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George Shirley

Opera Singer George Shirley was born on April 18, 1934 in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Irving and Daisy Shirley. By age four, Shirley had begun performing, joining his mother and father as a musical trio within the Indianapolis church community. After moving to Detroit, Michigan with his parents at age six, Shirley continued to build his musical talents, playing the baritone horn in a community band, and studying voice while a student at Northern High School. His musical acumen earned Shirley a scholarship to Wayne State University, where he performed in his first musical drama, Oedipus Rex, with the Men’s Glee Club in 1955. He graduated that same year, receiving his B.S. in Music Education.

Also in 1955, Shirley became the first African American high school music teacher in the city of Detroit. A year later, after being drafted into the Army, he became the first African American to sing with the U.S. Army Chorus, where, influenced by fellow choir members, Shirley decided to pursue a career in opera. In 1959, he performed in his first staged production, Die Fledermaus, with a small company in Woodstock, New York. The following year, after winning the American Opera Auditions in New York, he was invited to play the role Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Boheme in Milan, Italy. In 1961, Shirley won first prize in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions, thus becoming the first African American tenor to be awarded a contract with that company, where he performed from 1961 through 1973. He played major roles in more than twenty operas, often performing with fellow African American opera pioneers Leontyne Price and Shirley Verrett. During and after his stint with the Metropolitan Opera, Shirley was a well sought tenor across the globe, appearing in productions in London, Italy, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Chicago, Boston and a host of other cities. Shirley also won a Grammy Award for a recording of his performance in Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte.

In 1980, Shirley joined the staff of the University of Maryland as a professor of voice. In 1985, the University honored him with a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Award. In 1987, he returned to the Detroit area, as a professor of voice at the University of Michigan, and five years later, he was named the Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Professor of Voice. In 2007, Shirley was named the Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of Voice upon his retirement.

George Shirley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 10, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.045

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/10/2010 |and| 10/25/2012

Last Name

Shirley

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Irving

Organizations
Schools

Wayne State University

Alger Elementary School

Balch Elementary School

Moore Elementary School

Sherrard Intermediate School

Northern High School

First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Indianapolis

HM ID

SHI01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

4/18/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Ann Arbor

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Music instructor and opera singer George Shirley (1934 - ) is a professor of voice at the University of Michigan, and in 1961, he became the first African American tenor to earn a contract with the Metropolitan Opera.

Employment

Miller High School

United States Army

Metropolitan Opera

University of Maryland at College Park

University of Michigan

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George Shirley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George Shirley lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George Shirley describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George Shirley talks about his maternal family's migration north to Indianapolis, Indiana and Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George Shirley describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George Shirley talks about the family land in Summer Shade, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George Shirley talks about his father's education and how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George Shirley talks about his birth by caesarian section and his mother's fertility complications

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George Shirley describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George Shirley describes his father's near death experience in a Detroit, Michigan hospital

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George Shirley talks about the establishment of People's Community Church and his father's work as an insurance agent in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George Shirley describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Indianapolis, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George Shirley describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George Shirley describes Ebenezer A.M.E. Church and growing up in Detroit, Michigan's North End

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George Shirley talks about music curriculum in the Detroit Public Schools

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George Shirley talks about his exposure to classical music at Northern High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George Shirley talks about his experiences at Northern High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George Shirley recalls his decision to attend Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George Shirley describes performing Igor Stravinsky's 'Oedipus Rex' at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George Shirley talks about teaching at Miller High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George Shirley describes joining the United States Army Chorus

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George Shirley talks about segregation in Washington D.C. during the 1950s and his experience in the United States Army Chorus

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George Shirley describes performing in the United States Army Chorus and seeing an opera for the first time

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George Shirley talks about meeting Themy Georgi

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George Shirley describes the beginning of his opera career

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Second slating of George Shirley's interview

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - George Shirley describes his first performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - George Shirley talks about African American singers in the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - George Shirley details the history of black opera singers in the United States

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - George Shirley talks about the National Negro Opera Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - George Shirley talks about Caterina Jarboro, Jules Bledsoe, Paul Robeson, and Roland Hayes

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - George Shirley talks about meeting Roland Hayes, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - George Shirley talks about changes in the musical tastes of black youth during the 1960s and 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - George Shirley talks about black opera singers recognized in 1960s popular culture and the challenges involved in composing operas

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - George Shirley explains why he pursued a career in classical music

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - George Shirley describes seeing his first opera, Verdi's 'Rigoletto,' in 1957

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - George Shirley talks about Scott Joplin's opera 'Treemonisha' and musicians' desire to be multi-dimensional

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - George Shirley talks about the differences between jazz and classical music

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - George Shirley talks about performing with Shirley Verrett and Leontyne Price

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - George Shirley talks about performing roles for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - George Shirley talks about the roles he performed throughout his operatic career

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - George Shirley talks about receiving criticism for using pale makeup in a performance of 'The Stag King'

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - George Shirley talks about the incorporation of race in critics' reviews of African American performers

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - George Shirley describes his first visit to Atlanta, Georgia in 1962

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - George Shirley talks about returning to Atlanta, Georgia in 1966

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - George Shirley talks about his performance of Romeo in 'Romeo and Juliet' at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1969

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - George Shirley talks about the end of his career at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - George Shirley talks about his operatic career after the Metropolitan Opera and singing in multiple languages

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - George Shirley describes the challenges involved in operatic performing and highlights from his career

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - George Shirley talks about teaching at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - George Shirley talks about teaching at the University of Maryland and joining the faculty at the University of Michigan

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - George Shirley explains the significance of the role of Porgy in George Gershwin's 'Porgy and Bess'

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - George Shirley talks about performing in 'Porgy and Bess' and its international reception

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - George Shirley talks about twenty-first century American opera compositions

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - George Shirley talks about his students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - George Shirley describes his approach to instructing voice students

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - George Shirley talks about taking proper care of a voice and managing acid reflux disease

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - George Shirley addresses the misapprehension that weight corresponds to a singer's ability

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - George Shirley describes the significance of diet and vocal training for opera singers

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - George Shirley describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - George Shirley talks about his family

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - George Shirley reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - George Shirley describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - George Shirley sings an aria from 'Girl of the Golden West' in Italian

