was six he made it known that his preference was for the piano,
so his mother, a pianist herself, gave him his first lessons. As is frequently the case, he loved to play, but hated to practice.
When his habit persisted, his mother began relaying stories of her countryman, pianist and composer Franz Liszt,
emphasizing the fact that he practiced faithfully. Liszt soon became Watts's hero, and he even adopted Liszt's
bravura playing style. In Philadelphia, Watts went first to a Quaker school, then to a parochial one, then to Lincoln Preparatory School.
He was also enrolled at the Philadelphia Academy of Music, where he studied with Genia Robinor, Doris Bawden,
and Clement Petrillo, graduating in June 1963. It is said that with his huge hands, he always painted in full colors.
Watts entered his first competition at age nine, competing with 40 other gifted youngsters for an opportunity to appear
in one of the Philadelphia Orchestra's Children's Concerts. Watts won the competition and with this accomplishment successfully
launched his career. He performed a Franz Joseph Haydn piano concerto. At age ten, he performed the Felix Mendelssohn G minor
concerto with the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra and at 14, Cesar Franck's Symphonic Variations, again with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
When Watts was 16, he auditioned at Carnegie Recital Hall before three New York Philharmonic assistant conductors and
Leonard Bernstein's secretary. The group applauded his audition performance, moving him on to the maestro
himself--Bernstein--and the finals, where things went equally well. Watts had little awareness of what this event could make possible.
Watts recalled the experience several years later for journalist Norman Schreiber, Watts said: Hey my teacher was there;
my mother was there; they were going to be really bummed out if I played like a pig. I would feel miserable. I also realized it
would be good for you if other people like your playing. Watts played Liszt's E-flat Concerto at Lincoln Center with the
New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. A Young People's Concert, the program was taped three days earlier
than it was shown on CBS television on January 15, 1963. Bernstein introduced the young pianist to the national audience.
Less than three weeks after he was soloist for the Young People's Concert, Bernstein asked Watts to substitute for an ailing
Glenn Gould, who was the scheduled soloist for the New York Philharmonic's regular subscription concert on January 1, 1963.
Again Watts performed the Liszt E flat Concerto. So spectacular was this performance that he made international headlines
and Columbia recorded an LP entitled, The Exciting Debut of Andre Watts. Time magazine quoted the liner notes: ... Andre approached
the piece as a tone poem. In scherzo passages, he had the speed and power necessary to dignify his delicately poetic ideas
of the slow pianissimos. His singing tone stayed with him in every mood of his varied approach, and when he had sounded his
final cadenza, the whole orchestra stood with the audience to applaud him.
Even the Philharmonic fiddlers put down their bows and gustily clapped hands.
ENTERS CONCERT LIFE
Following his debut, Watts's manager restricted him to a limited number of engagements: the first year, six concerts;
the next, 12 concerts; the next 15 concerts, and so on. His mother and manager, decided that his entry into concert life
would be gradual. In addition, success would not isolate him from his classmates. His English and American history instructor,
Roy Cusumano wrote in International Musician, "he became friendlier and more responsive." Gradually the number of concerts
increased, reaching 150 by the mid-1970s. By then Watts was performing about eight months out of the year. In the late 1990s,
he fulfilled roughly 100 engagements per year, divided between concert appearances and solo recitals.
Though he attained celebrity status at an early age, Watts continued to study with the noted pianist and teacher Leon Fleisher.
Following high school graduation, Watts began to study part-time for a bachelor of music degree at Peabody Institute in Baltimore,
where Fleisher was a member of the faculty. He graduated in 1972.
In July 1963, Watts appeared at New York City's Lewisohn Stadium with Seiji Ozawa and the New York Philharmonic,
performing Camille Saint-Saen's Concert No. 2 in G minor. In September 1963, he again performed the Liszt concerto
at the Hollywood Bowl. He opened the 1964--65 National Symphony Orchestra's season in Washington, D.C., performing the
Saint-Saens concerto. He returned to New York in January 1965 to perform Chopin's Concerto No. 2 in F minor with the Philharmonic.
Watts made his European debut in a London performance with the London Symphony Orchestra in June 1966.
Shortly thereafter he appeared with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, Holland. In October of the same year,
he made his New York recital debut, opening the Great Performers Series at Philharmonic Hall. He made his debut in Berlin, Germany,
also in 1966, when he performed with the Berlin Philharmonic under the leadership of Zubin Mehta.
Watts embarked on a three-month world concert tour beginning in September of 1967,
under the auspices of the U.S. Department of State.
He celebrated his twenty-first birthday by signing a long-term exclusive contract with CBS Records.
By 1969 he was on a full-scale concert schedule, booked three seasons in advance.
MAKES PUBLIC IMPACT ON TELEVISION
Anniversaries were becoming more and more frequent. Though only 30 at the time, he celebrated his tenth consecutive
appearance in Lincoln Center's Great Performance Series at Avery Fischer Hall in 1976. Since he was the first classical
artist to make his initial public impact through television, the producers believed that his should be the first solo recital
televised live in its entirety from Lincoln Center. Watts's relationship with television in the field of classical music is unique.
His PBS Sunday afternoon telecast in 1976 was the first solo recital presented on Live from Lincoln Center and the
first full-length recital to be aired nationally in prime time. The 1988--89 season offered a televised concert featuring the
Shostakovich First Piano Concerto, performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, with Watts doubling as piano soloist and program host.
In June and July 1974 he made a five-week tour of Japan and made summer appearances at the Hollywood Bowl, Ambler,
Ravinia, and Concord festivals. Between recitals and orchestral appearances throughout the United States, there were two
European tours during the 1975--76 season. Unlike many other proteges, Watts lived up to his early promise and was a greater
sensation as time moved on. A 1975 press release from the Judd Concert Bureau described Watts as: Serious-minded and
worldwise...Watts dresses conservatively and comes on rather like a mature college professor as he talks soberly of the artist's
responsibilities to society. He is not for the gimmick of any kind, plays his programs straight and shies away from publicity not
specifically related to his metier. ...
Watts decribed the playing experience to James Conaway of the New York Times: My greatest satisfaction is performing.
The ego is a big part of it, but far from all. Performing is my way of being part of humanity--of sharing. I don't want to play
for a few people, I want to play for thousands. ... There's something beautiful about having an entire audience hanging on
a single note. I'd rather have a standing ovation than have some chick come backstage and tell me how great I was.
In 1964 the National Academy of Recording Artists and Sciences presented Watts with a Grammy Award and in February 1973
he was selected as Musical America's Musician of the Month. Other honors and awards include honorary doctorates from
Albright College and Yale University, the Order of the Zaire from that African country, and a University of the Arts Medal from the
University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Still in great demand after performing more than 30 years, Watts was asked by Mark Adams for the Washington Post
about the 1991 winner of the Naumberg Piano Competition, "a black whiz kid with dreadlocks named Awadagin Pratt."
Watts's response was, "This is not an unfillable position." Thirty-three years after his first recording, 1995 and 1996 reviewers
still raved over Watts's performances of Tchiakovsky's Piano Concert No. 1, Saint-Saens's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the
Atlanta Symphony, MacDowell's Piano Concerto No. 2, and Liszt's Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 with the Dallas Symphony.
At age 50, Watts remains one of the world's "greatest in demand" pianists, both as recitalist and concert soloist.
He continues to perform on the world's most important concert stages and with the world's most celebrated orchestras and conductors.
SOURCES:
* Conaway, James. "Andre Watts on Andre Watts." New York Times Magazine (19 September 1971): 14--26.
* "Concert: Andre Watts Plays Mozart." New York Times, August 13, 1987.
* Current Biography Yearbook. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1968.
* Cusumano, Roy. "The Prep School Days of Andre Watts." International Musician (April 1969): 5, 21.
* The Exciting Debut of Andre Watts. Liner Notes, Columbia Records 1963, MSS 64458.
* Hiemenz, Jack. "Musician of the Month, Andre Watts." Musical America 23 (February 1973): 4--5.
* Press Material, Judd Concert Bureau, 1975.
* Schreiber, Norman. "My Lunch with Andre." Amtrak Express (April/May 1989): 20--24.
* Southern, Eileen. Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982.
* "Watts Plays for the Millions." New York Times, November 26, 1976.
* "Watts's Incidental Achievement." Washington Post, April 16, 1993.
Biography Resource Center
(c)2001, Gale Group, Inc.

 

Betty Lou Allen
Betty Lou Allen
Mezzo Soprano

Born in Campbell, Ohio, Betty Lou Allen studied at Wilberforce University and toured with Leontyne Price
as the Wilberforce Sisters. She continued her musical studies at the Hartford School of Music (1950) and
the Berkshire Music Center (1951), and studied voice with Sarah Peck Moore, Paul Ulanowsky, and
Zinka Milanov. Her New York debut was in Virgil Thompson's Four Saints in Three Acts with the
New York City Opera Company (1953) and her formal opera debut was at the Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires (1964).
She has been a soloist with major symphonies on many tours as well as in Bernstein's Jeremiah Symphony.
She opened the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library Concert Hall (1971) and has recently appeared with the Sante Fe
and Washington opera companies.

 

Dean Dixon
Dean Dixon
conductor

Dean Dixon was fond of saying that as his career progressed he was first called the American Negro conductor, Dean Dixon,
then the American conductor, Dean Dixon, and then as the conductor, Dean Dixon.
He felt he'd reach his zenith when he was referred to as simply Dean Dixon.
Born in 1915 in New York City, he never epitomized the American Conductor nor Negro Conductor as he was stylistically
similar to Northern European conductors having conducted the Groteberg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden from 1953 to 1960
and the Hess Radio Symphony Orchestra at Frankfurt as Main Conductor from 1961 until 1970.
After conducting with Stoesel at the Julliard School and graduating from Columbia University,
he formed an orchestra in New York in 1932. In 1941, he led the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra as the first
African American conductor. In the following years, he also guest conducted the Philadelphia and Boston Symphony Orchestras.
He left the United States in 1949 for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted during the 1950 and 1951 seasons.
Dixon Traveled to Australia in 1964 to become the principal conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra until 1967.
Dixon is noted for his recordings of 20th Century American Composers -- including Cowell's Symphony No. 5, McDowell's Indian Suite,
Moore's Symphony No. 2, among others -- on the American Recording Society label. Yet, he remained rooted in the European Classics
and recorded some of his best discs for Westminster -- notably the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Janigro and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra
and Schubert's Symphonies 4 and 5 with the London Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra.
In 1976, the world lost a great conductor and distinguished man in the death of Dean Dixon.
Copyright 1998 Susan Murray

 

Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Pianist

PART I
Born in New Orleans in 1829, Louis Moreau Gottschalk grew up in a neighbourhood where he was exposed to Creole music
with its African-Caribbean rhythms and the melodious folk songs that would later become a characteristic ingredient of
much of his music. The house where he was born still stands at the southwest corner of Esplanade and Royal streets
in New Orleans, and it was from this rather unassuming place that his brilliant career started --
a career that would eventually spur him on to international fame.
Some of his past biographers have taken the idea of his childhood home as the "geographical centre" of his musical
inspiration quite literally. Vernon Loggins, for example, describes vividly how young Gottschalk would listen to the music
that filled the streets of New Orleans in the 1830s at many of the ubiquitous Sunday afternoon public dances
held by slaves across the city. Loggins even paints the picture of Gottschalk dancing on the third-floor gallery of his
home on Rampart street where he lived with his parents from 1831-1833: "Always at that hour [he] was up on the third-floor
gallery listening for the first sound of the drums. As soon as the beats fell into a steady rhythm he began to march.
Louder and faster the beats grew, and the boy's march turned into a dance. . . As the hundreds of (dancers) sang,
the dancing boy sang too. Over and over he would repeat the melody, until his mother would come, pick him up, carry him
into the nursery, and lay him on his bed. In an instant he would be sound asleep."
The general musical climate of New Orleans may have played its role during Gottschalk´s childhood, but is seems unlikely that
little Louis-Moreau, at age two, picked up his extensive knowledge of Creole music by dancing on the gallery to the sounds
of Sunday afternoon dances, or, as his biographer S. Frederick Starr puts it, "by hanging on the fence of Congo square as
a spectator" (Congo Square with its many musical gatherings being, at the time, the major dissemination point for West Indian
and Afro-American culture in New Orleans). Rather, he was exposed to the music also within the household; via his Grandmother
Buslé and his nurse Sally, both of whom were natives of Saint-Domingue.
However, none of this is to suggest that Gottschalk´s later work was derivative: When he borrowed from traditional sources
he did so openly and acknowledged his sources, and at any rate such occasional "quotations" are outweighed by his playful
inventiveness and creativity. An example of this is his informal début at the (then) new St. Charles Hotel in 1840, at a time when
despite his numerous recitals in salons of wealthy New Orleans households he had not yet performed in public concerts.
The programme described Gottschalk as "a young Creole" and his début already foreshadowed his later work:
Taking a Latin dance tune and performing a series of variations on the tune, thus combining the popularity of the tune
and subjecting it to a very Gottschalkian treatment, he charmed the audience, and the début became an instant success.
In 1842 he left the United States and sailed to Europe, realizing that a classical training would be required to achieve
his musical goals. While such professionalism in a 13-year old would normally be the result of the parents´ ambitions,
it is clear from Gottschalk´s letters, that he himself was the driving force. In a letter to his mother, for example,
he wrote that "I definitely expect that in two years or perhaps less I shall be earning a living on my own." In Europe, however,
Gottschalk had a rather bumpy start, as the Conservatoire in Paris rejected his application. For this reason, Gottschalk had
to study privately with Karl Hallé, Camille-Marie Stamaty and Pierre Malenden (the latter teaching composition).
In the years to follow, despite the initial rejection by the musical establishment, he built a first career as a pianist virtuoso,
prompting Frédéric Chopin to predict that Gottschalk would soon become one of the foremost pianists of the century.
Despite his success in Europe, Gottschalk was skeptical of European musical life. He ridiculed the cult of the genius,
and the grotesque idiosyncracies developed by some of his European fellow pianists. Franz Liszt, for example,
he called the "Alcibiades of the piano", characterizing him furthers as "devoured by a thirst for glory."
Commenting on Liszt´s "long hair", he remarked that this "came to be the symbol of the art for [Liszt´s] numerous adepts.
There was no romantic who did not wear his hair long and there are today some who have none of Liszt´s talents except the hair!"
It is interesting to note that (young) Gottschalk seems to have been slightly prejudiced against Northern Europe,
and Germany in particular, since during his time in Europe he never performed there. A possible reason is that his father,
Edward Gottschalk, lived in Germany and England in his youth and studied at the University of Leipzig, Germany.
Since relations with his father were at best businesslike, it is quite possible that, in his early years, he tried to avoid following
in his father´s footsteps. Later in life, he reached out to German communities in South America and also pressed his sister
Clara to try to get his compositions published with the German company Schott & Söhne in Mainz.
In 1853, Gottschalk returned to the United States, possibly trying to escape an environment that he regarded as being
dominated by egotism and vanity. Re-adjusting to American culture seems to have been accompanied by some problems
(and, typically for Gottschalk, by rather caustic criticism on his side, culminating in remarks such as "New Jersey is the
poorest place in the world to give concerts, except Central Africa..."), and in the years to come he would travel extensively
throughout the United States and Canada to earn a living. In 1854 he also spent an extensive period of time in Cuba,
his musical interest gradually shifting towards Central and South America.
In the 1860s, he had established himself again as a major figure in American musical life, partly as a result of tremendous
hard work -- as is evident from his travel schedule which, at one point in 1862, included 85 concerts (all at different locations)
in just four and a half months. What life under such pressure was like is best summed up by the following remark in
Gottschalk´s diaries: "Arrived half past eight at the hotel, took in a hurry a cup of bad tea, and away to business.
One herring for dinner! nine hours on the train! and, in spite of everything, five hundred persons who have paid that you
may give them two hours of poesy, of passion, and of inspiration. I confess to you secretly that they certainly will be cheated this evening."
In September 1865, his career took a sharp turn when Gottschalk had to leave the United States after a scandal about his relationship
with a student at Oakland Female Seminary. Gottschalk left the country, embarking on what would become his last
(and perhaps most successful) tour, during the course of which he travelled to Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires,
and Rio de Janeiro (and many other less well-known locations). His concerts were tremendously successful all across
South America and sometimes took the form of "monster concerts" involving up to 650 performers.
Louis Moreau Gottschalk died Saturday, December 18, 1869, in Tijuca (Brazil), three weeks after collapsing during one
his concerts, just when he had finished playing his sorrowful "Morte!!" and was about to begin moving on to the next piece.
(c) 2001 by Axel Gelfert