DASession

1$2

DATape

3$7

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
George Shirley talks about music curriculum in the Detroit Public Schools
George Shirley talks about performing roles for the first time at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City
Transcript
Now did you, now you were part of the, a little group you said your parents formed with you with just the family to sing in church and--$$And just, just my mother [Daisy Bell Shirley], my dad [Irving Shirley], and myself. That was in Indianapolis [Indiana]. And then, and then when we came to Detroit [Michigan], I, my mother sang in the senior choir. My dad would play for me, for teens, and so we didn't perform as a unit anymore. But I would give recitals at Ebenezer [A.M.E. Church, Detroit, Michigan] and sing for social functions. The music education curriculum in the public schools taught children to read music from the first grade. So by the time you got to the sixth grade, if you had any musical chops at all, you were musically literate. Then junior high school there were really good choral ensembles. In high school choral and instrumental ensembles were quite outstanding. When I began my teaching career at the old Miller High School [Detroit, Michigan] in 1956, my choir participated--I started in '55 [1955] and '56 [1956] my choir participated in the first annual choral, citywide choral festival. And all the high schools choir, high school choirs participated in that--high level of repertoire performed, excellent ensemble, singing in tune, singing with precision. It was quite spectacular. And unfortunately that's been reduced to almost nothing now (simultaneous)--$$But, but in the days that you were coming along, the music department, I mean the (simultaneous)--$$Music curriculum was fabulous.$$--Music program were strong, that's right.$$The whole Motown industry grew because of that, all of those singers that Berry Gordy hired to begin his enterprise were musically literate. They could read music. Two years ago I met [HM] Martha Reeves at an AGMA [American Guild of Musical Artists] meeting--after a meeting, sorry. And I started to introduce myself. She said, "Oh, I know who you are. You were my high school music teacher." (Laughter). She was in my, one of my girls' voice classes along with Kim Weston. But these schools produced all that great talent that came out of Detroit, jazz musicians, classical musicians. When I was at the Metropolitan Opera [New York, New York] there were five people on the roster from the Detroit area. And that's pretty good for one of the major opera houses, international opera houses, to have five performers from Motown. Joseph Silverstein was a longtime concert master of the Boston Symphony Orchestra [Boston, Massachusetts]. He came from Cass Tech [Cass Technical High School, Detroit, Michigan]. Isidor Saslav from the Baltimore Symphony [Maryland], concert master, Cass Tech. This town produced great talents, [HM] Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin. Smokey, Smokey formed his group when he was a student at Northern High School, people like Tommy Flanagan [Thomas Lee Flanagan], Yusef Lateef, no, Ahmad Jamal, [HM] Della Reese, Kenny Burrell, Milt Jackson, Kirk Lightsey. The names go on and on and on and on and on. The cultural curriculum of Detroit Public Schools was second to none in the nation and now it's destroyed. It's almost, almost destroyed by people who are looking to save money.$$Are you--we'll talk about that later in more detail, but when you were a kid, now were you aware that you had musical talent, or were you considered to be talented in music?$$Well, yes, as I said, I mean I started singing when I was about four. So I knew that the singing was part of my life. When I was getting ready to graduate from high school, I mean I had sung the solos. In 'Messiah,' [George Frideric Handel] high school I sang the tenor solo in the first course of the [Giuseppe] Verdi '[Messa da] Requiem' in one of our concerts. So I knew that my talent was considerable. I decided not to, to go into professional music as a singer. I mean I thought that was, that was a little far away, as, that's far, that was as far, that was as remote as New York City was from Detroit. But, I decided to become a music teacher. That was going to be my career, and I was indeed happy with that until Uncle Sam interrupted with the [U.S.] Military draft. And it was after the draft that I decided to pursue professional singing as an opera singer.$Okay. So, within a year's time it seems that you had developed quite a repertoire of, of roles in, in, in, in one year [at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, New York].$$Yes.$$Now this is--$$The interesting thing is my career got started, again, on this emergency jumping in. And that proved to the management that they had someone who could do that and not fall flat on his face. The result was that I was asked to do that probably more often than I should have. And young, initially there'd be nerves or less--the more I was asked to do that, the more of a problem it became. The roles that I did at the Met [Metropolitan Opera], I think I did twenty-seven roles altogether there. Of those roles, the ones that I had sung prior to performing them at the Met were very few. One that I had sung prior to that was Rodolfo [in 'La boheme' by Giacomo Puccini], 'cause I made my debut in Italy in, in that in 1960 before I went to the Met. Don Jose was another one that I had, had already sung. I think that was it.$$Okay.$$I think all the rest of them were for the first time anywhere. And that can really sort of begin--and some of those were with, at the last minute. The 'Cosi [fan tutte' by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart]--the Ferrando in 'Cosi' was the last minute. The des Grieux in [Jules] Massenet's 'Manon' was last minute because Nicolai Gedda's father died. He sang the first performance of a new production, and I was covering him, so I sang the next two and Nick went off to his father's funeral. des Grieux in [Giacomo] Puccini's 'Manon Lescaut' was at the last minute because a tenor canceled. Nemorino in 'L'elisir d'amore' [Gaetano Donizetti] was last minute, (laughter) actually. I had come to the end of my season this particular year, and I was getting ready to go off and do recitals in the South. And Rudolf Bing asked me, he said, "George," he said, "We have a performance, a performance of 'L'elisir d'amore' coming up." And he said, "We don't have a tenor. Would you, can you do this?" Well, that "L'elisir" wasn't on my list. And I said, "Mr. Bing, I don't know the opera." He said, "But you, you, you've got to help us," in his English accent, "You, you've got to help us. Good God, you've got to help us." I said, "Well, I'm, I'm going off to sing recitals in Tuscaloosa [Alabama] and Talladega, Alabama, next week," said, "Well, all right." So, he called me (laughter) on the telephone when I was either in Tuscaloosa or Talladega. He said, "George, you've got to do this." And I said, "Gee." I said, "Okay, I'll, I'll, I have to take a look at the score when I get back 'cause I don't know it." It wasn't on my list of covers. I got back and the opera, the score is about this thick. And I'm thinking heaven's sake. It's got recitative, and it's got arias and so forth. So I learned it. I had about two weeks to learn it. And I did the performance, and it was a success. A number of years later they offered me another performance (laughter), one. And that was in 1967 I think. It was the year that [Reverend Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.] was assassinated, and--$$In '68 [1968].$$--in '68 [1968]. And the performance was scheduled for the week in which he was assassinated, and I canceled it. I said I, I can't do this performance now. And so they had to get somebody to (laughter) replace me. And they eventually offered me another performance, and that was with Reri Grist. I took that one. But that was sort of the pattern that so much of what I did at the Met, except for I think those two roles that I mentioned, and maybe I've forgotten one. It was all for the first time, and on most of those roles for the last, at the last minute, because somebody canceled. The first, Gabriele Adorno in 'Simon Boccanegra' of [Giuseppe] Verdi was last minute because somebody had canceled. After a while, you know, that kind of thing really started getting to be a bit much for me to handle. And, but that's the way it went.$$Now is, the implication here, now if we were looking at sports, then we would know how to look at this. You, you always sit on the bench until the starter gets hurt, and then they put you in--$$Right$$--At the last minute, and you succeed, and then, you know. But they only put you in when somebody else is--$$Well, I, I, I did have also chances to do my first performances of things. The, the, the, the, the, it wasn't always just jumping at the last minute. My, my point is that jumping in at the last minute was, happened a lot during my eleven years there. And it began to sort of be something that I really didn't look forward to doing. But, again, American singers who have contracts there are expected because the Met is not like an opera house in Europe. When somebody cancels in Paris [France], they can call Germany, or they can call the UK [United Kingdom], or they can call Italy and say, "Can you, you have somebody you can send over to do the performance tomorrow night because so and so is ill?" And that happens. Well, that doesn't happen in the United States because the Met is a year-round, I mean it's the one opera house that has really a full season. The other opera houses have people come in to do specific shows. And once they have done their show they're gone. They're doing something else. They don't have a roster of artists that's available for the Met to call on if they need some assistance. So they have to have all of their singers in-house. Today there are singers who are under contracts I understand and make very good money, but they're, they're just basically as covers. So that, you know, they may go through a whole season without ever getting on stage to perform. And that's not something that I would really like to, I wouldn't want to deal with that, but I understand that that is the case with a number of artists. But that's the way the Met protects, protects itself, so that what I did was what other singers do. But I, I got the feeling that I did it (laughter) maybe a little bit more often for big roles than some of the other singers did, but that was the way it worked out.$$Okay. So for eleven years, what percentage do you think of, of your roles were, were where you were pushed into service and had to, you know, perform this great feat again?$$I'm terrible at trying to figure percentages, (laughter) but I would say less than, I'd say maybe forty percent.$$That's almost half the time, yeah, yeah.

Luigi Waites

Percussionist Luigi Waites was born Lewis Waites, on July 10, 1927, in Omaha, Nebraska. Waites’ mother, Ione Lewis, married his stepfather, Grant Wallace, after Wallace’s arrival in Omaha in the 1940s. Waites attended Omaha’s Lake Elementary, Central High School and graduated from Technical High School. He also attended the Midwestern Conservatory of Music. Waites began performing music while he was still in high school. At the onset of World War II, more Americans enlisted into the U.S. military, and Waites was limited to playing with musicians his own age. Dropping out of Omaha Technical High School, Waites was drafted in 1945. While in the services, Waites was taught to play drum licks by the great Elvin Jones at Camp Lee, Virginia. It was not until the end of the war that Waites began touring locally with adult musicians.

In 1947, Waites returned to Omaha and continued his career as a local musician. In addition, Waites toured regionally, performing in Iowa, North Dakota, Kansas and other parts of Nebraska. After briefly attending school in California in 1949, Waites enrolled at the Midwestern Conservatory of Music in downtown Chicago; that following year, he married Eva Jean Little. In the 1950s, Waites continued his career in music, but also worked daily at local factories. After working as stock personnel for the Omaha National Bank, Waites began teaching private lessons to aspiring artists. In the 1960s and 1970s, Waites was the organizer of a youth group called the Contemporaries which performed as a marching band for local and regional events.

Waites was the first jazz instructor in the Omaha Public Schools and at Creighton University. Waites also helped found Phyllis Hicks’s “Steppin Saints.” Waites was named Nebraska Arts Council’s Artist of the Year in 1996; he is still playing and teaching, while enjoying his eighties. Waites, who toured internationally and performed in Europe during the 1990s, lived in Omaha, Nebraska and had six grown children.

Waites passed away on April 6, 2010 at the age of 82.

Luigi Waites was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 7, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.284

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/7/2007

Last Name

Waites

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Technical High School

Lake Elementary School

Omaha Central High School

Howard Kennedy Elementary School

Lothrop Magnet Center

First Name

Lewis

Birth City, State, Country

Omaha

HM ID

WAI01

Favorite Season

None

State

Nebraska

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nebraska

Birth Date

7/10/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Omaha

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

4/6/2010

Short Description

Music instructor and jazz drummer Luigi Waites (1927 - 2010 ) was the first jazz instructor in Omaha Public Schools and at Creighton University. Luigi Waites also has enjoyed a long and successful performing career, touring nationally and internationally, as well as playing with jazz legends such as Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Jean-Luc Ponty, James Brown, and Dizzy Gillespie.

Employment

Omaha National Bank

Swoboda Music Center

Omaha Public Schools

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Luigi Waites' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Luigi Waites lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Luigi Waites describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Luigi Waites describes his mother's profession

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Luigi Waites talks about his father and stepfathers

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Luigi Waites describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Luigi Waites describes his living arrangements in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Luigi Waites describes the sights and smells of his childhood in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Luigi Waites remembers listening to the radio as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Luigi Waites describes his early personality and interests

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Luigi Waites talks about his early musical interests

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Luigi Waites describes his favorite radio programs

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Luigi Waites remembers Count Basie and Duke Ellington

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Luigi Waites talks about his grade school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Luigi Waites recalls the encouragement of his teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Luigi Waites recalls learning to be a musician

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Luigi Waites remembers his mentor, Basie Givens

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Luigi Waites describes his high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Luigi Waites remembers World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Luigi Waites describes his experiences at Technical High School in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Luigi Waites recalls being drafted at the end of World War II

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Luigi Waites describes his experiences in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Luigi Waites remembers his studies at the Midwestern Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Luigi Waites remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Luigi Waites recalls his early life lessons about music

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Luigi Waites describes his various jobs

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Luigi Waites recalls performing at night while working at the First National Bank of Omaha