PART II
For a better understanding of Gottschalk's music, it is important to have a look at his life. Both show a remarkable diversity,
resulting from influences they received from different cultures. Gottschalk was born in 1829 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
In this city you could find influences of european [especially french], caribbean and african, spanish and south american culture.
You could hear French, Spanish and English or a mixture made up from these languages on the streets of New Orleans.
The reason for this was that Louisiana belonged to diffent countries [first to France then Spain and then again to France]
before it finally was declared a part of the USA.
So, where were the Gottschalk's from? Gottschalks father, Edward, was a descendent of spanish jews, but was born in London, England.
His mother, Aimée, had french ancestors [de Brusle]. Her grandfather was governor on Santo Domingo. During the time of
the slaves' revolt the family fled to New Orleans. Gottschalk's grandmother and a maid were born on Santo Domingo.
So the french influence in the family was still dominating. At home the family members spoke mostly french.
So it's no surprise that a lot of the titles of Gottschalk's works are in french.
Louis Moreau [called Moreau] was the eldest of seven children. His musical talent was discovered at an early age -
so he was sent to Paris to study music. He stayed in Europe for eleven years, where he made some good and some
bad experiences. A good one surely was to find friends like Georges Bizet and Camille Saint-Saëns. But he also met Chopin
[who was quite impressed by the young Gottschalk], Offenbach, Berlioz and Meyerbeer. One of the worst experiences Gottschalk
made in France was the fact that Pierre Zimmermann, he was the director of the "Paris Conservatoire" at that time, barred him from
entrance to the Conservatoire without even an audition. Zimmermann had the opion that the Americans were barbarians and may know
how to built locomotives, but had no idea how to compose music. Well, today it sounds funny to learn that not only women
[like Louise Farrenc] had a hard time at the "Paris Convervatoire", but Americans, too. It must have been a special satisfaction
for Gottschalk that he was appointed as a member of the Conservatiore's jury seven years later. Another member of that jury was
Pierre Zimmermann - the same person, who thought that Americans can't be artists. In addition one of Gottschalk's works,
"Bamboula", was selected as a part of the exams for the students.
Another positive experience Gottschalk made in Europe was his residence at the Spanish court, under the patronage of Queen Isabella II.
His stay there lasted 18 months. During that time he composed a lot, pieces like "El Sitio Zaragoza" [The Siege of Saragossa] -
composed for 10 (!) pianos. In 1853, Gottschalk was now 24 years old, he returned to America. Here he travelled again trough
the whole country, giving concerts at every opportunity. Often he played his own compositions at the piano, but he was also famous
for his interpretations of works by other composers (e.g. Beethoven's piano sonatas). Gottschalk had a lot of success,
like Chopin had predicted, and was declared "King of Pianists" in Philadelphia. In New York he performed together with Sigismund Thalberg,
a very famous pianist at that time. Just four years later, in 1857, Gottschalk travelled to the West Indies with the soprano Adelina Patti
and her father (she was just 14 years old). There he stayed for three years and again one can hear the influences of his stay in his music.
For example in his Symphony # 1 "La Nuit des Tropiques" you can hear Afro-Cuban percussion. The whole Symphony,
completed in 1859 on the island of Guadeloupe, lasts just about 20 minutes, but one can easily feel the flair of the tropics.
"'La Nuit des tropiques' probably derived its name from [Félicien] David's symphonic ode 'Christophe Colomb'. The second movement
of it was entitled 'Une nuit des tropiques' and Gottschalk almost certainly heard it performed at the Opéra Comique when it was
premiered there in 1847." (Starr: L.M.Gottschalk, p.285). While in the tropics Gottschalk continued to stage concerts and festivals.
Often these were not just normal festivals, but large-scale events. To get an impression of these festivals,
I'd like to quote Gottschalk himself. On Feb. 17th 1860 he wrote:
"I had, as I say, the idea of giving a grand festival, and I made an arrangement with the director of the Italian opera company,
then in posession of the Grand Tacon Theater. ... I set to work and composed, on some Spanish verses written for me by a Havanese poet,
an opera in one act, entitled "Fete champetre cubaine" [der spanische Titel lautet "Escenas Campestres"]. Then I composed
a "Triumphal Hymn" and a "Grand March". My orchestra consisted of 650 performers, 87 choristers, 15 solo singers, 50 drums,
and 80 trumpets - that is to say, nearly 900 persons bellowing and blowing to see who could scream the loudest."
In 1862 Gottschalk returned to New York. In the meantime the civil war broke out, but for Gottschalk there was no doubt where
his sympathies were. Before returning to the U.S. he took the oath of allegiance to the Union at the U.S. Consulate in Havana, Cuba.
There's even a composition with the title "The Union", in which he quotes "The Star-Spangled Banner", the "Yankee Doodle" and "Hail Colombia".
When I look at Gottschalk as a human beeing, I can't overlook his deep humanity and his sense of humor. An example for the latter
is the following story: in 1865 there were plans for a performance of Gottschalk's arrangement of the March from Tannhäuser for
14 pianos in San Francisco. Unfortunately the were just 13 pianists available, so the manager of the concert hall came foreward
and proposed that his son could play the 14th piano. He was a brilliant pianist, his father said. But when Gottschalk listened to
the art of this boy, he found out that he wasn't much of a pianist at all. So what to do? Gottschalk had announced 14 pianists and
then he didn't want to offend the boy's father. Finally he had the piano-tuner remove the interior mechanism of the boy's piano.
So the audience could see 14 pianists on stage and believe that they also hear 14 pianists.
In this way Gottschalk was a man of practical solutions. This can also be seen in his compositions. He had no problem in re-using
material from earlier compositions - and he was quite flexible when it came to publishing different versions of the same work.
The "Grande Tarantelle" had versions for violin and piano, for piano, violin and cello, for piano and string quartet, for piano
and two violins, for piano solo and for two pianos. In addition there is a version reconstructed and orchestrared for piano and
orchestra by Hershy Kay. This one is on Vox CDX 5009.
After the year 1841 Gottschalk toured so much that he never stayed longer than a few weeks in New Orleans.
He never married and he obviously loved to travel. He also died, at the age of 40, while travelling through South America.
It's not clear what caused his death, maybe Gottschalk was just exhausted, because of these excessive trips.
One story about his death says that he died from the yellow fever while playing his composition "Morte" at the piano.
The date of his death is December 18th 1869.
There are lots of stories and rumours about Gottschalk, his concerts and his popularity among women. A fact is that he was
a pioneer in composition, because he didn't limit his work to a single style. Besides works like "The Union" we can find pieces
which remind at Chopin like "Berceuse", afro-caribbean works like "El Cocoye" or "Souvenir de la Havana" with a kind of
"brutal nostalghia" or even a piece like "Banjo" - which is like a jazz piece from the middle of the 19th century.
Gottschalk's brother payed for the gravestone.

 

Margaret Bonds
Margaret Bonds
Composer - Musician

NARRATIVE ESSAY
A skilled composer who helped reawaken public appreciation of spirituals, among her many musical and creative achievements,
Chicagoan Margaret Allison Bonds (Richardson) was born on March 3, 1913. She came from a musical family.
Her mother, Estella, was a church organist and music teacher whose home was a gathering place for young black writers,
artists, and musicians. Among them were composers Will Marion Cook and Florence Price. Margaret Bonds began to write
music at the age of five, a piano piece entitled "Marquette Street Blues." Beginning at that age she studied piano with local
teachers Martha Anderson and T. Theodore Taylor. While in high school she studied piano and composition with Price and
later with William Dawson. Bonds first received notice outside the black community in 1932, when, at the age of nineteen,
she won the Wanamaker Foundation Prize for her song "Sea Ghost. She became the first black American soloist to appear
with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when she performed Price's Piano Concerto in F minor at the 1933 World's Fair.
Inspired by Price's success as a composer, she became determined to focus as much as possible on composition.
She received her B.M. (1933) and M.M. (1934) degrees from Northwestern University, where she studied with Emily Boettscher Bogue.
Throughout the interwar years she continued to be active as a concert musician, appearing with orchestras and giving solo recitals.
She also worked as an accompanist for Abbie Mitchell and Etta Moten, among others. It was also at this time that she opened
the Allied Arts Academy of ballet and music for black children in Chicago. Greater scope for her compositional activities, however,
did not come until she made a big move. About 1939 Bonds went to New York City, where she served for a time as editor in the
Clarence Williams music publishing firm. One of the few oldtime New Orleans jazzmen to be a success at the business side of music,
Williams already was well past his biggest hits. His company, however, offered Bonds an entree to the New York pop music scene.
She wrote a few popular songs, including a successful one, "Peachtree Street, with Andy Razafar in 1939. In 1940 she married
Lawrence Richardson. In 1941, with Harold "Hal Dickinson, she wrote "Spring Will Be So Sad (When She Comes This Year).
Dickinson was founder and leader of the Modernaires vocal quartet, which sang this song with Ray Eberle on a 1941
record by the Glen Miller Orchestra. Some will know it as the flip side of "Perfida, which was a top ten hit. Like many other ballads
of the era, "Spring Will Be So Sad captures the feelings of loss or longing engendered by the World War II.
It was the concert music side, however, rather than the pop, that eventually took precedence in Bonds's career. She studied piano
with Djane Herz and composition with Robert Starer at Juilliard. She also received a Rosenwald Fellowship and an award for
studying composition with Roy Harris. She then toured, and sometimes performed a piano duet with Gerald Cook on radio broadcasts,
in the United States and Canada. In 1944 the duo played an entire series on WNYC. In addition to her own works and those of other
contemporary black American composers, her repertoire included black spirituals, the appreciation of which she promoted through
her fine arrangements. In later life Bonds taught in New York at the American Music Wing and served as music director for
several of the city's theaters, including the Stage of Youth, the East Side Settlement House, and the White Barn Theater.
Before moving to Los Angeles in the 1960s, she also organized a chamber music society to foster the work of black American
musicians and composers and established a sight-singing program at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Harlem.
She worked with the Inner City Institute and Repertory Theater and wrote arrangements for the Los Angeles Jubilee Singers.
GREATEST CONTRIBUTION SEEN AS COMPOSER
Bonds made her greatest contribution as a composer. Her output consists largely of vocal music. In addition to the pop songs,
her best-known works are arrangements of spirituals for solo voice or chorus. Some of her arrangements were commissioned
and recorded by Leontyne Price in the 1960s. Bonds's arrangement of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands is among her
best-known. John Lovell, Jr., in his exhaustive Black Song: The Forge and the Flame, lists Bonds, along with Cook and
Harry T. Burleigh, among twentieth-century composers whose arrangements contributed significantly to widening public
enjoyment and appreciation of spirituals. Among Bond's other vocal works, the most important are settings of contemporary
writers such as John Dos Passos, Robert Frost, and Langston Hughes. Several of her major works are settings of Hughes,
including her most popular song, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers(1941). A worthy alternative to the setting by Howard Swanson,
it entered into the repertoire of Rawn Spearman and Lawrence Winter as well as that of Etta Moten. With Hughes she wrote
The Ballad of the Brown King for vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra (1954), which at one time was part of the annual musical
calender of many black American churches. Other Hughes-inspired works are Three Dream Portraits for voice and piano (1959),
perhaps the finest of all these Hughes settings, To a Brown Girl Dead (1956), the stage work for Shakespeare in Harlem (1959),
and Fields of Wonder for male chorus and piano (1964). Her theater pieces on other texts are Julie, U.S.A., and Wings over Broadway.
She also wrote a ballet entitled The Migration (1964). Bonds's instrumental music, both piano pieces and orchestral works,
tends to be programmatic. Among her more ambitious piano works is, appropriately, the Spiritual Suite. Troubled Water,
based on the spiritual "Wade in the Water, exists in a 1964 version for cello as well as the piano original often programmed
by Frances Walker. The best-received of her small handful of orchestral works has been the Montgomery Variations,
which she wrote in 1965 during the march on Montgomery and dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. Among her liturgically-inspired
pieces is the Mass in D minor for chorus and orchestra or, alternately, for chorus and organ (1959). Her last major piece is
Credo for baritone, chorus, and orchestra (1972), which one month after her death was performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
under Zubin Mehta. Bonds's style was not a highly original one. As an arranger, she was influenced by Cook and Burleigh.
"I came to realize, she said, "that most composers at one time or another reflect their friends (Unpublished reminiscence, 1967,
quoted in Abdul, 55). She was comfortable, too, with the received tenets of musical Romanticism, acknowledging Tchaikovsky
as a model. At the same time, however, her arrangements of spirituals, with their jazz chords and strong syncopated basses,
are among the most ragtime-influenced of all such arrangements. The vitality of her treatments is especially pleasing in uptempo spirituals.
Among Bonds's honors are awards from ASCAP, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the National Association of Negro Musicians,
the National Council of Negro Women, and the Northwestern University Alumni Association.
SOURCES:
Abdul, Raoul. Blacks in Classical Music. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1977.
Contributions of Black Women to America. Vol. 1. Ed. Marianna W. Davis. Columbia, S.C.: Kenday Press, 1982.
Green, Mildred D. "A Study of the Lives and Works of Five Black Composers in America. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Oklahoma, 1975.
Hitchcock, H. Wiley, and Stanley Sadie, eds. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Vol. 1. New York: Stockton Press, 1986.
Lovell, John, Jr. Black Song: The Forge and the Flame. New York, Macmillan, 1972.
Roach, Hildred. Black American Music: Past and Present. Vol. 1. Malabar, Fla.: R. E. Krieger Pub. Co., 1985.
Southern Eileen. Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982.
Thomas, A. J. "A Study of the Selected Masses of Twentieth-Century Black Composers:
Margaret Bonds, Robert Ray, George Walker, and David Baker. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois, 1983.
Variety 266 (10 May 1972): 86.
Biography Resource Center
(c)2001, Gale Group, Inc.

 