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Luigi Waites describes the segregated nightclubs in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Luigi Waites remembers Cliff Dudley

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Luigi Waites recalls becoming a drum company spokesman

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Luigi Waites recalls meeting Elvin Jones

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Luigi Waites recalls meeting Roy Haynes and Max Roach

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Luigi Waites describes The Contemporaries drum corps

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Luigi Waites talks about his busy schedule

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Luigi Waites recalls his instructional assemblies at schools across the United States

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Luigi Waites talks about his teaching career

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Luigi Waites recalls meeting notable jazz musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Luigi Waites describes the M&M lounge in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Luigi Waites talks about skin color discrimination in the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Luigi Waites talks about racial discrimination in the music industry

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Luigi Waites talks about his awards

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Luigi Waites reflects upon his music

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Luigi Waites talks about his interest in various percussion instruments

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Luigi Waites describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Luigi Waites reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Luigi Waites reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Luigi Waites talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Luigi Waites remembers sharing his success with his mother

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Luigi Waites describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Luigi Waites narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$1

DATitle
Luigi Waites recalls his early life lessons about music
Luigi Waites recalls meeting Elvin Jones
Transcript
That, that same thing happened back in the years when I was, when I was just playing music, you know, and couldn't go into places 'cause say, "He's not young, he's, he's too young to come into, in here and play. He's got to be a certain age, you know." My mother [Ione Lewis Kelley] would say, "Well, I'll sit with him," and she would sit there with me all night long while I played, you know, they could do that then. They can't do that now, but you could do that then and I'd--and all that would happen and everybody'd say, "Oh, great, you're good," you know, like that. And we'd get home and my mother would say, "Well, that's great but you ought to really learn to do something of value." Now, that was that double standard but I realize now what she was trying to instill in me. She didn't realize that music could be of value and, and you could learn to do this and you--like kids today that I teach, I tell 'em one thing. Yeah, it's gonna be rough doing--if you're gonna do music alone, you know, but if you learn everything, everything you can possibly learn about music and do it all, you could maybe make it work. Because what they do to us musicians and artists they--even today they do this, they'll say, "Well, that's great but don't you think you ought to learn to be a plumber and get something in case your music fails." They do not tell lawyers, "Hey, you should learn to do something else in case you don't pass the bar." They don't tell doctors that, why do they tell us musicians that? So, I constantly reinforce that with kids and say, "Hey, you can do that, but, you got to work your butt off and you gotta learn everything. Things you like, things you don't like but if you learn it all, you don't have to learn something else." But nobody told me that. They did, but the way they told it to me, it didn't register that way. But they didn't tell me that, 'cause the old guys that I used to work with used to tell me, "Son, you need to complete your formal training, you need to complete your formal training." They were saying that, but it was in a different way, so.$I was asking you about your technique I think (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah.$$--before we cut, and so, so what is your--and you, you shared with me during the break after we ate a piece of pie that you actually met Elvin Jones--$$Yeah.$$--and he even taught you some licks, some drum licks at Camp Lee, Virginia [Fort Lee, Virginia], right (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yes, he did, yes, yeah, yes, yeah.$$So tell us about that experience, how did you meet him and?$$Well, I was in, I was in--had just finished basic training and they put us in a holding company in Virginia at that time, right after I got out of basic training. And they had a bunch of us recruits, as they called us, and then old soldiers, people that they were getting rid of, and Elvin was going out and I was going in. And I had no idea of who he was at that time. And he had the lower bunk and I had the upper bunk, and everybody there--'cause, see, I was the only one out, at that time, I was the only one from the North. And it seemed like there was a great prejudice against people from the North. And here I'm amongst all blacks. And it was a great prejudice. "Oh, you're from the North." I had three strikes against me. I was a recruit, I was from the North, and I was a musician. And seemed like every black non-com [non-commissioned officer] there and everybody else was against that. I got all, every crappy detail and everything. But, anyhow, there was Elvin and so Elvin would sit and talk with me every day. And say, "Hey, you do this, that and--nah, you don't do it that, try this, do it this way." He opened up my mind to thinking, you know, and that kind of thing. And I spent six months with him. And then come back home, didn't think any more about it and about five, ten years later Elvin started becoming prominent in the world, you know. 'Cause, at that time, everybody there at, at the camp was--the joke was, they say, "Where are you from?" And I said, "I'm from Nebraska." "You from Knee-bras-kee?" I said, "Well, yeah, you know. And, where you from?" And this was the answer I'd get, "I's from New York [New York]." I said, "Right, yeah, right, yeah, you know." And Elvin just said to me, "I got a brother that plays a little music." That's all he ever said. And come to be Hank Jones. Oh, my god, you know. And I hadn't even heard about Thad [Thad Jones] at that time, you know. And, well, that, that's basically--so I met fifty years later in, in Nashville [Nashville], I run across Elvin again and so I asked him if he remembered Camp Lee, Virginia and stuff like that. And this was the first time we had seen each other in fifty years. And he said to me, "I know you, you from Omaha [Nebraska]." But he didn't know my name, but he knew who I was and where I was from. And don't you think that didn't make my day because it did.$$Yeah, I would say so. Now, can you remember--well, you can't remember exactly what he taught you I guess or showed you, but$$Well, no. What, what he taught me was a concept, it wasn't an individual thing. We use individual things (unclear) but it's a concept. In other words, like you say, you open the door with you right hand. Okay, now open the door with your left hand. Now put both hands together and open the door. You don't confine it to one, just one hand alone. And that was the concept. Here's a piece of music, you approach it this way and then you approach it this way--that's the same piece of--and the same piece of music and once you start approaching it these different ways, it changes. But the music doesn't change. But it changes the concept of it. Like, I think you and I was talking about earlier--I think I was saying--oh, shit what was I saying now, ah, something I said to you. One of the normal things that I say to everybody I got--I'm at a loss right now. I'll think of it.$$Okay.$$But, but they--it, it's, it's how you--oh, it's how you do something. This is the right way to do it, and that's what I--that Elvin taught me. The right way is the way that you do it and it works, it's not--most people that say, well, it's the right way. Meaning, if you doing it the way I know it, then that's right. If you're not doing it the way I know it, then it's wrong. And Elvin taught me to open up my mind.

Fruteland Jackson

Blues musician and music instructor Fruteland Jackson was born Vincent Sherman Chandler on June 9, 1953 in Doddsville, Sunflower County, Mississippi. His maternal family tree can be documented back to 1863. Jackson is the fourth of six children born to John Chandler and Ida B. Collins. His childhood years were spent in Chicago and Mississippi. Jackson was raised in a musical family and was introduced to the guitar at the age of ten but had little interest in studying the instrument. Instead, Jackson played bugle and trombone while in high school. Jackson graduated from high school in 1970 and entered Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois, where he studied music and theater. He later studied vocal performance at Chicago’s Roosevelt University. Jackson then postponed his artistic ambitions to work as a private investigator and with the State of Illinois Department of Human Rights.

In 1980, Jackson moved back to Mississippi, settling in Biloxi. From 1981 to 1985, he owned and operated Camel Seafood Company. Hurricane Elena of 1985 had devastating effects in Mississippi and left Jackson without a business. At this time, he returned to his musical ambitions and immersed himself in study of the guitar and in blues music.

Jackson performs and preserves acoustic blues from both traditional and contemporary styles including field hollers, work songs, Delta blues and Piedmont blues. In 1996, Jackson helped to establish the “Blues In The Schools” program. Jackson’s educational blues programs have been presented at schools and universities throughout the United States. In 1996, Jackson was awarded the Illinois Arts Council Folk/Ethnic Heritage Award. In 2003, he was nominated for the W.C. Handy Award as “Acoustic Blues Album of the Year”, for his album, Blues 2.0. Jackson records for Electro-Fi Records.

Fruteland Jackson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 12, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.064

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/13/2007

Last Name

Jackson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Columbia College Chicago

Roosevelt University

Muhammad University of Islam

Gregory Math & Sci Elem Academy

Hess Upper Grade Center

Manley Career Academy High School

Lindblom Math & Science Academy High School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Fruteland

Birth City, State, Country

Doddsville

HM ID

JAC23

Favorite Season

Holiday Season

Sponsor

Sharon E. Moore

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Gulf Coast

Favorite Quote

How Do You Know Your Love Be True Unless Your Love Be Tried.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

6/9/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Music instructor and blues musician Fruteland Jackson (1953 - ) is an acoustic guitarist and singer who founded the "Blues in the Schools" program.

Employment

E.V. Allen and Associates

Camel Seafood Company

Self Employed

Howard Johnson's

Boeing Defense, Space & Security (f.k.a. McDonnell Douglas)

Mary Thompson Hospital for Women and Children

State of Illinois, Department of Human Rights

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:4758,95:5148,102:5694,111:7488,156:7956,163:10686,217:11934,280:26543,458:26859,463:27649,477:44200,752:47544,818:49040,841:50096,855:50624,863:51240,872:51856,880:52384,887:57905,916:58173,921:58642,941:62059,1068:67620,1241:68022,1248:68491,1253:68826,1259:72454,1271:72951,1278:73519,1288:79270,1467:79980,1478:85447,1592:87861,1640:102980,1834:103496,1841:104614,1856:105044,1862:117565,2054:117890,2061:119125,2081:120620,2113:120880,2118:121205,2124:121595,2132:133526,2307:134246,2318:134822,2327:135110,2332:135830,2344:136118,2349:137620,2354:139850,2368:148070,2426:152378,2447:161490,2683:161959,2691:162897,2711:171200,2802$0,0:2358,51:2718,58:3006,63:3510,71:4950,90:5670,102:6318,117:6750,124:8838,170:11862,229:12582,241:13662,251:14238,261:16542,301:17622,311:17910,316:21582,420:35254,580:35550,585:36068,598:36660,607:38658,642:42062,722:47224,758:47554,764:48082,774:48412,781:49468,812:50128,826:50524,833:50788,843:51052,848:52108,880:54088,927:56266,973:57058,988:57322,993:57718,1000:58972,1023:59236,1028:60556,1055:63922,1160:79355,1353:80255,1367:80555,1372:82805,1400:83780,1443:84155,1449:86255,1507:90755,1622:91055,1629:92480,1675:93080,1685:97910,1700:100748,1788:102296,1816:103414,1841:104876,1865:130784,1883:165290,1936:186314,1982:290970,2112
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Fruteland Jackson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Fruteland Jackson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Fruteland Jackson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Fruteland Jackson describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Fruteland Jackson recounts stories of his mother's family in Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Fruteland Jackson talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Fruteland Jackson describes his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Fruteland Jackson describes the events that led his parents to move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Fruteland Jackson talks about his siblings, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Fruteland Jackson talks about his siblings, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Fruteland Jackson talks about his maternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Fruteland Jackson talks about his early childhood memories, including his religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Fruteland Jackson talks about his elementary school education in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Fruteland Jackson describes his motivations as a student during elementary school in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Fruteland Jackson describes his childhood aspirations and his relationship with his family

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Fruteland Jackson describes his time at Lindblom Technical High School and the University of Islam in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Fruteland Jackson explains his choice to leave the Nation of Islam

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Fruteland Jackson explains the origin of his name

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Fruteland Jackson describes his work in food service and as a private investigator for E.V. Allen and Associates

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Fruteland Jackson talks about his mother's death and his time at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Fruteland Jackson describes his first two marriages

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Fruteland Jackson describes his life and his children with his third wife, Jennice Chandler

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Fruteland Jackson describes his growth as a guitarist and musician

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Fruteland Jackson talks about his decision to move to Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Fruteland Jackson describes setbacks in his work career during the late 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Fruteland Jackson explains the events that led him to pursue music as a profession

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Fruteland Jackson describes his calling to blues music

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Fruteland Jackson describes Camel Seafood, the business he ran in Biloxi, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Fruteland Jackson describes his inspirations as a blues artist

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Fruteland Jackson describes the present and future of the blues genre

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Fruteland Jackson talks about getting involved with Blues in the Schools

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Fruteland Jackson talks about working with Blues in the Schools to help communities grieve and heal

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Fruteland Jackson describes and demonstrates the difference between Piedmont blues and Delta blues

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Fruteland Jackson describes musicians and techniques within the Piedmont blues style

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Fruteland Jackson reflects upon his life, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Fruteland Jackson gives advice for people interested in going into blues music

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Fruteland Jackson describes his ambitions for future projects