Ulysses Simpson Kay
Ulysses Simpson Kay
Composer

INTRODUCTION
Ulysses S. Kay was one of the most outstanding composers of twentieth-century classical idioms. His works were conducted
by leading conductors and played by leading orchestras. He studied composition with some of the major pedagogues in the
twentieth century, including Howard Hanson, Paul Hindemith, Otto Luening, and Bernard Rogers. William Grant Still encouraged
him early on to become a composer and remained a mentor. He received commissions for works from the Juilliard School of Music
in New York, the National Symphony, and Opera/South, among many others. He composed over 135 pieces, including operas,
piano music, orchestral and choral works, and chamber music. He wrote scores for television and for films. In his music,
he used many styles ranging from spiritual-like melodies through neoclassicism to the atonal sounds of his contemporaries.
American Composers Alliance Bulletin that, his "musical language was that of enlightened modernism." As a consultant for
Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), Kay influenced publishing decisions and other issues. His career began to accelerate
after a performance of his orchestral overture, Of New Horizons, by the New York Philharmonic in Lewisohn Stadium in New York
on July 9, 1944. Significant awards followed, giving him the recognition and exposure that his music needed to insure his future success.
He received many honorary doctorates later in life for his contributions to American
classical music, and in 1979, the American Institute of Arts voted him into membership.
NARRATIVE ESSAY
Kay was born on January 7, 1917, in Tucson, Arizona. He died on May 20, 1995, at home in Teaneck, New Jersey.
He was the son of Elizabeth Davis Kay and Ulysses S. Kay, and he had one sister. He was the nephew of the New Orleans
jazz legend and cornet player, Joe "King" Oliver, who influenced him in his formative years.
EDUCATION AND INFLUENCES
Kay's father was a barber who loved to sing. His mother, Elizabeth, played the piano. His father used to sing ballads,
hymns, work songs, and songs he created to his son to keep him entertained. His sister played the music of the nineteenth-century
Polish composer, Frederic Chopin, on the piano in their home. His uncle, Joe Oliver, determined that young Ulysses should
study the piano before Oliver would teach him to play the trumpet, so he studied piano with William A. Ferguson. At school,
he learned to play the violin. His sister helped him discover the saxophone while he was a student at Dunbar Junior High School.
He loved jazz and the sounds of the saxophone, so he temporarily gave up the piano and the violin to study that instrument.
At Tucson Senior High School, he played in the marching band, sang in the glee club, and played saxophone in jazz orchestras
whenever he could. In 1934 he graduated from high school and enrolled at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He received his
bachelor of music degree with training in public school music in 1938.
Kay encountered the music of Hungarian composer and pianist Bela Bartok as part of his piano study with Julia Rebeil, and he was
schooled in music theory under John L. Lowell at the university. He later said that those experiences gave him a completely new
perspective on the field of music composition. He received a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York,
and he enrolled there as a graduate student in 1938. He earned a master's degree in 1940, studying composition with Bernard Rogers
and then with Howard Hanson until 1941. In Rochester, Kay first heard his works performed, including Sinfonietta in 1939,
Oboe Concerto in 1940, and Dance Calinda in 1941. In the summer of 1941, Kay had the opportunity to study composition with
Paul Hindemith at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts. He continued his studies
with Hindemith at Yale University from 1941 to 1942.
THE WAR AND THE MIDDLE YEARS
In 1942 Kay enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves in World War II and served three and a half years as a musician second
class in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. He played the flute, saxophone, and piccolo in the Navy band. He played the piano
in dance orchestras. In addition, he was able to continue arranging and composing. A significant work of Kay's from this period
was the orchestral overture, Of New Horizons in 1944, written in the neoclassical style, which brought him to the attention of the critics.
Kay's Suite for Orchestra in 1945 received a prize from BMI, the first of many to come. The following year, A Short Overture,
also for orchestra, earned the George Gershwin Memorial Award. It was first performed in Brooklyn, New York, on March 31, 1947,
conducted by Leonard Bernstein. Kay composed Suite, for strings, in 1947.
Kay received the first of many awards designed to give him more time to compose in 1946. The Alice M. Ditson Fellowship supported
him during one year of creative work. BMI elected him to full membership in 1947. In 1947--48, he received the Julius Rosenwald
Fellowship and a grant from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and he traveled to Europe. One of his orchestral compositions
from 1948, Portrait Suite, based on sculptures by Henry Moore, Jacob Lipschitz, and Wilhelm Lehmbruch,
received the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra Award.
From 1946 through 1949, he attended Columbia University as a composition student of Otto Leuning. He completed a movie score
for the motion picture, The Quiet One, in 1948, and subsequently arranged a concert suite from that score.
The suite was premiered in New York in 1948.
On August 20, 1949, he married Barbara Harrison. Their three children are Melinda Lillian, Virginia, and Hillary. From 1949 until 1952,
he lived in Italy with two Prix de Rome awards covering the years 1949--1952 and a Fulbright grant for 1950--51.
His Concerto for Orchestra was completed in 1948. In 1950, while he was still in Italy, he wrote Symphony in E, his first major symphonic work.
A consulting position with BMI lasted from 1953 until 1968. The major completed composition of 1952 was Three Pieces After Blake,
for soprano and orchestra. In 1953 the Concerto for Orchestra (1948), which was written in Italy, premiered in Venice by the
Teatro La Fenice Orchestra conducted by Jonel Perlea. Six Dances for string orchestra and Serenade for full orchestra followed in 1954.
The next year he composed his first one-act opera, The Boor. He wrote a second one-act opera, Juggler of Our Lady, in 1956.
In 1958 Kay went to the Soviet Union on a cultural exchange program with the first delegation of American composers.
Included in this distinguished group were Roy Harris, Peter Mennin, and Roger Sessions. A concert of music by these composers
was played by the Moscow State Radio Orchestra. He ended the decade of the 1950s with a large piece for soprano, baritone, chorus,
and orchestra, called Phoebus, Arise. Kay's first major work of the 1960s was Choral Triptych, for chorus and string orchestra in 1962.
In 1963 he was commissioned to write "tranquil music" for a project Edward B. Benjamin sponsored, and the result was Umbrian Scene.
The Louisville Orchestra later recorded this work. In the same year he wrote two more major works, Fantasy Variations, for orchestra,
and Inscriptions from Whitman, for chorus and orchestra. Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois, presented him with the first of many
honorary doctorates in music in 1963. Kay received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964--65, and he composed Emily Dickinson Set
for women's chorus and piano. In the same year, his original score was heard on the television special, An Essay on Death,
a tribute to John F. Kennedy. It was telecast over WNET in New York on November 19. He wrote the film scores for two television
documentaries for The Twentieth Century series on CBS, "F.D.R.: Third Term to Pearl Harbor," and "Submarine!," and another
documentary called New York: City of Magic. In 1965 Kay was a visiting professor at Boston University. Bucknell University in Lewisburg,
Pennsylvania, awarded him his second honorary doctorate in music in 1966. In 1966--67 he was a visiting professor at the
University of California at Los Angeles. He wrote Markings in 1966, an essay for orchestra that took its title from Dag Hammarskjold's book,
published posthumously. Markings was dedicated to the former United Nations Secretary General, who had been killed in a plane crash.
It has been recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.
THE GOLDEN YEARS OF COMMISSIONS
Kay received a permanent appointment to the faculty of the Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York in 1968.
That year, the Atlanta Symphony under the direction of Robert Shaw commissioned him to write a piece for them. Theater Set premiered
in Atlanta on September 26, 1968, on the opening night of the concert season. Kay said that the piece was a tribute to show music,
without quoting any themes directly. Kay's alma mater, the University of Arizona at Tucson, conferred on him an honorary doctorate
in music in 1969. That year he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois.
In 1970 he composed a sextet for woodwinds and piano called Facets, which makes effective use of silence in the midst of sound.
It was first performed at the Eastman School of Music on October 19, 1971. In 1972 he was named Distinguished Professor of Music
at Lehman College, where he had been teaching since 1968. Commissions for new works continued to pour in.
The Juilliard School of Music commissioned a work in 1973 for five brass soloists and orchestra. The result was Quintet Concerto.
For the American bicentennial, he wrote four major works, each on a different commission. The National Symphony received Western Paradise,
for narrator and orchestra (1975). The Southern Regional Metropolitan Orchestra Managers Association, with a grant from the
National Endowment for the Arts, got Southern Harmony. Southern Harmony was premiered by the North Carolina Orchestra on February 10, 1976.
The music was inspired by American hymn tunes of the mid-nineteenth century. The Princeton Theological Seminary and Presbyterian Church
commissioned Epigrams and Hymn, also in 1976. Opera/South in Jackson, Mississippi, commissioned Kay's first full-length opera, Jubilee,
based on Margaret Walker's book of the same title. The premiere of that work was on November 20, 1976, in Jackson.
Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, gave him his fourth honorary doctorate in music in 1978. The Saratoga Performing Arts Center
commissioned Chariots for orchestra in 1978, and that work received its premiere by the Philadelphia Orchestra with the composer
conducting on August 8, 1979. The University of Missouri at Kansas City awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1981.
In August of 1982, he was a resident fellow at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Como, Italy. He retired from his position
at Lehman College in 1988. Kay's last major work was an opera titled Frederick Douglass, which he completed in 1991.
The Washington Post cited his interview at the premiere of the work at Newark Symphony Hall with the New Jersey State Opera
in April of 1991, when Kay said, "I wasn't composing operas to prove anything. I write out of interest, rather than trying to take on
the cause of blackness or whatever." Kay's numerous works can be divided into four broad categories by genre: dramatic works,
orchestral works, vocal works, and chamber works. He withdrew some of his earlier pieces after he had achieved maturity.
Most of his works are unpublished. Some of the published works are currently out-of-print.
Throughout his lifetime, Kay's musical styles defied categorization. They were not especially ethnic, nor did he strive to use folk music,
jazz, or blues, as the basis for his work. In an interview in The Black Composer Speaks, he said in answer to a question about what
features of his own music he saw as uniquely black, "I have nothing especially other than its expressive content." He often wrote
in a neoclassical style with modern harmonies, like Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Kabalevsky who worked in the Soviet Union,
but he could just as easily write in an atonal idiom. He knew the system developed by Arnold Schoenberg for 12-tone music and
could use those techniques if he felt they helped him accomplish his aesthetic goals.
Kay's mature style, according to Eileen Southern in the New Grove Dictionary of American Music, "is characterized by taut but
warm melodies, complex polyphony, vibrant harmonic and orchestral coloring, and rhythmic diversity."
Photographs of Ulysses Kay show that he was a slight man, small in frame, and either bald or with short hair for most of his
professional life. He wore glasses. He was often photographed with a conductor's baton in his hand. In the Washington Post scholar
and musician Hildreth Roach described Kay as "a gentleman and a gentle man, highly intellectual, polite, and a bit shy.
He was surprised and delighted that people would perform and listen to his music."
Kay benefited from the multitude of achievements in the field of classical music of William Grant Still. With more formal education
and more earned degrees in music than his mentor and friend, Kay was able to open doors in the academic world that his
predecessor could not. When Still died in 1978, the title of "Dean of Afro-American Composers" was passed to Kay.
Kay became the bridge between the self-taught African American composer of European styles and an academic community
in the United States trying desperately to create a style all its own. He was as much a part of the mainstream as any composer
active in the middle decades of the twentieth century, and yet his music remained unique and not easily classified.
SOURCES:
Baker, David, Lida M. Belt, and Herman C. Hudson, eds. The Black Composer Speaks. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1978.
Ewen, David. American Composers: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1982.
Hitchcock, H. Wiley, and Stanley Sadie, eds. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. London: Macmillan, 1986.
"Obituaries." Who's Who Among African Americans, 1996/1997. 9th ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1996.
Slonimsky, Nicolas. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 7th ed., rev. New York: Schirmer Books, 1984.
--. "Ulysses Kay." American Composers Alliance Bulletin 7 (Fall 1957): 3.
Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans. Rev. ed. New York: Norton, 1983.
"Ulysses Kay: A Musical Odyssey." Washington Post, May 28, 1995.
Wyatt, Lucius R. R. "Ulysses Kay's Fantasy Variations: An Analysis." Black Perspectives in Music 7 (Spring 1977): 75--89.
Biography Resource Center
(c)2001, Gale Group, Inc.

 

William Warfield
William Warfield
Baritone

William Warfield, an advanced voice teacher in Chicago, following a long career as an operatic baritone, is one of the worlds leading
experts on Negro Spirituals and German Lieder. Past President of the National Association of Negro Musicians (1985-1990)
Dr. Warfield was born in the town of West Helena, Arkansas, to a family of sharecroppers. By the time he was 30 years old,
he had won rave reviews in a sensational debut at New York's Town Hall. In the course of a career that has spanned more than
half a century, his incomparable voice and charismatic personality have electrified the stages of six continents and earned
him the title of "America's Musical Ambassador." It is a career that has witnessed both social ferment and show-business revolution.
In his uncommonly personal memoir, {My Music & My Life,} Warfield has written a unique history of twentieth-century America.
The panorama of his life and art embraces the Cold War and the Civil Rights movement, the big-studio era of Hollywood and the
innovation of television drama, his marriage to Leontyne Price and his stage and screen roles in Porgy and Bess and Show Boat.
He is a consumate oratorio singer. He has appeared with great orchestras and great conductors, all of whom have applauded
his musicianship. Television and film have recorded his triumphs as singer and actor. Critical opinion regards him as one of the great
singer-actors of the 20th century, Dr. Warfield joined the Board of the Schiller Institute in 1996 and has been engaged in the
efforts of the Schiller Institute to revive a movement for a National Conservatory of Music, first pioneered at the beginning of
the century by Antonin Dvorak. He has also worked extensively in voice-training master classes with the Schiller Institute.
His skill in developing the student's ability to convey the meaning of a passage--be it drama, poetry or music--and its consequent
correct phrasing, as being the key to achieving the "technical" solutions required for beautiful
singing and recitation, can only be described as electrifying.
Born in 1920 to a family of sharecroppers in West Helena, Arkansas, William Warfield first developed his extraordinary vocal
skills by singing in the choir of his father's Baptist church. During William's childhood, the Warfield family moved to Rochester,
New York, where he took formal voice lessons. In 1938, during his high school senior year, William won the District Award
for the National Music Educators' League vocal competition, which included a scholarship to the music school of his choice.
The following fall, William began study at the Eastman School of Music, where he received his bachelor's degree in Music Studies in 1942.
After a period of service in the U.S. Army during World War II, William Warfield returned to New York and successfully auditioned for
a part in the Broadway show Call Me Mister. Following his performance in this musical, he received roles in two other productions,
1948's Set My People Free and 1950's Regina, two parables concerning American race relations. Also in 1950, Warfield played a role
in the film adaptation of Showboat and made his New York Town Hall debut. This debut met with great public excitement and
critical acclaim, thus launching his successful career. In 1952 William Warfield was chosen to star as Porgy in Gershwin's revival
of the legendary musical Porgy and Bess, opposite famous soprano Leontyne Price. The two stars performed the title roles
throughout the United States and Europe. After returning to New York, Warfield and Price married. Together they performed
several remarkable concerts, including a joint recital with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1956.
Throughout the remainder of the decade, William Warfield toured with the U.S. State Department throughout Africa, Europe, Asia
and the Near East. In the 1960's he performed in a series of European performances, including venues in Greece, Switzerland, and Austria.
On March 24, 1975, the twenty-fifth anniversary of William Warfield's Town Hall debut was commemorated by a recital at the Duke Ellington
Center in New York's Carnegie Hall. This gala event was attended by thousands of his fans and admirers, including his mentor,
Marian Anderson. William Warfield passed away on August 25, 2002.

 

The role of the Black artist in the history of music is increasingly being given serious
attention. Recent discoveries of excellent Black symphonic music, both contemporary and two centuries old,
have begun to eradicate the stereotype of Black music as a program of spirituals, jazz, and the blues.
Even more important, students of comprehensive musicology (the study of music in relation to the culture
and society in which it exist) are beginning to focus on the unique, non-European nature of Black music.

Black music looks back to Africa, not Europe, as the Old World. Whereas the European tradition often
considers music in the realm of "art for arts sake," African music is first and foremost a social function.
It is such an important part of daily life that ritual and social events can not happen without proper music.
As a result, despite the lack of formal theory, both African music and the traditional African audience have
always been among the world's most sophisticated.

An excerpt from "The Negro almanac - a reference work on the African American", 1976

 


"Die Zauberflöte"

 

 Ray M. Wade Jr.
Lyric Tenor

Lyric tenor Ray M. Wade, Jr. was a member of the Solo Ensemble of the Nationaltheater Mannheim, Germany from the 95 through the 98 seasons where he sang several roles including; Alfredo Germont in La Traviata, Conte Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Ferrando in Così fan tutte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serial, The Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier, Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Chevalier Belfiore in Die Reise nach Reims and Camille de Rossillon in Die Lustige Witwe. He is a native of Ft. Worth, Texas where he began his career with the Ft. Worth Opera Theater Chorus.

 


"Scherz, Satire, Ironie und tiefere Bedeutung"
Mr. Wade had the privilege of singing on a concert for the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the coronation of Pope John Paul II in November of 1998 in Vatican City, Italy in which the Pope attended. Mr. Wade then made his debut with the Deutsche Oper Berlin where he sang the tenor role in Beethoven's 9th Symphony in December of the same year under the direction of Christian Thielemann. Mr. Wade also sang in the Bregenzer Festspiel's production of A Greek Passion by Martinu in the summer of 1999.

"La Cenerentola" Mr. Wade was a Laureate (winner) in the 1996 Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition for Singing in Brussels, Belgium, the first place winner of the 1994 Stewart Awards National Operatic Voice Competition in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a national winner of the1993 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions for Young Singers and also a winner of the 7th Enrico Caruso International Singing Competition in Milan, Italy in October of 1992. He was only the second American ever to win this prestigious competition. He was in San Francisco Opera's Merola Opera Program in the summer of 1994 and performed the role of Don Ottavio in Western Opera Theater's 1994 tour of Mozart's Don Giovanni.

"La Cenerentola" Mr. Wade has performed with several world class orchestras including The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, The San Francisco Opera Orchestra, The Deutsche Oper Berlin Orchestra, The Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, The Monnaie Symphony Orchestra in Brussels, Belgium, The Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Mons, Belgium, De Vlaams Opera Orchestra, Belgium, The Nationaltheater Mannheim Symphony Orchestra in Mannheim, Das Rundfunk Orchester des Südwestfunk in Kaiserslauten, Germany, The Orchestra del Teatro dell' Opera di Roma, The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in St. Paul, Minnesota. U.S.A. under the direction of Bobby McFerrin, The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and in October of 1999 Mr. Wade sang the role of Belmonte in a concert version of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail in Munich's famed Prinz Regententheater in which Dietrich Fischer-Diskau played the role of Bassa Selim with The Münchener Kammerorchester. Mr. Wade sang the title role in Gounod's Faust with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders in Antwerp, Belgium in June of 2000. He sang the tenor role in Rossini's Stabat Mater in Leipzig, Germany with The MDR Orchestra in the famed Gewandhaus under the direction of Marcello Viotti in March of 2001. He currently sings the role of Tamino in Mozart's Zauberflöte in Basel, Switzerland for 30 performances throughout the 2001 / 2002 season.
Mr. Wade studied voice with Willis Patterson, who was Associate Dean Academic Affairs and professor of voice
at the University of Michigan School of Music


Mr. Ray M. Wade Jr. with Pope John Paul II at Vatikan City

 

Colenton Freeman
Tenor




Riccardo, "Un Ballo In Maschera"


Rodolfo, "La Bohème"



Marie Hadley Robinson

Soprano


               
Marie Hadley Robinson, a native of Thomasville, Georgia, made her 
operatic debut as Aida with the Graz Opera, where she was principal
soloist for three years. 


Aida, "Aida", Nationaltheater Mannheim


During her tenure at Graz, she was hailed,
by critics as, "the finest Tosca of her generation". Also at Graz,
she became the first Black soprano to portray the role of
Sieglinde in Die Walküre in a state performance anywhere in the
world. Subsequent engagements took her to Vienna, Munich, Berlin,
Frankfurt, Prague, Kassel, Zurich, and a tour of Japan with the
Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin. She also was principal soloist for five
years with the National Theatre Mannheim. 


Cordelia, "Lear", Nationaltheater Mannheim

Her repertoire includes
thirty-three major roles and she has appeared with forty-two companies
in Eastern and Western Europe as well as  South America. In the
 United States, she has performed with the Michigan Opera Theater,
Los Angeles Opera Theater, the Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo,
Omaha Operas and Opera Ebony. 


Elisabetta, "Don Carlo", Nationaltheater Mannheim


Ms Robinson has appeared in recitals
at Shenandoah University, Florida A. and M. University, the University
of Iowa and the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C, where she was
the soprano soloist in Verdi's Requiem and Poulenc's Gloria with
the Paul Hill Chorale and the Washington Oratorio Society. 


Giulietta, "Tales of Hoffman", Nationaltheater Mannheim

With Opera Ebony, she sang in the concert version of Fosca by Brazilian
composer Carlos Gomes in New York and with the Saskatchewan Symphony
 in Saskatoon, Canada a concert version of Porgy and Bess. Her latest
concert of Porgy and Bess was with William Warfield at Longwood
Gardens, P. A. with the Kennett Symphony. 


Tosca, Nationaltheater Mannheim


Most recently, Ms Robinson performed the role of Aida with
the Opera International in Mexico, Hong Kong,
Marseille and Lyon and with Opera Delaware. A Delaware University,
she has co-directed The Medium, Gianni Schiccihi, The Stoned Gues,
Trial by Jury and The Secret Marriage. 


Tosca with George Forture, Deutsche Oper Berlin


During the fall of 2002, she produced the Marriage of Figaro 
with Leland Kimball as director and 
Patrick Evans musical director.


Tosca, Deutsche Oper Berlin


Marie Hadley Robinson earned
her Doctor of Music Degree from Florida State University where she
studied with Elena Nikolaide and Yvonne Ciannella. She earned a
Bachelors of Science Degree in Music Education at Florida A. and
M. University. There she studied with Dr. Rebecca Steele. 


Amelia, "Un Ballo in Maschera", Stadttheater Giessen


Her awards include prizes in the VI Internacional de Canto, 
the Palm Beach Civic Opera Auditions, 
and the Diuguid Fellowship Award. Her recent
awards include membership into Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and Delta
Alpha German Honor Society. 


Electra, "Idomeneo", Nationaltheater Mannheim


Dr. Robinson has served on the boards
               of Opera Delaware, Delaware Classical Showcase, the Newark Symphony                
               Orchestra of Delaware. She is now on the boards of The Delaware                
               Valley Chorale, and The National Opera Association. Dr. Robinson is a                 
               Delaware State Governor of NATS  and an Associate Professor                
of Voice and Opera at the University of Delaware. 

 

Lorna Marie Hartling

 

Lorna Marie Hartling (maiden name, Wilson) was born in Cleveland, Ohio 1965, to Mrs. Delores M.- and Mr. B. LeMarr Wilson.
Both parents sang, however, Mrs. Delores Wilson, after having received her Master's Degree in Singing Performance at the
Cleveland Institute of Music, performed on a regular basis with The Cleveland Opera Co.
Becoming impatient with High School, Lorna Wilson completed all of the requirements necessary for graduation from
Shaker Hts. High School in Jan. of 1983, which permitted her to begin studies as a fulltime student at
The Cleveland Institute of Music that same month, even though graduation wasn't until June of 83'.
Studying with the (former) Assistant Principal Violist and then moving on to study with the Principal Violist of the
Cleveland Orchestra, Robert Vernon, Miss Wilson received the guidance and training needed to build a solid technical foundation.
Accomplishments included, Scholarships accompanied by solo performances from, 'The Fort Knightly Club' and
'The Musical Arts Society'. She was invited in 1984 to perform as one of three violists in America with the
'All American College Orchestra' of Disney World. However, inspite of the Scholarships, and awarded orchestra positions,
there was a strong urge to explore her artistic possibilities in a different Country. In1987, after receiving her Bachelor's Diploma
in Viola Performance, she was one of 15 Americans chosen to perform with the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Fargau, Germany,
directed by Leonard Bernstein. The experience with Mr. Bernstein left a lasting impression, and after 2 further years of study at
'The Cleveland Institute of Music' in the 'Àrtists Diploma' program, Miss Wilson returned to the Schleswig- Holstein Musik Festival
in 1989 with intentions to remain in Germany. In1990 she auditioned for and was awarded a position in,
'The Herbert-von-Karajan Akademie'. This included regular performances with the 'Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester',
chamber music performances, also coached by a member of the 'BPhO ', and private lessons with a member of the 'BPhO'.
Upon finishing this two year Akademie program, in 1992 Miss Wilson auditioned for and was awarded a position with the
'Radio Symphony Orchester' of Berlin, ( now entitled,'Das Deutsche Symphony Orchester' Berlin; or
'The German Symphony Orchestra' of Berlin.). Shortly after winning and securing her position in the Orchestra,
she married and she and her husband have 2 children.

 

A CLASSIC IN BLACK

 

AFRICAN INFLUENCES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN MUSIC
AS ILLUSTRATED IN EARLY DELTA BLUES PERFORMANCES

By Ralph Eastman

American popular music has become the most influential in the world. This lesson surveys African musical influences and how they served in major part to create this uniquely American musical form. With the proliferation of recordings and media, these influences have become thoroughly absorbed into all categories of mainstream popular music. However, an examination of early blues music produced in the Mississippi Delta area of the American south provides an especially good example of how these forces originally began their synthesis with European musical traditions.

Slave traders brought millions of African men, women and children to America virtually since the continent's first settlement. Because of its relative proximity to the America, many Africans bound into slavery came from the regions of West Africa . Slave holders actively sought to destroy prior tribal allegiances as well as other vestiges of things African in order to reduce cohesion among slaves that might lead to rebellion. Slaves could bring few actual objects of the lost African life with them in the difficult western passage of the slave ships. They did, however, carry with them many memories or retentions of African culture, tradition and religion. To assure spiritual as well as physical survival, African slaves learned to adapt their knowledge to the conditions of the New World.

Letters and diaries exist in which eighteenth and nineteenth century American and European travelers in the American south recorded their impressions of the "wild and primitive" music of black slaves. Some writers mentioned the strong emotive power of the dissonant singing. All, however, dismissed the music as a curious and bizarrely spontaneous expression of a primitive people. Naturally, music that retained so many African sensibilities sounded strange to these reporters accustomed to European standards for music. In part, African-American music did not seem "pretty" or "proper" to Europeans because its form and structure aspired to a completely different set of standards. Therefore, listeners who evaluated it in European terms and found it lacking were doing the equivalent of comparing apples and oranges.


Charlie Patton

African Retentions

For this discussion, the primary difference between European and African conventions in music is that European music is polyphonic (composed of the juxtaposition of many complimentary and contradictory tones) while African music is polyrhythmic (composed of the juxtaposition of many complimentary and contradictory rhythms). This is not to say that rhythm was excluded from the former or tone and melody from the latter. Rather, each culture focused and organized its approach to making music around a different central property. It is important to remember that the African retentions surveyed here tend to be more concerned with rhythm than with tone.

As the focus of African music is rhythmic rather than tonal, it ought come as no surprise that, when considering tone, traditional African musicians were more interested in the variety of possible shadings around it than in replicating the pure tone itself. This caused notes to sound "fuzzy" or imprecise to Western trained ears. Further, the modal scales that Africans employed did not fit precisely into the standard European diatonic scale (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do). In order to accommodate to the tuning of European instruments, black American musicians created the so-called "blue notes" (the flatted fifth and seventh notes of the eight note diatonic scale). With stringed instruments, American players purposely ran knife blades or annealed bottle neck "slides" along the metal strings of the fretboard to distort or extend the "pure" tones that instruments were designed to produce. Often instead of, or in addition to, regular strumming, bluesmen slapped and pulled at guitar, fiddle or bass strings to increase this "dissonant" effect.

Many Western African languages differ from European ones in that they are tonally based. This means that a word is given its final meaning both by its sound and the pitch at which it is spoken. Louisiana slave owners banned slaves from possessing drums out of fear that slave would use them for unauthorized communication with one another. The slave owners assumed that slaves would send messages in a primitive form of Morse code. The truth was far more interesting and more formidable: By striking different areas of the drum, drummers could recreate the actual pitches of the words of Western African languages! English speaking American bluesmen frequently used the "voice" of their guitars to complete sung or spoken vocal lines in songs.


McKinley Morganfield
Muddy Waters

Given that many of the slaves' native languages were tonal, there was a much closer link between the concepts of "speaking" and "singing." In such African societies, music and song were not experienced as being separate from life and work and, therefore, work and communal activities were organized by musical rhythms. American slaves and chain gang workers used "work songs" for coordinating proper and safe sequencing in group labor. The stressed beats or words of the chant signaled specific parts of the labor. The leader would (call) sing one line and the rest of the group would sing the answering line (response) in unison as they performed the particular task, such as rowing, laying railroad track or chopping trees. In this context, slaves sang less as an expression of misery at their indenture than as a means of orchestrating their forced labors. In this way, African work songs and European sea shanties are analogous: They both used song rhythms as a precise means for coordinating labor. This "call and response" pattern is now common in popular music, i.e., a lead vocalist sings a line which the rest of backing singers answer in chorus.

Slaves and, later, sharecroppers used also modal "field hollers" ("arhoolies") as a means of controlling their draft animals or communicating with other workers in adjoining fields. These a cappella cries are likewise descended from African musical traditions and retained their functional purpose. Many later blues musicians appropriated this type of "wild" vocalizing as their preferred singing style.

The South has a long tradition of slave and free black musicians entertaining audiences of both races. As most slave musicians were untrained in European musical conventions, much of the training was either "by ear" or by one folk musician to another. Musicians either had to build their own instruments or, more commonly, adapt existing European instruments for their purposes. Essentially, these folk musicians approached the playing of European instruments with an African consciousness, thereby synthesizing a new form of music.


Chester Burnette
Howlin' Wolf

In the post-Civil War rural south, African-American men had very few job options: They could be laborers, field hands, share-croppers or musicians. Understandably, the successive callings of minstrel, songster and bluesman quickly became established professions. While the itinerant musician's life was less back breaking than that of a laborer's, a professional bluesman needed to have both substantial instrumental and performing skills as well as a vast reserve of songs and the improvisational skills necessary to create new ones instantly. He further needed the physical stamina to play and sing all night long. This is because the blues was a celebratory music, played to accompany dancers reveling at rowdy all-night country dances. These "frolics" retained elements of African tribal dance and, unlike the carefully circumscribed social dance practices of Europe, individual dances could become extended affairs, often an hour or more long. The bluesman served as a "living jukebox" and each song/performance had to last as long as participants wanted to dance. Obviously, at this stage of the folk process, neither individual "songs" nor the musical form of the blues itself could exist in a final, fixed state. One of the defining talents for a professional rural bluesman in the first decades of this century was the ability indefinitely to sustain a single performance by improvising new verses and instrumental figures. This required that blues performers' conceptions of both "song" and musical form be sufficiently elastic to allow for the accomodation of such improvisition to expand their musical ideas in performance. Because of this practical necessity and the fact that notions of copyright were absent from this vernacular music, many songs in the repertoire of recorded blues reveal performers' familiarity with, and heavy reliance on, one another for both lyrical and instrumental inspiration.

The blues solidified into a recognizable form (12 measures or "bars" and AAB rhyming structure) sometime around the turn of the twentieth century. Because the music was a vernacular form occurring before the advent of sound recording, it is impossible to state the precise year of its birth. However, by the late 1920's, companies began to discover a small but lucrative market among southern African-Americans for recordings of rural blues performances. The short playing time of a 78 rpm record side artificially compressed these extended performances into what record listeners, many more familiar with European Art or popular song models than with African-derived music, mistook for the three minute long "song" form. Increasingly, listeners viewed these forced abridgements as the final, fixed versions of a particular "song," something their creators never intended. With commercialization, the "art" of blues performance suddenly became separated from, and elevated above, its actual function in its indigenous culture. This new duality ultimately caused blues music to undergo many changes as, over the course of this century, it left its purely folk realm and ventured into more mainstream arenas.


Robert Johnson

The blues was never the province of solitary old men on back porches. In their way, critics who thought this have misunderstood the purpose and function of the music in much the same way as did the ante-bellum observers. While the blues may feature harsh and "mournful" sounding performances of downbeat lyrics, its totality is nonetheless a raucous, crude, ironic and rhythmic dance music. Listeners who insist that the blues are sad neglect the fact that the generic melancholy of typical blues lyrics is almost always juxtaposed with a sprightly, up-tempo instrumental accompaniment and performance style that belies the lyrical contents. The blues is the catalyst that brings temporary relief from a life of drudgery, not a catalog of those drudgeries.

The most famous Delta bluesmen who left recordings of their performances were Charlie Patton, Son House and Robert Johnson. Charlie Patton was the inspiration for his generation of Mississippi bluesmen. Patton's harsh and powerful voice allowed him to project over the chaos of weekend dances. With his guitar and vocal prowess supported by uninhibited performance antics that pre-dated Jimi Hendrix by thirty five years, Patton was the undisputed star of the area around Cleveland, Ms. On record, Patton's clearest African retentions are his inventively rhythmic use of his guitar, use of syncopation and of scales with fewer principal notes than in the standard diatonic.

Though a far less proficient guitarist than Patton, Eddie "Son" House is noted for the African retentions of his savagely percussive instrumental attack, slashing bottleneck fretting style and dramatic singing. Patton recommended House to the Paramount Recording Company for whom he made only eight powerful and haunting record sides. House was a sometime preacher who constantly struggled with the moral perils of his bluesman's tumultuously secular life instead of that of the sanctified true believer. Nonetheless, experts consider him to be the Delta's greatest blues singer. Recorded after his rediscovery in the 1960's, " Death Letter Blues " suggests the ferocity of House's early work.

Robert Johnson was a student of Patton and House whose fame outshone that of both his masters. His precocious mastery as a singer, songwriter and guitarist coupled with his mysterious and premature death made Johnson a legendary figure far beyond the Delta. Keith Richards, songwriter and guitarist for The Rolling Stones, once likened the complexity of the rhythms in, and the execution of, Johnson's recorded performances to that of composer J. S. Bach. Years after the bluesman's death, when musicians like Richards and Eric Clapton found that his rhythms naturally adapted themselves to rock and roll, they bought Johnson's music to new generations of fans. " Crossroads Blues " is easily Robert Johnson's best known song.


Eddie "Son" House

When the great out-migration of African-Americans from the Delta to Chicago and the cities northward along the Illinois Central Railroad line began during the Depression, musicians traveled along with their audiences. They soon discovered that, although the newly urbanized African-American audiences still loved their music, acoustic instrumentation was not sufficiently loud either to overcome or reflect the din of modern city life. Fans quickly came to regard solo acoustic performances as old fashioned. Enterprising musicians switched to electric guitars, added drums and further amplified their sound. Among others, musicians like Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) and Howlin' Wolf (Chester Burnette) created and personified the new "Chicago Blues" style. Both men were raised in or near the Mississippi Delta and grew up hearing performances and recordings of Patton, House and Johnson. In maturity, both "electrified" their beloved Delta blues to bring them to new generations and races of people.

As a result of this folk process, the music was no longer African nor European: It was a vital new hybrid -- a truly American music forged in the rural South. In the intervening years, mass acceptance of all the African retentions described here -- polyrhythmic music, harsh emotional vocalizing, note bending and slurring, "call and response" vocal patterning -- has caused them to be absorbed into the basic language of mainstream popular music throughout the world.

Additional information: Blues Highway, King Biscuit Time, The Blues Page

 

Sammy Davis Jr.
A Classic in Black

 

Yes, He Did

Recognized throughout much of his career as "the world's greatest living entertainer," Sammy Davis Jr. was a
remarkably popular and versatile performer equally adept at acting, singing, dancing, and impersonations -- in short,
a variety artist in the classic tradition. A member of the famed Rat Pack, he was among the very first African-American
talents to find favor with audiences on both sides of the color barrier, and he remains a perennial icon of cool.
Born in Harlem on December 8, 1925, Davis made his stage debut at the age of three, performing with Holiday
in Dixieland, a black vaudeville troupe featuring his father and helmed by his de facto uncle, Will Mastin.
Dubbed "Silent Sam, the Dancing Midget," he proved phenomenally popular with audiences and the act was
soon renamed Will Mastin's Gang Featuring Little Sammy. At the age of seven, Davis made his film debut in
the legendary musical short Rufus Jones for President, and later received tap dancing lessons courtesy of
the great Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. In 1941, the Mastin Gang opened for Tommy Dorsey
at Detroit's Michigan Theater. There Davis first met Dorsey vocalist Frank Sinatra,
what was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
In 1943, Davis joined the U.S. Army, where he endured a constant battle with racism. Upon his return from duty,
the group was renamed the Will Mastin Trio. Three years later, they opened for Mickey Rooney, who encouraged
Davis to begin including his many impersonations in the trio's act. Where previously they had exclusively
performed music, the addition of comedy brought new life to the group, and by the beginning of the next decade,
they were headlining venues including New York's Capitol Club and Ciro's in Hollywood. In 1952,
at the invitation of Sinatra, they also played the newly integrated Copacabana. In 1954, Davis signed to Decca,
topping the charts with his debut LP, Starring Sammy Davis Jr. That same year he lost his left eye in a
much-publicized auto accident, but upon returning to the stage in early 1955, Davis was greeted with even greater
enthusiasm than before on the strength of a series of hit singles including "Something's Gotta Give,"
"Love Me or Leave Me," and "That Old Black Magic." A year later, Sammy Davis Jr. made his Broadway debut in
the musical Mr. Wonderful, starring in the show for over 400 performances
and launching a hit with the song "Too Close for Comfort."
In 1958, Davis resumed his film career after a quarter-century layoff with Anna Lucasta, followed
a year later by his acclaimed turn in Porgy and Bess. Also in 1959, he became a charter member
of the Rat Pack, a loose confederation of Sinatra associates (also including Dean Martin,
Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop) which began regularly performing together at the Sands
Casino in Las Vegas. In 1960, they made Ocean's Eleven, the first in a series of hip and
highly self-referential Rat Pack films. Although Davis' inclusion in the group was perceived
in many quarters as an egalitarian move, many black audiences felt he was simply a
token -- the butt of subtly racist jokes -- and declared him a sellout. His earlier conversion to
Judaism had been met with considerable controversy within the African-American community as well.
Still, nothing compared to the public outcry over his 1960 marriage to Swedish actress May Britt,
which even elicited death threats. Still, Davis remained a major star, appearing in the 1962 Rat Pack film
Sergeants 3 and scoring a major hit with "What Kind of Fool Am I?" Two years later, he returned to
Broadway in the long-running Golden Boy, scoring a Tony nomination for his performance.
In 1964, the third Rat Pack film, Robin and the Seven Hoods, was released. Two years later,
in the wake of the publication of his autobiography, Yes I Can, Davis was also among a number
of musical luminaries, including Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, who co-starred in the jazz drama
A Man Called Adam. In 1968 he and Lawford teamed as the titular characters in Salt and Pepper.
The picture was a hit, and a sequel, One More Time, appeared in 1970. In between the last two films,
Davis delivered one of his most memorable screen performances in Bob Fosse's 1969 musical
Sweet Charity; he also appeared in a number of television features, including The Pigeon, The Trackers,
and Poor Devil. In 1972, Davis topped the pop charts with "The Candy Man," from the film Willy Wonka
and the Chocolate Factory. From 1975 to 1977, he hosted his own syndicated variety show, Sammy and
Company, and in 1978 starred in the film Sammy Stops the World. However, in the late '70s and through
much of the 1980s, Davis' profile diminished, and he was primarily confined to the casino circuit,
with a 1988 comeback tour he mounted with Sinatra and Martin largely unsuccessful.
His appearance in the 1989 film Tap was much acclaimed, but it was to be his last screen
performance -- a lifelong smoker, Davis died of cancer on May 16, 1990.
Jason Ankeny, All Movie Guide