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Fruteland Jackson reflects upon his life, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Fruteland Jackson explains the importance of knowing one's history

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Fruteland Jackson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Fruteland Jackson narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

2$1

DATitle
Fruteland Jackson describes his calling to blues music
Fruteland Jackson describes musicians and techniques within the Piedmont blues style
Transcript
Why blues?$$The blues found me. I didn't ask for the blues. It hit me like a ton of bricks. When I lived in Mississippi, I start--I listened to a lot of public radio, and I was listening to the blues programs, and somehow, someway, I just became overwhelmed by this music. It just totally took me over. And I--when people ask me today, why blues, I say, "The blues found me." I was walking down the street minding my own business, and all of a sudden, this music started speaking to me. My soul started--. And I didn't know why, you know. That's my parents' music. What am I doing? You know. I didn't pick no cotton. I didn't split no rails. I traded in my hammer for a hundred emails.$$(Laughs.)$$That's a song I wrote. And so I didn't know why. But I said I was gonna learn how to do it. And it was something happening at that point in time in history, because others around my age were doing the same thing and we didn't know each other. Just like with Stonehenge [Wiltshire, England] and the Pyramids [Giza, Egypt] were taking place, they didn't know each other, but they were building these giant monuments, okay. And so there were lots in my age group, and they're like a --(simultaneous)--$$For example?$$There are people like Corey Harris, Guy Davis; these are people who do the exact same thing. Robert Jones [Reverend Robert B. Jones], Rory Block [Aurora 'Rory' Block]. We're all in the same age group. And there's almost a forty-year difference between us and the real old guys who used to do it. I had the pleasure of touring with David 'Honeyboy' Edwards; he's ninety-one. So nobody was picking up this stuff. Everybody wanted to play bands and electric guitars and all this noise. But I had, something was asking me to learn these old styles, listen to cracked-up 78 records: Big Bill Broonzy, Robert Johnson, early Muddy Waters; and learn how to play these styles, Piedmont style, ragtime blues. And so, I started learning how to play'em. But you can't keep singing about cotton and corn and make a living. So what I would do was use my personal blues, my life. I can talk about things, like, I was there during Vietnam. I know this. I can talk about my life, and I can use those old rhythms, but I can use them to express more modern concepts.$$Was there any particular incident that happened in your life that made you gravitate to the blues quickly?$$I don't have anything to compare with. And I never had the kind of life--bad things never happened to me, you know. I never got--was seriously hurt or anything, like, really bad stuff ever happened to me. But I did have struggles, but to me I had the same amount of struggles as anybody else; not as bad as some. So I don't know. I wasn't driven there, you know, I got hit by a bus or something--$Tell me a little bit about the Piedmont blues. Is that a very popular style?$$Well, it's popular for people who are really into the blues and listen to acoustic blues. Some of the people that played Piedmont blues was the Rev. Gary Davis, there was Blind Boy Fuller. And Gary Davis was blind. And there was Josh White. It was Sonny Terry [Saunders Terrell] and Brownie McGhee. These--a lot of these are East Coast players.$$Is what you're playing authentic Piedmont?$$Yes, ma'am. And the only thing unauthentic about it is that I'm not from there, you know. And there was John Jackson, who recently passed away, and he was one of the last of the remaining of the real--what we call the real deal of Piedmont style players. It was very difficult for blind people to make a living back then. They didn't have a lot of things that they have right now. So they either were wrestlers, worked at a carnival or they became musicians and street musicians. And a lot of them had very, very unique styles with Piedmont. Even when I write my own songs, sometimes I'll use a Piedmont styling to float my lyrics on.$$Now do you have recordings?$$Yes, I do. I have six recordings in my discography. I'm on the Electro-Fi [Electro-Fi Records] label now, and I just completed my third recording with them. My current CD is entitled 'Blues 2.0.' It was nominated for best acoustic album by the Blues Foundation [Blues Heaven Foundation] for a Handy Award [W. C. Handy Awards], but I didn't win, but I had a chance to wear a tuxedo and eat finger sandwiches.$$(Laughs.)$$And I met Bonnie Raitt. So that's six in one hand, half a dozen in the other.$$Can we just get a little sample of something from your latest project?$$Here we go. All right. One of the places I play it at is on the casino. And I see gamblers come in the door all the time. And they come in wheelchairs, they have oxygen tanks, at fifty-five and (unclear); they love to gamble. So I decided to write a song from a gambler's point of view, okay. And I did it in a Piedmont ragtime style. (Playing guitar and singing 'A Gambler's View.')

Delano O'Banion

Delano O’Banion was born on November 3, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Chicago public schools from elementary through high school. While a student at Phillips High School, he played the clarinet and bassoon in the Phillips Concert Band. As a senior at Phillips High School, O’Banion became a student assistant band director and drum major under Professor Earl Madison. In addition to singing various classical styles of choral music, he learned to sing oratorio and opera in the Hartzell Methodist Church’s Young People Choir (1951-1955). During this period, he received a scholarship to study voice with Madame Elsa Harthan Arendt at the Sherwood Music School in Chicago, Illinois.

In 1955, O’Banion received an academic music scholarship to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. While at Fisk University, O’Banion toured the United States and Europe with the famed Fisk Jubilee Singers. During his junior year at Fisk University, O’Banion sang as guest soloist with the Tuskegee Institute Choir at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. In 1958, O’Banion worked with renowned musician, composer and conductor Professor William L. Dawson.

Upon graduation from Fisk University in 1959 with his B.S. degree in music, O’Banion began a teaching career that spanned forty-six years. O’Banion became quite active as a classical soloist, singing oratorio, opera, recitals, and major orchestral works throughout the Midwest. In 1961, along with several alumni friends from Fisk University, O’Banion established The John Work Chorale. His love for conducting this choral group became his primary work. The John Work Chorale specializes in preserving nurturing the perpetuation of singing Negro Spirituals in the original style of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. O’Banion also served as the choral director at Marshall High School for several years.

O’Banion served as minister of music for Grace Presbyterian Church (1960-1966), and serves as minister of music at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church, (1977-present). In addition to his work as minister of music, O’Banion serves on the board of the Chicago Dance and Music Alliance, the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Board of Trustees at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church. O’Banion has received numerous awards for excellence in music, education, and community service.