SAMMY DAVIS JR. - PART II

The son of two of Vaudeville dancers, Sammy Davis Jr. hit the boards while he was a toddler, entrancing audiences
with his dancing, singing and impressions. Davis toured for much of his early career with his father, Sammy Davis
and the man he often referred to as his uncle, Will Mastin. Occasionally other -- white -- performers would protest at
sharing dressing rooms or billing with the Will Mastin Trio. Davis' father and uncle would tell young Sammy not to
pay attention: "he's just jealous because 'cause we got a better act," or "They don't like us 'cause we're in show business."
Because he didn't attend school and because he spent most of his youth on the road, Davis' childhood was sheltered
from the racial segregation that was the reality in the United States at the early part of the 20th century.
A stint in the Army opened Davis' eyes to the reality in a way that would make an indelible mark on his life.
Overnight the world looked different. It wasn't one color anymore. I could see the protection I'd gotten all my life from
my father and Will. I appreciated their loving hope that I'd never need to know about prejudice and hate, but they were
wrong. It was as if I'd walked through a swinging door for eighteen years, a door which they had always secretly held
open. In his shock, Davis responded with his fists. "I must have had a knock-down-drag-out fight every two days and
I was getting pretty good with my fists. I had scabs on my knuckles for the first three months in the Army."
Before very long the then 115-pound Davis found that even when he emerged victorious from his brawls, it did little
to earn the respect he craved and the equality he felt was deserved. Because he was a professional performer,
Davis was asked to be part of a special performance for his fellow GIs. The success of his participation made him
realize, as others have, that "the spotlight erased all color" and gave him the key he would use to unlock scores of
doors throughout his career. "My talent was the weapon, the power, the way for me to fight. It was the one way I
might hope to affect a man's thinking."
Sammy Davis Jr., who died of throat cancer in 1990, would go on to enjoy an immense career. He was truly a star;
an entertainer who basked in the limelight as well as the freedoms it created. The freedoms, however, were
sometimes bittersweet. It is unimaginable to us now to think about a headlining Las Vegas act not permitted a room
in the hotel where they played or even a peek into the casino. Or, when playing Miami Beach after the first wave
of his success and encountering a sign in the lobby of the hotel he'd chosen advising would-be customers
"No Niggers -- No Dogs," as though one might be somehow equated with the other.
"I've got to get bigger," he told his father. "I've got to get so big, so powerful, so famous, that the day will come when
they'll look at me and see a man -- and then somewhere along the line they'll notice he's a Negro."
The comeuppance would come later when Davis, in his quiet way, would help lead the way to desegregation.
For many years he looked forward to the day when he would be a big enough star to not only insist that he stay in
the Las Vegas hotel he was headlining, but that he play to a desegrated audience and, when he did, he reveled
in the sweetness of the feeling.
Sammy: An Autobiography is, in some ways, the rehashing of work that has been previously published.
Portions of the book are from Yes I Can, published in 1965 and from Why Me? from 1980. Both memoirs were
co-written with his friends and biographers Jane and Burt Boyar. Burt Boyar has written a prologue and epilogue
and added in some previously unpublished interview material. To be honest, if this were a weaker biography of a
less interesting performer it would seem a wasted effort. However, Sammy seems an even more important work
now than it did when the previously seen components were first published. We get to see how far we've come and,
in the freshness of the tone and the familiarity of some of the situations, we get to see how far we have yet to go.
"Why do I have to play a part that depends on color?" Davis asks his agent in the late 1950s when he's looking
towards a television role. "Why can't I play something where the fact that I'm a Negro has no bearing either way?
Why must a special part be written for a Negro? .... I die every time I read in the papers about some cat on Broadway
who says, 'What we need is integrated theater. Authors should write in more parts for Negroes.' That's not integrated
theater. Really integrated theater will be when an actor -- colored or white -- is hired to play a part."
Sammy is a spirited look at a dynamic and talented performer. His personal life was interesting -- best friends with
Frank Sinatra, a key member of the Rat Pack as well as the requisite marriages, purchases and addictions -- but
Sammy really shines through Davis' candid retelling of the color battles he fought as well as the control he took of
his talent and, as a result, of his career. A moving book worthy of this freshened-up edition. - February 2001
Reviewed by Adrian Marks
author and journalist.

Fred Benjamin
A Classic in Black

Born: September 8, 1944
Occupation: dancer, choreographer, instructor
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Fred Benjamin began dancing at age four at Elma Lewis' School of Fine Arts
in Roxbury. Benjamin danced with Talley Beatty from 1963 until 1966, when the company folded.
Two years later, he started his own New York-based Fred Benjamin Dance Company, which existed,
largely without funding, for 20 years. Like most African-American choreographers of the time, Benjamin's work
was compared to that of Alvin Ailey, but Benjamin modeled himself after his idol, Beatty. The group movement in
"Parallel Lines," the emphasis on entrances in a work such as "Our Thing," the signature sassiness of many
other works -- all reflected Beatty's influence. Benjamin added ballet to Beatty's contemporary, energized
style and helped popularize the genre known as ballet-jazz. He introduced many inner-city youth to dance via the
Harlem Cultural Council's annual DanceMobile series, but his greatest gift may have been in teaching.
At New York's Clark Center for the Performing Arts and Steps studios, Benjamin influenced many young dancers.
Benjamin has also worked extensively in theatrical dance. He has taught in the Netherlands, worked in
summer stock, and danced with the June Taylor Dancers. On Broadway he worked with Gower Champion and
Michael Bennett and performed in such hits as "Hello, Dolly!" and "Promises, Promises."

-- Julinda Lewis-Ferguson
Source Citation: "Fred Benjamin." ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE AND HISTORY . 5 vols.
Macmillan, 1996. Reprinted by permission of Gale Group.

 

Fuasi Abdul Khaliq
A Classic in Black

Fuasi Abdul Khaliq

e-mail

Fuasi Abdul-Khaliq has been performing professionally since 1972 when her first played with the late great
West Coast pianist Horace Tapscott in Los Angeles, California. This led to a lifetime relationship with Tapscott's
Pan-African People's Arkestra, during which time Fuasi served as assistant conductor as well as arranger, composer
and player of saxophone, clarinet and flute.
During the past 20 years Fuasi has performed from coast to coast in the U.S. and in the last 10 years in Europe,
both leading his own ensemble as well as playing with other groups as a sideman with such greats as
Walter Bishop Jr., Arthur Blythe, Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Jimmy Garrison, Eddie Blackwell, Ed Schuller,
Gene "Mighty Flea" Connors, Joselyn B. Smith, Rudy Stevenson, Joseph Bowie and Abdu Salim.
His professional credits include three films, one of the most recent being "Das Schwein" starring Götz George
and directed by Ilse Höffmann. Fuasi's theater credits include the writing of original scores for three plays as well
as performing roles in these plays.
The music that Fuasi performs is as diverse as his musical background. He features in his ensemble the bassist
Stanislaw Michalak from Poland, the drummer Kenny Martin from New York and pianist Marque Löwenthal
from Boston. With this group Fuasi is performing original compositions from all the members of the ensemble
as well as playing different and "fresh" musical pieces from established
composers and performers from around the world.

 

Muhammad Ali
A Classic in Black

Muhammad Ali and George Foreman

 

"Ali is the one who made it possible for us to earn such huge purses.
To call him the greatest boxer of all time doesn't do him justice.
He transcended boxing and inspired all athletes.
He lifted baseball players, footballers and others, and inspired them to greater things."

George Foreman

 

Born 'Black'

Cassius Marcellus Clay was born on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. A healthy child weighing
over six pounds, he was named after one of his forefathers, Cassius Marcellus Clay, a plantation owner of
Kentucky and also a politician, who had once held the position of American Ambassador at the Court of St. James.
Cassius' mother was Odessa Lee Grady.
Clay's great grandfather was an Irishman who had married a black woman.
Cassius' forefathers were of slave stock, a fact that would play a big role in the future.
A Child From a Mediocre Family, Cassius grew up in West End Louisville, a black-dominated area.
His parents were hard working. His father, also named Cassius Clay, was a sign painter and his
mother worked as a cleaner and cook. The Clays were not well off. His elder brother Rudolf or Rudy,
also helped the family by contributing his mite with odd jobs. Though they never had to worry for their
supper, better accommodation was beyond their reach. Cassius and Rudolf wore clothes received from
the charity organization, Good Will. The best part of it all was that they had their own house.
Though it was not in a good condition, under the roof of this ramshackle cottage, the close knit family led
a happy life with love and togetherness, not bothered by the hardships they faced.
Cassius' parents were devoted to each other, in spite of their different nature. As Cassius later wrote
about his parents, his mother Odessa Bird (a nickname given to his mother by young Cassius) was a quiet,
homely and religious woman. In contrast, Cassius Sr. was a hep-cat (a word used by Cassius himself
for his father). He was not only a drunkard, but also a girl chaser. He had a history of offences related
to drunken behavior and careless driving.

First Punch
When Odessa and Cassius Sr. looked proudly at their tiny son, who walked and talked early, they had
not in their wildest dreams envisioned his world-class heavy weight boxing career. It is said that
Cassius' first ever boxing activity took place when the six-month-old infant hit his mother on the face.
It is said that the punch was so hard that two of her teeth had to be pulled out!
According to his mother, Cassius' first ever words were 'Gee Gee'. In retrospect, Cassius later said that
he may have been trying to say "Gee Gee I'm the greatest, or it might mean Golden Gloves."

The Foolhardy Boy
As he grew up, he and his family attended the Mount Zion Baptists Church on Sundays. Who could have
imagined that a devout Christian would turn towards Islam in the future to seek answers.
Physically, Cassius was a strong and able boy but quite a poor student. Initially, he used to attend
Virginia Avenue Grade School and later the Central High School in Louisville. At first, he blamed his
preoccupation with boxing at an early age for his poor academic record. Later on, he confessed that
he wished he had put forth more efforts, because he had to struggle all his life due to his slow reading ability.
Another reason for his poor results was that he used to clown around in school. In his boyhood, he was a
prankster and practical joker. His pranks were aimed mainly to frighten his parents. Sometimes, he would
put a bed sheet over his head and jump at them from a closet. At times, he would tie a string to a bedroom
curtain and when his parents went to bed, he would immediately move it, creating a ghost like image.
His playfulness resulted in poor marks at the school examinations. But his sportive ability found its
own way in what can be called a violent and male dominated game - Boxing.

Love Affair with Boxing
How Cassius turned to boxing is indeed very interesting. At the age of 12, Cassius and his best friend
went cycling to town on a rainy day. The heavy rain forced them to seek shelter at the Louisville Home Show,
at the Columbia Auditorium. It was an annual Black bazaar, where the boys were provided with hot dogs
and candy, free of charge. While the boys were enjoying their snacks inside, someone stole Cassius'
brand new Schwinn bike. The bewildered boys went to a policeman, Joe Elsby Martin to report the theft.
Joe listened to them calmly and advised the frustrated youngsters to fight for themselves.
He also offered them to join his boxing gymnasium situated in the basement of the auditorium.

The 'Cub' Stepped into the Ring
Cassius, weighing around 112 pounds joined Martin's gym. He started practicing boxing and that became
a part of his schedule. When the 12-year boy put on the gloves for the first time, he understood that 'ring'
was the exit from the foggy atmosphere for the black boys prevailing in his time. Apart from Martin, another
coach who taught boxing to Cassius was Fred Stoner. To move around quickly, using legs with the grace of
a dancer was the first lesson taught to Cassius. At first, Cassius was beaten time and again, as he was short
and used to hold his gloves too low. But being an enthusiastic student, he soon learned whatever was taught to him.
He had the natural abilities to understand the nuances of the game. The best thing he learned was to hit the
opponent without being hit back and it was truly unique.
Not even for a single night, did he miss his practice of two hours with Martin and then four hours with Stoner.
His reflexes were fast. His coaches were satisfied with the agility of his hands and his 'psychology to win attitude',
which is the most important quality of any winning sportsperson.

First Bout
Cassius' coach Joe Martin would search for new talent and present them in his amateur boxing show on TV
called Tomorrow's Champions. Only six weeks after Cassius joined the gym, Martin booked him for a fight
against a white boxer, Ronny O' Keefe and Cassius won his first official bout on a split decision.
The show was broadcast all over Kentucky. The audience who watched Cassius perform live, didn't like him
because he bragged about how strong he was and that no one could beat him.
Following his first victory, Martin booked him on the show regularly. Every week, Cassius had a new opponent.
Conscious of his short stature, the clever boy tried a new tactic by composing short poems using his poetic
skills and spoke loudly in the ring. Influenced by his father's creativity in making slogans for signboards,
Cassius was successful in combining the two, boxing and poetry:

This guy must be done
I'll stop him in one.

About his style of bragging in the ring, Cassius later said, "Almost from my fights, I'd mouth off to anybody
who would listen about what I was going to do to whoever I was going to fight. People would go out of their
way to come and see, hoping I would get beaten. When I was no more than a kid fighter, they would put me
in bills because I was a drawing card."

Becomes National Champion
Cassius' style was different from the rest. He was faster than most of his opponents. Not using his hands
to guard himself, instead he held them at waist height while dodging from the flurry of punches by his
opponent, with his deft footwork and reflexes. To build up stamina, he used to eat a lot and visit the gym regularly.
He developed a Herculean type physique, weighing in at 175 pounds, required for any light-heavyweight boxer.
Subsequently, he won many fights in a series, gaining perfection with every fight. Until 1960, he had won 100 out
of 108 fights, winning six Kentucky State Golden Gloves tournaments. At the end of 180 amateur fights, he had
earned the National Golden Gloves and the National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles, twice.
Steadily moving towards international exposure, he beat a Black army champion Allen Hudson at the Cow Palace
in San Francisco. In that Olympic trial match, he attacked so ferociously that the referee had to stop the match
way before the last round. Cassius Clay was declared the best light heavyweight boxer of the United States of America.
He packed his bags for the 1960 Rome Olympics to represent USA.

To Rome
The year 1960 was a golden year for Cassius Clay. On one side, he got a chance to participate in the Olympics
and on the other side, he graduated with rank 367 out of 391 students of his class from the Central High School
getting a diploma, inscribed a mere 'Certificate of Attendance.'
It is indeed hard to believe that the No. 1 amateur boxer in the USA was afraid of flying. Cassius was not even
ready to step on the plane. An author, David Remnick wrote, Joe Martin, Cassius' coach had to spend four
hours at the aerodrome to convince his lion hearted boxer that there was no railway to Rome! At last, Cassius
boarded the plane to Italy. He had equipped himself with a parachute, which he purchased himself, and which
he kept wearing and did not take off during the entire flight!
But the moment he found himself at the Olympic village, Cassius immediately regained his courage and his
boastful speech. From the first day in the Eternal City of Rome, he attracted many athletes and mediapersons,
with his bragging style. He began to prepare himself for the glorious future, destined for him.
Because of his confident foretelling, Cassius became a hot favorite overnight and was bestowed with the title
'Mayor of the Olympic Village', by the local public. Some of his fellow athletes, smoldered with the feeling of
neglect on being ignored by the media. Such was his ability to attract
the media and the public by his outspokenness and charisma.

Olympic Gold
When the bout started, Cassius entered the ring full of confidence. As A. J. Liebling wrote, "just when the
sweet science appears to lie like a painted ship upon a painted ocean, a new Hero comes along like a
Mortan tug to pull it out of the ocean." Cassius implemented his strategy to threaten his opponents,
repeatedly shouting slogans while fighting against them.
His favorite slogan that became synonymous with him thereafter was:

I'm the greatest.