O’Banion was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 15, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.143

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/15/2006 |and| 4/16/2008

Last Name

O'Banion

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

Doolittle Elementary School

Fisk University

DePaul University

University of Chicago

Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Delano

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

OBA01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Guatemala

Favorite Quote

An Unexamined Life Isn't Worth Living.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/3/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Comfort Food

Short Description

Music instructor, choral director, and classical singer Delano O'Banion (1936 - ) helped establish the John Work Chorale which specializes in singing Negro spirituals in the Fisk Jubilee Singers' style.

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:4212,89:8991,168:9558,184:14094,293:31312,505:54624,858:60245,960:63094,1030:71160,1128:71540,1203:73212,1257:76860,1345:96624,1578:102856,1726:112682,1850:122273,1952:124854,1993:132980,2070:140459,2151:149570,2254:166030,2446:166450,2453:167150,2458:167780,2522:186270,2776:187494,2798:192956,2842:199080,2908:214090,3114:214440,3120:219270,3184$0,0:1241,58:2336,87:2628,92:5694,166:6497,176:26710,498:35635,672:40330,705:40841,718:44345,787:51134,928:75802,1100:78350,1134:80668,1143:83374,1216:83638,1221:93208,1435:93604,1442:109080,1719:114971,1778:116075,1801:117179,1835:118628,1871:120974,1930:133394,2242:144391,2404:149242,2514:149498,2526:157050,2733:171698,3008:175874,3075:176594,3111:182560,3156:184285,3181:185458,3278:189115,3350:192151,3444:192703,3454:198085,3592:207200,3682
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Delano O'Banion's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion talks about his mother, Sarah Breckenridge O'Banion

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about his father, Julian O'Banion

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion describes being named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion describes his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about his earliest childhood memories of growing up with three brothers

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about his childhood neighborhood and early school years

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion remembers Christmas celebrations as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion talks about his experience at Doolittle Grammar School and why he started singing

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion recounts his experience at Doolittle Grammar School and joining the band at Phillips High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Delano O'Banion talks about learning to play to clarinet and his early music teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion recalls his favorite teachers from Doolittle Grammar School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion remembers joining the band at Phillips High School in Chicago, Illinois where he served as Earl Madison's student assistant

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion recalls being offered a full scholarship to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee as a Jubilee Singer

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about the history of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion talks about composer William L. Dawson

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about minstrelsy and the Fisk Jubilee Singers' initial perception as a minstrel group

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion describes touring in Europe with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1956

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about the pathos of spirituals and the impact of spirituals on American music

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion describes his decision to major in music at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about studying conducting under John Work and William L. Dawson while a student at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion talks about John Work, III's reorganization of the Jubilee Singers and the ensemble's 125th anniversary concert

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion describes the universal impact of spirituals as well as his experience in the Jubilee Singers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about the difference between gospel songs and spirituals

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion talks about the music at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the origin of spirituals

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about the career of composer William L. Dawson

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion talks about African American composers like Scott Joplin

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion describes singing at Radio City Music Hall with the Tuskegee Institute Choir in 1958

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion distinguishes between anthems, spirituals, and gospel songs

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about the Jubilee Singers' repertoire, and the difference between spirituals and art songs

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about his early teaching career at Beidler Elementary School and Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about the founding of the John Work Chorale in 1960

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion sings excerpts from a gospel song, a hymn, and an anthem

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion describes various career opportunities in his life

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's collaboration with the John Work Chorale in Brazil

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about the John Work Chorale and how his trip to Brazil influenced his direction of the group

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion talks about directing the choir at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about teaching at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion describes directing the Theater-In-The-Streets program in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about returning to Marshall High School to teach music after studying at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion talks about pilot program of Theater-in-the-Streets in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about his legacy at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about his retirement and his parents' careers

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion emphasizes the value of education

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion describes his future aspirations

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Delano O'Banion talks about the blessings in his life

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Delano O'Banion talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Delano O'Banion reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion narrates his photographs

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Second slating of Delano O'Banion's interview

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about his name and his three brothers

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion describes the impact of his brother's death on his family

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion describes his mother, Sarah Breckenridge O'Banion

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion describes his father, Julian O'Banion

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about his childhood in Chicago's Lake Meadows neighborhood

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion remembers his close relationship with his father

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about his parents' separation after his brother's death

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about his religious upbringing in Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion recalls singing at an early age

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion talks about the church choir's repertoire at Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about the music program at Doolittle Grammar School

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about Earl Madison's band program at Phillips High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion describes his experience at the Sherwood Music School in Chicago, Illinois where he studied with Elsa Harthan Arendt

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about his vocal training with F. Bertram Briess and Elsa Harthan Arendt

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion describes his admiration for William McFarland, Roland Hayes, and HistoryMaker William Warfield

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion recalls receiving a scholarship to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee after singing for John Work, III

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion describes his experience at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion recalls the campus environment and his professors at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion talks about John Work, III, the director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, pt.1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion talks about the original Fisk Jubilee Singers, pt.2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion describes campus life at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion recalls touring in Europe with the Jubilee Singers, pt.1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion recalls touring in Europe with the Jubilee Singers, pt.2

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about working for the Sante Fe Railway as a college student

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion remembers joining the Tuskegee Institute Choir at Radio City Music Hall in 1958 to sing 'Old Man River'

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about limited opportunities for African American singers in the 1950s

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion recalls his music education at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about the impact of Charles S. Johnson's death on Jubilee Singers director John Work, III

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion remembers his good friends at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 8 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion talks about William L. Dawson's residency at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion contrasts the Tuskegee Institute Choir and the Jubilee Singers, and the conducting styles of John Work, III and William L. Dawson

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion describes the compositions and musical arrangements of William L. Dawson and John Work, III

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion talks about Thomas A. Dorsey and William L. Dawson

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion describes the impact of his experience in the Fisk Jubilee Singers on the John Work Chorale

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion talks about William L. Dawson's well-known compositions and arrangements

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion describes the challenges of his early teaching career in the Chicago Public School system

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion talks about how the John Work Chorale was invited to perform in Brazil with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion recounts the formation of the John Work Chorale

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion recalls how Theodore Charles Stone, president of the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM) inspired him to become a singer

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion talks about the John Work Chorale's temporary hiatus, and the group's longevity