Cassius' first victory was against a Belgian boxer, Yvon Bacus. His next fight was a little tougher as
his Russian opponent Gennady Shatkot was more experienced than Cassius. But Cassius, who had
learned never to give up, won not only that fight but went on
to beat the Australian boxer Tonny Madign in the semi-finals, enroute to the final.
The final was the bloodiest battle fought in the Olympics. Cassius faced a Polish boxer Zbigniew Piertrzkowski
who was a veteran of over 200 fights. At the beginning, Cassius seemed in trouble because Piertrzkowski
was a southpaw and Cassius lacked the experience in battling a left-handed boxer. Even at the end of
the second round, Clay found no succor and had lost all except, hope. But after the last and third round, Cassius'
gloves and his opponent's trunks were covered with Piertrzkowski's blood. The audience saw the Pole,
hanging on the ropes, defenseless. Cassius won the Olympic Gold, his first big achievement in life at an international venue.
While returning to the USA, Clay was not frightened of flying,
instead he happily wrote a poem on the plane expressing his patriotism:

To make America the greatest is my goal,
So I beat the Russian, and I beat the Pole,
And for USA won the Medal of Gold.
Italians said, 'You're greatest than the Cassius of Old.'
We like your name, we like your game,
So make Rome your home if you will.
I said I appreciate kind hospitality
But the USA is my country still,
'Cause they waiting to welcome me in Louisville.

Back in USA, the people welcomed their 'hero' with great enthusiasm at the airport in New York.
The newspapers highlighted the great achievement of the boy with the imperial Roman name,
Cassius Clay - the best amateur light-heavyweight boxer in the world.

Turning Professional
During one of his fights at the Olympics, Cassius had challenged Floyd Patterson, the then heavyweight
world champion. Patterson was among the crowd of spectators assembled to welcome him. As Cassius saw him,
he shouted out : "Patterson, some day I'm going to whup you. I am the greatest."
And Patterson had smilingly answered : "You're a good kid, keep trying kid."
Cassius remained preoccupied with Patterson's reply. Another event that stimulated his desire to
fight Patterson happened in Kentucky when one day, he was passing through the Manhattan amusement arcade.
Suddenly, he saw a machine, which was showing phony news headlines for 23 cents. Cassius found
it interesting and paid the sum. The headline appeared on the screen:

Cassius signs for Patterson fight.

Cassius read it, and made up his mind that he would practice heavyweight boxing.
Some famous professional heavyweight trainers offered to train him.
Archie Moore, former world heavyweight champion sent a message:
"If you want a good, experienced manager, call me, collect."
A well known heavyweight boxer Rocky Marciano sent a telegram, which read, "You have the promise.
I can give you the guidance." Even, Cus D' Amato, a coach of Floyd Patterson, also took interest in Clay.
Meanwhile, in the same year, he signed a contract with Bill Faversham, a Louisville businessman and a boxing fan.
A contract with 11 millionaires from Louisville, called 'Louisville Sponsoring Group', was to run for six years.
Cassius was given $ 10,000 as an advance. With a portion of it, Cassius bought a Cadillac for his parents,
the rest he spent on renovation of their old Kentucky home. Moreover, Clay would get 50 per cent of his future
income, as per the conditions of contract.
Now, Clay had enough financial support, but still he couldn't choose his manager. Bill Faversham was impatient
to bring Cassius into the ring. So he arranged his first professional bout on October 29, 1960, against Tunney Hunsaker,
a white sheriff of Virginia. In the fight that lasted six rounds, Cassius won, but his performance was without charm.
After this unconvincing victory, Cassius was pressed to get a manager by his sponsors. His father rejected Joe Martin,
because he did not trust the policeman. Faversham chose Archie Moore, the ex-heavyweight champion.
Cassius refused to join his camp for two reasons : Moore's gym was in the mountains near San Diego, California.
It was a place of quietude and Cassius was not habituated for such environment. And the second, more important
reason was, Moore tried to change his style, and to get him away from professional fights until he was ready,
suggesting that Cassius would need to train for years. Cassius couldn't wait for such a long time. He went back to
Louisville, giving the reason of Christmas celebrations.
Meanwhile, he received another management offer from a much experienced Italian coach, Angelo Dundee.
Dundee's trainee list included the name of ex-world light–heavyweight champion Willie Pastrano. Cassius had known
Dundee for two years and once had sought some valuable tips from him regarding boxing. At the end of 1960,
Cassius went to Miami Beach to meet Dundee and became his disciple. Dundee didn't try to change Cassius'
natural style, but instead nourished it. It turned out to be the greatest pair of trainer boxer, history had witnessed.

Poetic Predictor
Cassius' next four bouts gave ample evidence of his improvement. He got a lot of media attention by winning
all the subsequent fights with knockouts. After a number of fights, he began to show his confidence, that all his
opponents would fall in the round he presumed. Now, Cassius became a hot favorite with the media. He was
presumed to secure the world heavyweight title, although he was ranked nine in the list of heavyweight boxers.
The first important opponent in Cassius' professional career was Archie Moore, his ex-coach. On November 16, 1962,
20-year old Clay switched to 48-year Moore. Before his bout, Cassius came out with his poetic prediction:

When you come to the fight
Don't block the halls
And don't block the door
For Y'all may go home
After round four.

And Moore did not last till the fifth round as Cassius had predicted. With this victory, Cassius had predicted his
11th win correctly. Until March 1963, his prophecies proved correct. Before the fight against Doug Jones, Cassius,
the 'loudmouth' (an adjective given to Clay by some media person) challenged his opponent, publicly:

Jones likes to mix,
So I'll let it go six.
If he talks jive,
I'll cut it to five.
And if he talks some more,
I'll cut it to four.

In a jam packed-Madison Square Garden in New York, Cassius asked Jones, "How tall are you ?" Jones asked angrily,
"Why do you want to know ?" Cassius answered, "So, I'll know how far to step back when I knock you out in the fourth."
But this time, Cassius failed to fulfil his prediction, as Jones survived up to the sixth round. The audience booed him,
shouting 'Fake!' When the match ended, Cassius had one more victory in his pocket, a victory by a 'whisker'.
After the Clay Jones fight, fans seemed to be unimpressed with Clay's predictions. Soon it was over with his next fight.
An English fight promoter, Jack Solomons, arranged a fight between Clay and the European champion Henry Cooper,
affectionately known as 'Enery'. Cassius, weighing 207 pounds,
entered the ring shouting he would defeat Cooper, 'a bum and a cripple', in round five.
In the first round, Cooper punched Cassius' nose. It started bleeding. After three rounds, Cooper swung in with his
most famous and effective, wild left hook. It was the hardest Cassius had ever faced. He fell back, dangling on the ropes.
When the bell rang declaring the end of the fourth round, Cassius could hardly stand on his legs.
His trainer Dundee helped him to recover in the regular 60-second break. Prior to the start of the fifth round,
Dundee noticed a rip in Cassius' glove. As per boxing rules the gloves must be in good condition.
It took another 60 seconds to replace the gloves. The fifth round became the last for Cooper. Cassius, an injured lion,
came back with a vengeance and one of his blows opened a cut above Cooper's left eye making Cooper nearly blind.
The air in the auditorium was filled with the smell of Cooper's blood. Cassius showered a flurry of punches on Cooper.
It was becoming unbearable, not only for Cooper but also for the spectators. The actress Elizabeth Taylor,
who was present there, screamed, to stop the match. Cooper was covered with a red mask. Cassius, seemingly
unstoppable attacked again and again until the referee stopped the match, announcing him the winner. Cassius'
prediction had once again come true.

The World Champion
After the match with Cooper, when Cassius was waving to the booing crowd, two eagle eyes were watching him.
They belonged to Jack Nilon, manager of the then World Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston. After the match,
Nilon went to meet Cassius in the dressing room with a message given by Liston. The message was : "Please, drink
your orange juice and your milk shakes. Stay well and healthy. You talked yourself into a world title fight."
Sonny Liston, a former prisoner, reigned in the heavyweight category. Two years earlier, he had dethroned Floyd Patterson.
Liston had routed his opponent in a match that lasted only two minutes and six seconds. He seemed invincible
as he had lost only one professional fight in his career. Now, what was needed for Clay was more perfection.
Luckily, he got Drew 'Bundini' Brown as his motivator and court jester, and they remained together from then on.
Until 1964, Clay had achieved victories in all his 19 professional bouts, 16 of them by KOs. Cassius and Brown
together invented the slogan that became a synonym of Clay's boxing style:

Float like a butterfly And sting like a bee!

Cassius tried hard to attract the media attention before he signed a contract for the Liston v/s Clay fight.
He began taunting Liston, making fun of his appearance and predicted that he would demolish the champ in eight rounds:

King Liston will stay
Until he meets Cassius Clay
Moore fell in four
Liston in eight.

He tried a new trick to tease Liston by driving a bus around America.
On the top of the bus a slogan was painted by his father:

Cassius Clay - World's Most Colorful Fighter

And under that slogan, another one was drawn:

Sonny Liston is Great
But He'll Fall in Eight

The most awaited bout was scheduled for February 25, 1964, in Miami.
The match attracted a lot of hype, largely due to Clay's boastful rhymes:

Clay comes out to meet Liston
And Liston starts to retreat
If Liston goes back any further
He'll end up in a ringside seat.
Clay swings with a left,
Clay swings with a right,
Look at your Cassius
Carry the fight.
Liston keeps backing
But there's not enough room
It's a matter of time.
There, Clay lowers the boom.
Now Clay swings with a right,
What a beautiful swing,
And the punch raises the bear,
Clear out of the ring.
Liston is still rising
And the ref wears a frown,
For he can't start counting,
Till Sonny comes down.
Now Liston disappears from view.
The crowd is getting frantic,
But our radar stations have picked him up.
He's somewhere over the Atlantic.
Who would have thought
When they came to the fight
That they'd witness the launching
Of a human satellite?
Yes, the crowd did not dream
When they laid down their money
That they would see
A total eclipse of the Sonny!
I am the greatest !

Until the morning of weigh-in for the match, Cassius seemed crazy with pre-bout tension. During medical check-up,
his pulse was found to be 120 a minute and was certified as a person - 'scared to death'. This thing had the desired
effect on his opponent, who started presuming that Clay was nothing other than a loudmouth youngster and he (Liston)
would win before the fourth round. Very few believed that Cassius had a chance. The night of the fight the odds seemed
to favor Liston as the book makers had declared him the hot favorite by 7-1.
At last, the most awaited fight began. Liston did not know how fast Cassius was. Indeed, Clay didn't give Liston a
chance to throw a single punch. He danced around him like a butterfly. Whenever Liston tried to hit him, Clay would
float away. An exhausted Liston was breathing hard in the third round. Cassius began to hit him and hit a big punch
under the left eye. During the fight, Cassius also had trouble in his eyes, and even he wanted to quit. But his manager
Dundee stopped him and shouted: 'No way, get in there and fight.'
Cassius, at his coach's command, continued fighting. He exhibited great grace, beauty of strength and control
in the ring. In the sixth round, his vision became clear again. He used his quick fists to frustrate the champ and Liston,
claiming a badly hurt shoulder, did not come out of the corner for the seventh round. When the bell sounded,
Liston was like a fallen statue, unable to move. It was a historical moment in the world of boxing as Cassius Marcellus Clay,
a 22-year American boy was proclaimed as the second youngest heavyweight boxer to win the World Championship Title.
As Cassius first realized this fact, he ran around the ring and shouted at the media persons, "Who is the greatest ?
Eat your words ! - shook up the world!"
This was a solid beginning to his long and successful career.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated magazine, Ali confidently said: "If you wonder what the difference between
(other heavyweight boxers) and me is, I'll break the news : you never heard of them. I'm not saying they're
not good boxers. Most of them ... can fight almost as good as I can. I'm just saying you never hear of them.
And the reason for that is because they cannot throw the jive.
Cassius Clay is a boxer who can throw the jive better than anything."

Birth of Muhammad Ali
In 1964, Cassius Clay converted to Islam. The most recognizable and most outspoken athlete in the world declared,
the very day after his triumph as the World Heavyweight Champion,
that he had joined the Nation of Islam, a popular Black organization.
Most of the White people in America were stunned by the news. They couldn't believe their
champ was not a Christian anymore. The Nation of Islam, whose leader was Elijah Muhammad,
favored the liberation of the Blacks from slavery and subjugation, saying they should claim their own territory
in the US instead. The Black Muslims were considered to be the 'militants' of the civil rights movements that
was at its peak in America at the time. It was due to the efforts of Malcolm X, the most charismatic minister of the
Nation of Islam that it was revealed only after the Clay-Liston bout
that Clay had joined Muslim secret meetings for the last three years.
An important event that played a vital role in his decision to convert occurred three years prior, when Cassius
had been denied employment at a soda fountain counter because he was a black. Disgusted with racism in
his own country, Cassius had thrown his Olympic gold medal into a river. Cassius later said with disappointment,
"That gold medal didn't mean a thing to me if my black brothers and sisters were treated wrong in a country
I was supposed to represent." After this event, Cassius came in
touch with Malcolm X at Miami and decided to join the Nation of Islam.
At first, he changed his name to 'Cassius X'. Here, 'X' meaning the unknown family name of his ancestors
who were brought to USA from Africa as slaves. But after four weeks, Elijah Muhammad gave him a new name.
Now, the world would recognize Cassius Clay as Muhammad Ali, meaning Beloved of Allah.
The reaction was what he had presumed. His 'good boy' image took a beating. Many Americans started
looking at 'bad Muhammad Ali' as a member of a militant sect. Many Americans, including journalists kept
calling Ali by his original name - Cassius Clay - and rooted for him to lose at upcoming matches.
Yet Ali, firm in his decision, continued to march on the path of his chosen career.

Marital Knot
Meanwhile, in the summer of 1964, there were changes in his personal affairs. In July, he met a beautiful woman.
She was Sonji Roi, a model and a cocktail waitress. On August 14, 1964, Ali married her in Gray, Indiana.
For their honeymoon, the couple went on a tour of Africa. The fairy tale marriage didn't last more than a year as a result
of their personal conflicts and Ali being extremely loyal to the Nation of Islam.
It resulted in the annulment of their marriage, soon after his rematch with Sonny Liston in 1965.

The Phantom Punch
Clay, now weighing in at 245 pounds, was back in the ring with a new name and radiating confidence.
A disastrous event happened just three days before the match. During a fight against Jimmy Ellis,
he took a heavy low blow and suffered hernia. Immediately, Ali was admitted to the hospital. As a result,
the Ali Liston bout was postponed. Finally, it took place on May 25, 1965. What happened in the two minute
bout is still a matter of controversy. In a dramatic first round, Ali swung with his infamous blow that later
became famous as the 'phantom punch'. Ali hit Liston so hard squarely on the jaw, that Liston flopped on the
mat within a fraction of a second. Referee Jersey Joe Walcott could not pick up the timekeeper's count and
allowed the fight to continue. Nat Fleischer, one of the journalists sitting in the press box, alerted the referee
about the error and the match was immediately stopped. But the controversial 'phantom punch' made the
critics cry foul. Even former champ Joe Louis stated that Ali was part of a racist organization and that he
lacked the skills to compete with past 'great persons' like him and Rocky Marciano. Some people started
believing that Liston had lost the bout intentionally, because there was a rumor that some Black Muslims had
threatened to shoot him if he won. Nevertheless, Ali was the winner and the victory had added another feather
in his cap, while defending his heavyweight title.
In retrospect, Floyd Patterson, who had been the world heavyweight champion twice, began criticizing Ali
and the Black Muslims. He made a controversial statement,
"I am willing to fight, just so I can bring the championship back to America."
And the inevitable Ali Patterson fight was held at Las Vegas, on November 22, 1965. Ali had knocked out
Patterson twice before. This time he answered Patterson's wish to fight against him in a very ridiculous manner:

I'm gonna put him flat on his back,
so that he will start acting black.
Because when he was champ
he didn't do as he should
He tried to force himself
into an all white neighborhood.

And Ali did it. In 12 rounds, he finished the match. Once again the critics had to accept the fact that Ali was the champ.
In 1966, Ali successfully faced five fighters in the ring : George Chuvalo in Canada, Henry Cooper and Brian London
in England, German champion Karl Milden Berger in Frankfurt and Cleveland Williams in Houston. The monstrous
matches against WBA champion Ernie Terrell and tough fighter Cleveland Williams, validated his claim as the greatest
pound-for-pound boxer of all time.

The Champ - Without A Title
Throughout this time, Ali was shrouded in controversies arising from his involvement with the Nation of Islam.
He had another battle to face the following year. This time outside the ring. The ''act'' had been staged two years ago,
when Ali was called to serve for the US armed forces. He had failed to pass the mental aptitude test at a military
induction center in Florida and classified 1-Y, meaning unfit for service. But later on, the US armed forces required
more soldiers for the ongoing Vietnam War and the pass-percentage marks for the soldier's test had been dropped to 15.
All of a sudden, Ali was classified 1-A, meaning fit for service.
On April 28, 1967, his name was announced at the induction center on San Jacinto Street, Houston; 'Cassius Clay - Army.'
Ali refused to co-operate with the draft and did not join the armed forces saying he was a member of Nation of Islam,
which was a pacifist organization. When asked by journalists, he simply replied,
"I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Congs. No Viet Cong ever called me nigger".
This is probably the most famous statement ever made by Ali.
The reaction was quick. The so-called patriotic fans and sports journalists precipitated a tremendous outcry
against him. Ali was charged for violating the Selective Service Act by the US government and was sentenced
to five years imprisonment and fined $100,000. On appeal, he could save himself from jail, but the worst thing
that happened to him was his exile from the boxing world. The World Boxing Association stripped him of his title
and boxing license. Moreover, his passport was impounded by the government to ensure he did not box abroad.
Reflecting upon this period Sports Illustrated published, "The noise became a din, the drumbeats of holy war.
TV and radio commentators, little old ladies… bookmakers, and parish priests, armchair strategists at the Pentagon
and politicians all over the place joined in a crescendo of get-Cassius clamor."
Ali, who had earned millions in the ring, was soon in financial trouble. The helpless, but not hopeless guy opened
his heart in an interview to Edwin Shrake for Sports Illustrated : "I'm giving up my title, my wealth, maybe my future.
Many great men have been tested for their religious beliefs. If I pass this test, I'll come out stronger than ever."

His great will power has been exhibited in his poem:

Keep asking, no matter how long
On the war in Vietnam I sing this song
I ain't got no quarrel with the Viet-Cong.
Clean out my cell
And take my tail to jail
'Cause better to be in jail fed
Than to be in Vietnam, dead.

Ali was no longer the titleholder. But to the true boxing fans, he was still the champ.
Ali had no fights for three years. It was a big loss for him as he was at the peak of his career then.
Meanwhile, he married 17-year-old, Belinda Boyd, a Black Muslim from Chicago. He had first met Boyd
when he visited her school in 1961. After his second marriage, Ali had to look for other sources of income,
as he wasn't allowed to box. Soon he found a way. He started giving speeches at colleges and universities.
In most of the lectures, he would explain his vision regarding war or segregation of Blacks.
His lectures would attract huge audiences. Soon he became the third most charismatic speaker in America,
the first two being US Senators Edmund Muskie and Edward Kennedy.
Although, the income from his lectures fell short of his legal fees, he also tried acting and gave public appearances.
He acted as a leading actor in the Broadway Musical Buck White. Moreover, a computer bout between him and
Rocky Marciano and a documentation of his life provided enough financial support for Ali.
The only unfortunate thing that happened was his failure in the venture of 'Champburger' chain of fast food restaurants.

Back to the Ring
During this period, new heavyweight champions Jimmy Ellis and Joe Frazier had captured Ali's place.
But boxing seemed to lack charm without Ali. Ali never regretted his decision not to join the US army.
Whenever he was asked if he missed boxing, his answer would be : "No. Boxing misses me."
It was true. Boxing was missing Ali. During his exile, Black and non-Black Americans began to feel that Ali
should be allowed to enter the ring again. As an echo of the sentiments of the masses, the Supreme Court
overturned his conviction, on June 20, 1970. Ali received his passport and license and returned to the ring
after a three and half years in exile.
In October 1970, the first fight after his exile was held in Atlanta, against a tough promising fighter Jerry Quarry.
Roaring like a lion, Ali jumped into the ring. The hearts of the spectators missed a beat for a moment.
Quarry was disposed of in three rounds, because he got a huge cut above his eyes that was bleeding heavily.
After this non-artistic match, Ali faced a strong boxer from Argentina, Oscar Bonavena. He was so stubborn that
even after being hit, he would get wilder and full of energy without showing any sign of weakness.
The boring fight lasted 15 rounds. It ended with Bonavena's impressive knock out.
For Ali, these matches were just like a pre-war preparation.

A true challenge was yet to come. Fight of the Century

During Ali's exile, 'Smokin' Joe Frazier, a former slaughterhouse worker, had become the new WBA heavyweight champion.
Since Ali didn't lose his title in the ring, his fans believed that Ali was still the champ. So it became necessary that
an Ali-Frazier fight should take place.
The curiosity ended on March 8, 1971. The most challenging fight scheduled in Madison Square Garden, New York City,
where two undefeated champions were going head to head. The fight was going to be a big event, because both the
opponents were guaranteed the previously unheard of sum of $ 2.5 million each. For the promotion of this most important fight,
Ali used his old psyching trick. Like every time, he could not stop himself from teasing his opponent:

Joe's gonna come out smokin,
But I ain't gonna be jokin,
I'll be pickin and pockin
Pouring water on his smokin,
This might shock and amaze ya
But I'm gonna destroy Joe Frazier.

Despite this comment, Frazier gave a tough fight, without getting disturbed. In the early rounds, Ali came out fast, as expected.
Surprisingly, his fists could not damage the iron man Frazier. In return, Frazier started hitting Ali with vicious punches after the
fourth round. Ali lost his speed and collapsed, absorbing the punishment that he never had before. In the 15th round,
Frazier planted a bone-crushing left hook on Ali's jaw that sprawled him. His right cheek was badly damaged.
Frazier was declared the winner. It was Ali's first professional loss, but he was not ready to quit.
The defeat was followed by a new victory, outside the ring. On June 29, 1971, Ali got the news that the US Supreme Court
had reversed his conviction for draft dodging, and had dismissed all criminal charges against him. An eclipse was over.
Now, he was going to open a new, more colorful chapter of his career.

Fighting on and on
After being defeated by Frazier, Ali had to prove that he was still 'The Greatest'. He won three fights in 1971,
which included pocketing the North American Heavyweight Title. Then in 1972, he defeated six opponents and all this time,
he continued to tell the mediapersons that he would surely meet Frazier and compel him to accept his [Ali's] greatness.
The year 1973 was a tragic one for Ali, when he faced Ken Norton. Ali's arrogance stopped him from taking the fight seriously.
He trained himself for just three weeks before the fight. On the day of the bout, Ali was put in a humiliating situation when Norton,
comparatively an unknown boxer, broke his jaw in the second round.
Soon after his jaw healed, he recharged himself with all his skills and speed,
beating Norton in a rematch held in the same year at Los Angeles, on September 10.
In 1974, Ali faced his rival Joe Frazier for the second time. Frazier had recently lost his title in Jamaica against a young,
giant killer George Foreman. Both boxers tried to influence each other before the fight, as they had done earlier.
The fight was noted more for its pre-fight brawl in a studio during a TV appearance than for the action in the ring.
The Ali Frazier bout, the richest non-title fight in the history was not as brutal as the first one.
Ali won by a unanimous decision, once again proving that he was still a creditable fighting force.

Rumble in the Jungle
The victory over Joe Frazier put Ali on the stage, where the next challenge was ready to welcome him.
It was the World's No. 1 heavyweight boxer George Foreman. Seemingly, the most ferocious and invincible
champ then, Ali's target was clear. He had to get his title back.
When Ali was preparing to battle, some people, even his keenest supporters wondered whether he could
survive against a powerful puncher like Foreman. But Ali was confident of winning the world championship crown.
His manager Dundee and he discussed their original plan, to dance around Foreman and attack
him from long range. Moreover, he did the same thing that he had done in the past. He came up with his new rhyme:

You think the world was shocked when Nixon resigned?
Wait till I whup George Foreman's behind.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee
His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see
Now you see me, now you don't
George thinks he will, but I know he won't.
I done wrassled with an alligator
I done tussled with a whale
Only last week I murdered a rock
Injured a stone, hospitalized a brick
I'm so mean I make medicine sick.

On the night of October 30, 1974, Ali tangled with Foreman at Kinshasa in Zaire, a country in the 'heart of darkness',
in Central Africa. Mobutu, the dictator of Zaire provided $ 5 million for each fighter, which was double than what they
received for their first fight. Both the contenders exhibited their best.
Since Ali's ancestors belonged to the land, he would attract black people.
Some 70,000 spectators had gathered in the soccer stadium at Kinshasa. The fight was to be broadcast live on TV.
As both contenders entered into the ring, people began screaming,
"Ali, boma aye-yay !" meaning "Ali, knock him down and kill him !"
The audience sympathy was totally in favor of Ali, as Foreman was always surrounded with Germans and
kept himself away from strangers, whereas Ali was totally different. Witty, funny and expert in seeking
love from people. As the fight began, Ali utilized the same strategy against Foreman, which he had used against
Sonny Liston some 10 years ago. But this time he didn't show his footwork. Whenever Foreman tried to hit him,
Ali would lie on the ropes, actually inviting Foreman to hit him. The wise thing he did was to protect his
face with the gloves, his kidneys and belly with his arms and elbows. Later, Foreman admitted that he had hit Ali
as hard as he could, but he didn't go down.
Ali's 'rope-a-dope' strategy proved to be successful. In the eighth round, he came off the ropes and attacked
Foreman with a perfect combination and all his strength. Before Foreman could comprehend what was happening,
he found himself sprawled in the center of the ring by Ali's powerful punch on his jaw. It was Foreman's first career
knockout defeat. The Rumble in the Jungle was over. Ali had done the impossible.
He became the first boxer since Floyd Patterson to regain the heavyweight title, after seven years.
The rule for the champs, 'They never come back' was broken. His victory compelled many of his past critics
to shut their mouths. He was also invited by the US President to visit the White House.
The entire event of the Ali Foreman fight was an inspiration for'' When We Were Kings'', a 1996 award-winning documentary.
His next opponent was 35-year-old Chuck Wepner who held out against Ali's attacks for almost 15 rounds.
Referee Tony Perez stopped the fight in the last round. Wepner was admired by many, even impressed the
Hollywood star Sylvester Stallone to come out with Rocky, the movie based on Wepner's courageous fighting.
After Wepner, Ali successfully defended his title against Ron Lyle in Las Vegas and Joe Burgner in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Nine months after his fight against George Foreman, he fought another exciting match.

Thrilla in Manila
Many people, even from his side, thought that Ali would quit the ring, but Ali was still willing to fight for many years to come.
He was training himself for the next challenge Joe Frazier, once again.
Before the fight known as The Thrilla in Manila, Ali prepared himself to rout 'Smokin' Joe. A few days before the bout,
Ali had referred to the challenger as a 'gorilla' in a joint press conference that created tension between the two giants:

It will be a killer
And a chiller
And a thrilla
When I get the gorilla
In Manila

Ali always kept a toy gorilla in his pocket. At times, he would take out and punch it.
Ali also imitated Frazier's slang to make him angry.
Both contenders met for the third time on September 30, 1975, at Manila. Around 20,000 spectators saw Ali,
dominating in the early rounds. These included Ali's new manager and the son of the Nation of Islam's
leader - Herbert Muhammad, his doctor Ferdie Pacheco, Drew 'Bundini' Brown, Ali's best friend and the
photographer Howard Bingham and also beautiful Veronica Porche, who soon became his third wife.
The bout, held at Quezon City, on the outskirts of Manila, was a very grueling battle and perhaps the hardest
professional fight ever seen. Throughout the bout, both men landed hard punches. The spectators saw Ali dominating
the early rounds. In the sixth round, Frazier beat Ali so badly that Ali felt himself 'close to death and wanted to quit in the tenth' round.
His former coach 'Bundini' Brown shouted out: "Force yourself, champ ! Go down into the well once more !"
Ali went on pounding Frazier in the succeeding rounds. When the bell for the final round sounded,
Frazier was unable to answer it. Ali had once again defended his World Heavyweight Title.

Losing his 'Magic'
The champ hardly survived his title defence in 1976, when he fought against Ken Norton for the third time.
Though he won, it was considered as the result of a little mistake made by Norton.
Later Ali admitted that he had 'almost lost the title'.
Many began to think that Ali should quit, as not much of the 'magic' was left, he had shown against Foreman or Frazier.
Ali entered the ring once again, winning the fight against Spaniard Alfredo Evangelista.
As Ali's boxing skills began to decline, so did his marriage. His second wife Khaliah [Belinda] filed for divorce in the
same year and his marriage ended. A year later, he married Veronica,
one of the four poster girls who promoted the Rumble in the Jungle.
In the late 1970s, Ali's health began to deteriorate slightly. It would have been wise for
him to retire at this point but he continued boxing.
In 1978, Ali weighing in at 242 pounds, fought against 1976 Olympic Gold Medallist Leon Spinks.
Ali once again tried to be successful with his 'rope-a-dope' strategy, but this time he failed. Spinks, who had fought
only seven professional bouts, didn't tire and kept punching on Ali's arms and belly. In a huge upset,
Ali lost his crown on a split decision. It was the most unfortunate moment for Ali as he lost his World Championship
Heavyweight title for the first and only time.
Accepting his defeat with a great sportsman spirit, Ali said, "Of all the fights I lost in boxing, losing to Spinks hurt the most.
That's because it was my own fault. Leon fought clean, he did the best he could. But it was embarrassing that someone
with so little fighting skills could beat me."
After seven months, on February 15, he took back his title with masterful display of his skills. With this victory,
Ali became the only man to win the greatest prize in boxing three times.
Ali at 37 had a professional record of 59 victories and three defeats. His skills seemed to have eroded with age,
his body so damaged and his arms so weak that he couldn't fight without shots of novocaine. But because of his
lavish lifestyle, he always found himself in need of money.
On October 2, 1980, he put himself in the ring once again. This time, he was to fight Larry Holmes at Las Vegas,
for the WBC title with a guaranteed purse of $ 8 million. Holmes gave Ali a bad beating. In the 11th round,
Ali was unable to answer the bell and Holmes knocked out Ali. His manager Dundee said, "That's all, the ballgame's over."
But it was not over. In autumn of 1981, Ali almost 40 entered the ring for the last time. It was also a bad day for Ali,
as he lost the fight against Trevor Berbick in Nassau. It was the end of a great career that lasted 21 years.

Boxing Still Misses Him
After hanging up his gloves, Ali steered towards political activism and philanthropic work. He supported Jimmy Carter
and the Democratic Party. During this period, his health appeared to be on a rapid decline. Initially, he was misdiagnosed
as having a thyroid disease. Upon another medical check-up in 1982, Ali was diagnosed to be suffering from Parkinson's Disease.
He began treatment for the disease, which is caused by repetitive trauma to the head,
and at times badly affects speech and muscular co-ordination.
Without any kind of disappointment, Ali commented on his condition : "I've got Parkinson's syndrome.
I'm in no pain...If I was in perfect health, if I had won my last two fights, if I had no problems, people would be afraid of me.
Now, they feel sorry for me. They thought I was Superman. Now, they can say 'He's human, like us. He has problems."
Despite his much-publicized disease, Ali has been enjoying his rest of years
peacefully with his family at his farm in Berrien Springs, Michigan, US.
Ali has also founded WORLD (the World Organization for Right, Liberty, and Dignity),
which fights for human rights against any kind of slavery or exploitation.
In 1996, the Olympic Committee honored Ali by choosing him to light the Olympic torch during the opening ceremonies
of Olympic Games at Atlanta. It is considered to be the greatest reward for any athlete in a lifetime.
Ali fought his entire life, and is still fighting on for equal rights of Blacks and Whites. He got success in his efforts in 1999,
becoming the first boxer ever to appear on the cover of a Wheaties box.
In February 1985, he functioned as a lay diplomat and tried to secure the release of four kidnapped Americans in Lebanon.
He has also traveled around the world as a diplomat, and is still on the platform to influence people all over the world.
Wherever he goes, he attracts huge audiences.
The great fighter for social and racial justice, Ali is happily living with his fourth wife, Lonnie Williams Ali,
and nine children, eight from his marriages and one adopted child. He is accompanied by his seven daughters:
Maryum, Rasheeda and Jamilla (twins), Miya, Khaliah, Hana and Laila, and two sons : Muhammad Jr. and Assad [adopted son].
He amuses himself by performing conjuring tricks at times.
Khaliah, one of his daughters, has successfully built up her boxing career following in the footsteps of her champion father.
Now, Laila too has followed suit, taking up boxing as a career.
Bill Clinton, the former President of the US presented the boxing legend with an award, celebrating a lifetime of
achievement on October 29, 2000, at the NIAF's (National Italian American Foundation's) 25th anniversary celebration in Washington.
At the ceremony, Clinton recalled the day when Ali had lit the Olympic flame saying,
"It was the greatest personal thrill I have ever had as an American citizen."

Muhammad Ali, the 'Greatest of All' as he says for himself, will forever remain truly, The People's Champ.

Quotations
I am the onliest of boxing's poet laureates.
Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee!
It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself.
I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.
The man who has no imagination has no wings.
The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.
Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his
soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.
It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I just beat people up.
I don't have to be what you want me to be; I'm free to be what I want.

(by www.top-biography.com)

 

Muhammad Ali rose from humble origins and embodied the qualities
that enabled him to become more recognizable and better known
than any king, queen or president in the world.

Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis

 

Joe Louis

"The Brown Bomber: The Story of Joe Louis"

Date of Birth: May 13, 1914
Date of Death: April 12, 1981
Parents: The son of an Alabama Sharecropper, called Mun Barrow, stepfather moved them to
Detroit in 1924. Information on his mother is hard to come by.
Education: Very little, because as a child he lived in poverty
Honors and Awards: Only boxer to retire with his championship belt.
Won National Light Heavy Weight Amateur Crown of the Golden Gloves at nineteen years old.
Joe Louis ascended to the top of the boxing world faster than any other athlete in history.
From his "Bum of the Month" campaign to his tragic death,
Louis was one of the most interesting sports figures in history.

Known to many as the "Brown Bomber," Joe Louis Barrow was born on May 13, 1914.
He was the son of an Alabama sharecropper, and he was close to his large family.
He moved to Detroit in 1924, where he won the National Light Heavyweight Amateur Crown
of the Golden Gloves at the early age of nineteen. In 1933, John Roxborough,
his manager at the time, thought his name was too long, so it was shortened to simply Joe Louis.
In 1935, Louis turned pro. He won his first eight fights, but finally lost to Max Schmeling,
a German who was a key part of Hitler's "Aryan Superiority". After twelve grueling rounds,
Louis was finally defeated by Schmelling via knock out. In 1937, Louis won the Heavyweight
Championship of the World after beating James Bradock but later said,
"I don't want nobody to call me champ until I beat Schmeling"
Joe got his chance for a rematch on June 27, 1938, and he took advantage of it. Once the bell rang,
Louis paid no attention to his defense, and went wild on Schmeling. He would win with a first round knock-out.
Schmeling fell to the floor two minutes and four seconds into the fight. Louis dealt a devastating blow to Hitler's Nazi Germany.
Joe defended his title until 1942 when he served in the army.
During his service, he fought two charity bouts for military relief.
When he left the service, he defended his title again until 1949, when he retired, still the champion.
So many victories in such a short amount of time, however, took a toll in the form of taxes.
In Louis's entire career he earned $4,677,992, but paid $1,199,000 in income taxes.
Unfortunately, drugs also took a toll on Louis in his final years. In 1969, he collapsed on a New York City street
and was hospitalized. The incident was credited to a "physical breakdown," but Louis later admitted it was caused
by his cocaine use and fear of a plot against his life.
With his health failing, Louis still went to major boxing events. On April 12, 1981, Joe had had ringside seats
at a Larry Holms vs. Trever Berbick championship bout. After the match,
Louis went into cardiac arrest and died at age sixty-six.
During his career, Louis had many wonderful moments in his boxing career. Joe Louis retired with the boxing title,
won his first eight matches as a pro, faced men like Rocky Marciano, Tony Zale, Buddy Baer, and Johnny Paycheck.
He is now said to be one of the best prize fighters of all time.
Joe Louis was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954

 

Madonna & Child
A Classic in Black

Jennifer and Tyler

A Loving Mother and her Sun

 

Dr. Carter G. Woodson
A Classic in Black

Dr. Carter G. Woodson Historian
Born 1875 - Died 1950
A pioneer in the intellectual history of the Black American.

Carter Woodson was for many years with WEB DuBois, the main voice in American Black historiography.

Born in New Canton, Virginia, Woodson attended Bere College, the University of Chicago, Harvard and the Sorbonne in Paris.
He and others organized the association for the study of Negro life and history in 1915.

In 1921, Woodson organized Associated Publishers in order to produce text books and other supplementary material
on Blacks which, at the time, was not readily accepted by most publishers. A year later, he retired from academic life
to become Director of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and editor of the Journal of Negro History.
Woodson had taught at the elementary and high school level and served as Dean of the School of Liberal Arts of Howard University.

ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF NEGRO LIFE AND HISTORY
The Association, located at 1538 Ninth Street N.W., was long the sole professional agency concerned with preserving
the historical record of Black people in American life. The organizing pioneer behind the Association was Carter Woodson,
a scholar and lecturer who began publication of the Journal of Negro History in 1916. Ten years later, Woodson inaugurated
observance of "Negro History Week," during which leaders of the Black freedom struggle were appropriately honored,
primarily in schools. Negro History Week, Black History Month, is always celebrated in February, as close as possible to the
birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Many of Woodson's books have become the foundations upon which more contemporary historians have based their research.
These include The Education of the Negro prior to 1861 (1915); A Century of Negro Migration(1918);
The Negro in our History (1922); The Rural Negro (1930); The Miseducation of the Negro and the Negro and
the History of the Negro Church.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson died in Washington, D.C. on April 3, 1950.

 

Carter G. Woodson était pendant beaucoup d'années avec W. DuBois, la voix principale en historiographie noire américaine.

Né dans le nouveau canton de Virginie, Woodson a étudié à l'université de Bere College, l'université de Chicago, de Harvard et de la Sorbonne à Paris. Lui et d'autres ont organisé l'association pour l'étude de la vie et de l'histoire du nègre en 1915.

En 1921, Woodson a organisé l' Associated Publishers afin de produire les manuels et autres matériels supplémentaires sur les noirs, qui à l' époque n'ont pas été aisément accepté par la plupart des éditeurs. Un an après, il s'est retiré de la vie scolaire pour devenir directeur de l'association pour l'étude de la vie et l' histoire du nègre et rédacteur du journal l'histoire des nègres. Woodson avait enseigné dans les lycées et écoles supèrieures et avait servi de doyen de l' Ecole des Arts Libéraux de l' Université de Howard.

L' ASSOCIATION POUR L' ETUDE DE LE VIE ET DE L' HISTOIRE DU NÈGRE

L' association située au numéro 1538 de la neuvième rue au Nord West, était de loin l' unique agence professionnelle concernée par la préservation des archives historiques sur les personnes noires dans la vie américaine. A l' origine de l' organisation, le pionnier Carter G. Woodson, un homme instruitet un conférencier qui a commencé la publication du journal de l'histoire du nègre en 1916. Dix ans après, Woodson a inauguré l'observance "de la semaine d'histoire du nègre," pendant laquelle les leaders de la lutte noire pour la liberté ont été bien honorés, principalement dans les écoles. La semaine de l' histoire du nègre, ou le mois de l'histoire des Noirs, est toujours célébré en février, aussi étroitement que possible en rapport aux anniversaires de Frederick Douglass et Abraham Lincoln.

Plusieurs des livres de Woodson sont devenus les bases sur lesquelles des historiens plus contemporains ont basé leur recherche. Ceux-ci incluent les ouvrages suivants : "L' Education du Nègre avant 1861 (1915)"; "Un siècle de Migration du Nègre (1918)"; "Le Nègre dans notre Histoire (1922)"; "Le Nègre Rural (1930)"; "La Mauvaise Education du Nègre et l' Histoire de l' Eglise Nègre".

Dr. Carter G. Woodson est mort à Washington, D.C., le 3. avril 1950.

 

These are the words of Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson, distinguished Black author, editor, publisher, and historian
(December 1875 - April 1950).
Carter G. Woodson believed that Blacks should know their past in order to participate intelligently in the affairs in our country.
He strongly believed that Black history - which others have tried so diligently to erase -
is a firm foundation for young Black Americans to build on in order to become productive citizens of our society.

Known as the "Father of Black History," Carter G. Woodson holds an outstanding position in early 20th century American history. Woodson authored numerous scholarly books on the positive contributions of Blacks to the development of America. He also published many magazine articles analyzing the contributions and role of Black Americans. He reached out to schools and the general public through the establishment of several key organizations and founded Negro History Week (precursor to Black History Month). His message was that Blacks should be proud of their heritage and that other Americans should also understand it.

Carter G. Woodson was born in New Canton, Buckingham County, Virginia, to former slaves Anne Eliza (Riddle) and James Henry Woodson. Although his parents could neither read nor write, Carter G. Woodson credits his father for influencing the course of his life.
His father, he later wrote, insisted that "learning to accept insult, to compromise on principle,
to mislead your fellow man, or to betray your people, is to lose your soul."

His father supported the family on his earnings as a carpenter. As one of a large and poor family, young Carter G. Woodson was brought up without the "ordinary comforts of life." He was not able to attend school during much of its five-month term because helping on the farm took priority over a formal education. Determined not to be defeated by this setback, Carter was able "largely by self-instruction to master the fundamentals of common school subjects by the time he was seventeen." Ambitious for more education, Carter and his brother Robert Henry moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where they hoped to attend the Douglass High School. However, Carter was forced to earn his living as a miner in Fayette County coal fields and was able to devote only a few months each year to his schooling. In 1895, a twenty-year-old Carter entered Douglass High School, where he received his diploma in less than two years.

From 1897 to 1900, Carter G. Woodson began teaching in Winona, Fayette County. In 1900, he returned to Huntington to become the principal of Douglass H.S.; he finally received his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College, Kentucky. From 1903 to 1907, he was a school supervisor in the Philippines. Later he traveled throughout Europe and Asia and studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1908, he received his M.A. from the University of Chicago, and in 1912, he received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University.

During his lifetime, Dr. Woodson developed an important philosophy of history. History, he insisted, was not the mere gathering of facts. The object of historical study is to arrive at a reasonable interpretation of the facts. History is more than political and military records of peoples and nations. It must include some description of the social conditions of the period being studied.

Woodson's work endures in the institutions and activities he founded and promoted. In 1915, he and several friends in Chicago established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The following year, the Journal of Negro History appeared, one of the oldest learned journals in the United States. In 1926, he developed Negro History Week and in 1937 published the first issue of the Negro History Bulletin.

Dr. Woodson often said that he hoped the time would come when Negro History Week would be unnecessary; when all Americans would willingly recognize the contributions of Black Americans as a legitimate and integral part of the history of this country. Dr. Woodson's outstanding historical research influenced others to carry on his work. Among these have been such noted historians as John Hope Franklin, Charles Wesley, and Benjamin Quarles. Whether it's called Black history, Negro history, Afro-American history, or African American history, his philosophy has made the study of Black history a legitimate and acceptable area of intellectual inquiry.
Dr. Woodson's concept has given a profound sense of dignity to all Black Americans.

CHRONOLOGY of DR. WOODSON'S LIFE

1875, Dec. 19 Birth, New Canton, Virginia
1892 Left home to work on the railroad and then in the mines
1893 Family moved to Huntington, West Virginia
1895-1896 Attended Douglass High School, Huntington, West Virginia
1896-1897 Attended Berea College, Kentucky
1897, Sept.-Dec Attended Lincoln University, Pennsylvania
1898-1900 Taught, Winona, West Virginia
1900-1903 Principal, Douglass High School, Huntington, West Virginia
June 18, 1902-Dec. 1903 Attended University of Chicago
1903 Bachelor of Literature from Berea College
1903-1907 Taught in the Philippines
1907 Traveled in Europe and Asia; attended the Sorbonne, Paris, France
1907, Oct.-Dec. Attended University of Chicago
1908, Jan.-Aug. Attended Graduate School, University of Chicago; received B.A. in March; M.A. in August
1908-1909 Attended Harvard University
1909-1918 Taught, M Street (Dunbar) High School, Washington, D.C.
1912 Ph.D. in History from Harvard University
1913 or 1914-1921 Member of the American Negro Academy
1915, Apr. The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 published
1915, Sept. Established the Association for the Study of Negro Life & History
1917, Aug.29 First Biennial meeting of ASNLH
1918 A Century of Negro Migration published
1918-1919 Principal, Armstrong Manual Training School, Washington, D.C.
1919-1920 Dean, School of Liberal Arts, Howard University
1920-1922 Dean, West Virginia Collegiate Institute (West Virginia State College); Established Associated Publishers
1921 Received grant from the Carnegie Institution; The History of the Negro Church published
1922 The Negro in Our History published
1924 Free Negro Owners of Slaves in the U.S. in 1830: Together with Absentee Ownership of Slaves in the U.S. in 1830 published
1925 Free Negro Heads of Families in the United States in 1830 published
1926 Negro Orators and Their Orations published; The Mind of the Negro as Reflected in Letters Written During the Crisis,
1800-1860 published; established Negro History Week; received Spingarn Medal
1927 Appointed to Advisory Committee, Interracial Relations Committee on Problems and Policy Social Science Research Council;
appointed staff contributor Dictionary of American Biography
1928 Negro Makers of History published; African Myths: Together with Proverbs published
1928 Attended summer meeting of Social Science Research Council, Dartmouth College
1929 The Negro as a Businessman, with John H. Harmon, Jr. and Arnett G. Lindsay published
1929-1933, 1938 Established Woodson Collection at the Library of Congress
1930 The Negro Wage Earner, with Lorenzo Greene published; The Rural Negro published
1932 The encyclopedia controversy
1932-1935 Summers in Europe
1933 The Mis-Education of the Negro published
1934 The Negro Professional Man and the Community, with Special Emphasis on the Physician and the Lawyer published
1935 The Story of the Negro Retold published
1936 The African Background Outlined published
1937 Began publication of the Negro History Bulletin
1939 African Heroes and Heroinespublished
1941 Doctor of Laws from West Virginia State College
1950, April 3 Died suddenly
1958 Elected to the Ebony Hall of Fame

Johnetta Page
A Classic in Black

 

Althea Gibson
A Classic in Black

 

born Aug. 25, 1927, Silver, SC
Something of a tomboy as a youngster in Harlem, Gibson played basketball, stickball, and paddle tennis.
She won her age group New York City paddle tennis championship in 1939
and then began taking lessons at the Cosmopolitan Tennis Club.
In 1946, a well-to-do black doctor, Hubert Eaton of Wilmington, NC, took her in to help advance her career.
Barred from public courts because she was black, she practiced on Dr. Eaton's backyard court.
Gibson began playing in the all-black American Tennis Association tournaments in 1945 and won ten straight
women's singles titles, from 1947 through 1956. She was the first black to play in the national indoor tournament,
in early 1950, and she finished second, which should have won her an invitation to the U. S. National at Forest Hills.
No invitation came until after a letter from former champion Alice Marble appeared in the July issue of
American Lawn Tennis magazine. Marble wrote, in part, "If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the
present crop of players, then it's only fair that they meet this challenge on the courts."
It took Gibson a while to adjust to the stronger competition she was now facing, but she broke through by winning
the French and Italian singles championships in 1956. She also teamed with Angela Buxton to win the women's
doubles events at Wimbledon and in the French championship.
Gibson's big year was 1957, when she became the first black player to win the Wimbledon singles title and the
first to win the U. S. National title. She also won the women's doubles at Wimbledon
with Darlene Hard and the U. S. mixed doubles with Kurt Nielsen.
Gibson in 1957 was the first black to be named Associated Press female athlete of the year.
She won the award again in 1958, when she repeated as singles champion both at Wimbledon and in the U. S.
nationals and won her third straight Wimbledon women's doubles title, this time with Maria Bueno.
A powerful serve and volley player, the 5-10 Gibson had the foot speed and reach for great court coverage,
allowing her to return shots that seemed unreachable. A very popular champion, she received accolades
from the press, fans, and fellow players for her accomplishments.
Late in 1958, she signed a $100,000 contract to play tennis exhibitions at half-time of Harlem Globetrotter games.
She later played on the women's professional golf tour and pursued a career as a singer and actress.
The tennis player Althea Gibson broke many barriers to become a celebrated tennis champion.
Like the baseball player Jackie Robinson, she opened the sport of tennis to future African-American players.
In 1950, she became the first African-American athlete to participate in the U.S. National Championships,
and she later became the first African-American to play at Wimbledon. In 1956 and 1957 she became the first
African-American to win the French championships, the U.S. Nationals, and Wimbledon.
For these triumphs, Althea was named Woman Athlete of the Year in 1957. After winning the U.S. Nationals and
Wimbledon for a second time in 1958, she played tennis professionally and later joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
Althea was born on a cotton farm in South Carolina; her parents were sharecroppers. A New York Police Athletic League coach
who saw Althea playing paddleball in Harlem encouraged her to play tennis. In 1948 she won the first of ten straight national
black women's singles championships. While being interviewed by a biographer Althea recalled, "I just found that I had a skill
at hitting that ball. And I enjoyed the competition."
In 1957, Gibson became the first African-American woman to not only compete, but to win a Wimbledon singles title.
In 1958, Gibson was both a Wimbledon and U.S. National tennis champion. "People thought I was ruthless," Gibson said.
"I was. I didn't give a darn who was on the other side of the net. I'd knock you down if you got in the way. I just wanted to play my best."
Althea retired from competition in 1958. In 1971, she was named to the National Lawn Tennis Hall of Fame.
After a remarkable career and almost 100 professional titles, including five Grand Slam crowns,
Althea took up golf and became the first African American to earn an LPGA card.
In 1958, her autobiography I Always Wanted to Be Somebody was published.

 

Portrait Of A Giant
Paul Robeson

A Classic in Black


The Story of Paul Robeson as told through
dance, music, film and drama
from left: John E. Matip Eichler, Kerstin "Eisy" Eisler, Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith
Direction & Choreography
Fountainhead Tanz Theatre/The Collegium-Forum & Television Program

 


"I know why the caged bird sings..." Maya Angelou 

Harry Louiserre
Managing Director

PRODUCTION STAFF

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Prof. Donald Muldrow Griffith
     Co-Founder/Director: 
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     Fountainhead® Tanz Theatre, 
The Collegium- Forum & Television Program Berlin,
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     Production Director "Classic In Black" 

Fountainhead® Tanz Theatre
Direction & Choreography

Raviv Herbst-Conductor & Pianist
Raviv Herbst
Conductor & Pianist

 


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MOTTOS:

"I MAY NOT MAKE IT IF I TRY, BUT I DAMN SURE WON'T IF I DON'T..."
Oscar Brown Jr.

"MANKIND WILL EITHER FIND A WAY OR MAKE ONE."
C. P. Snow

"WHATEVER YOU DO..., BE COOL!"
Joseph Louis Turner

"YES, I CAN...!"
Sammy Davis Jr.

"YES, WE CAN...!"
Barack Obama

 


[Marion Kramer, Anthony Phillips, Donald Muldrow Griffith].
Copyright © 1999 by [Fountainhead Tanz Theatre/ Black International Cinema/
The Collegium - Forum & Television Program in association with Cultural Zephyr e.V.].
Revised: September 27, 2014