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion describes the challenges of syncing musicians with dancers while on tour with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in Brazil

Tape: 9 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion talks about his teaching career at Beidler Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about his teaching career at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Delano O'Banion describes how he is a combination of his mentors

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Delano O'Banion describes how he transformed the band program at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Delano O'Banion talks about his theater career

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Delano O'Banion talks about his graduate studies in social psychology at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Delano O'Banion talks about his return to Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois after completing his graduate studies

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Delano O'Banion remembers a mentee named Clarence Thomas

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Delano O'Banion talks about the ethos of his singing and his connection with audiences

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Delano O'Banion describes the expansion of his vocal range under the tutelage of F. Bertram Briess

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Delano O'Banion sings an excerpt from Handel's 'Messiah'

Tape: 10 Story: 11 - Delano O'Banion reflects upon his career

Tape: 10 Story: 12 - Delano O'Banion talks about his desire to travel the world

Tape: 10 Story: 13 - Delano O'Banion reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Delano O'Banion talks about the importance of Negro spirituals

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$10

DAStory

7$1

DATitle
Delano O'Banion describes touring in Europe with the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1956
Delano O'Banion talks about his teaching career at Marshall High School in Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
So when the [Fisk] Jubilee Singers began touring the country singing spirituals, I guess that was a unique sound for anyone other than African Americans at that time.$$There's a play, there's, there are several instances where they were ready to be mobbed by lynch mobs. People were ready to stone them and run them out of town. And they began to sing. And quell the crowds when they sang Negro spirituals. People would stand up, literally start crying, you know, and their tracks--stop dead in their tracks to hear this beautiful music. And they turned away from their evil ways. That's, that's history. That's not, that's not just--that's not a theory on my part now. While I was in Fisk, at Fisk [University, Nashville, Tennessee] with the Jubilee Singers, I had the privilege in 1956 of touring Europe. Negro spirituals is not a--were not songs that I really--we sang them in the church choir before I went to Fisk. We sang all the regular songs that they sang, but we also sang Negro spirituals. But they were not special to me at that point. When I studied with Madame [Elsa Harthan] Arendt, she almost had to force me to sing Negro spirituals at the student recitals, you know 'cause that was not, you know particularly any part of music that I really--I was into classical music, I was into Beethoven and Handel and Bach and that kind of stuff. And so I sang, I sang Negro spirituals but they weren't, they weren't special to me. It was only after that experience at Fisk that the music really became special to me. In Europe one of the things I remember definitely, we had three different concerts that we did. We were supposed to do, we were supposed to do a all Negro spiritual concert, then we did some Palestrina, and some modern music. And then we did a mix of, mix of the three, you know, the three different kinds of music. And in Europe where we went from town to town, we did 66 concerts in 56 days in 1956. And in Europe, whenever we sang the predominant choice was the Negro spiritual concert. Almost all Negro spirituals. A few work songs, a few camp songs, you know, but people really--and after we sang our first concert in Germany, it was standing room only across the entirety of Europe. In England, Spain, Portugal, France, Sicily, Italy, all standing room. People would literally be--like a, a--like a rock concert today. People in Paris [France] on the--in the south of (unclear), people were, people were stationed behind us. We're on the stage and they put platforms behind us so people could sit and watch us at the concerts. These places would be--these huge halls would be filled with people to hear the Negro spirituals from the Jubilee Singers. This is 1956. And I began to think, you know, I mean over, over the years I mean I--since that time, you know, that this was really a strong statement, a strong-filled music that had a pathos, ethos, that really kind of, kind of stirred people to more than regular music would. And when we got out of--when I got away--graduated from Fisk and came to Chicago [Illinois], we formulated the Jubilee Singers which specializes in, even now today, specializes in Negro spirituals.$So talk about Marshall [High School, Chicago, Illinois]. Just re--you know 'cause you were saying when you came--$$When I came to Marshall, they brought me there to organize, organize a boys chorus. I was blessed because I had a chorus, I had an eighth grade chorus at, at Beidler [Elementary School], and those kids who came from Beidler to Marshall were the, were the gen--were the heart of my chorus at, at Marshall. So the guys who came there, they became the chorus at Marshall. So in the first year there we had about twenty-seven guys who--some kids who came into the chorus that were, weren't from Beidler. And won the competition, took a superior rating the first superior rating of a black choir out of Marshall in its history. So we took a superior rating that year and continued on the next couple of years. And then I finally went to human relations coordinator. But Marshall at that time had, it had 5,000 students in it. That's the population of Marshall. Almost on the--I think it was two, two, two double period day, yeah.$$Can we talk about were you--how did the students that you were dealing with differ from the students you went to school with, or the student that you were? Did you find things had changed much in that sort of--more, more like twenty-five year period, you know.$$Not really, not really.$$No, not really.$$Because even today, you know, you got all kinds of crap going on in the public school system, but that's primarily because of the adults. The adults have abdicated their authority, abdicated their ability to teach. And so the kids are gonna respond. There's a vacuum there, so kids responding to that vacuum. In my classroom, in my situation at Marshall High School, there was never a vacuum, you know. I taught boys chorus. We would--the first boys chorus, they gave me a room up in the, in the attic of the school first, when I first came there. It was a classroom that didn't have a door out to the hallway. Had to go through either the orchestra room or the music room next door. It was a room between two rooms. It had one incandescent bulb in the ceiling and a, and an attic window about twelve feet off the floor at the front of the room, okay, and I had a portable, a portable blackboard in that room. And that's where the boys--piano, they rolled a piano in there for me. So that's where the boy's chorus was found, founded in that room. But--and these guys were--some of them were Vice Lords [now the Almight Vice Lord Nation (AVLN)], some of 'em were Cobras at the time, Vice Lords and Cobras. But every morning at 7:30 we met together and there was no gang, there was no, you know, at least I didn't find out these gang members, some of 'em were gang members, until long after there, after I had left, they had left. And the reason, I was talking to the guys who came back and said well you know me, Mo [ph.] he was such-and-such a. So-and-so, he was a so-and-so. And so but when they came together, we sang together. And that was, you know the way it was. And then when I taught general music, I had no problems, really no problems because I--old school teacher. Not vicious or anything like that, but just put what, what I needed to put out there in front of the kids and they respond to that. There were other teachers like that all through Marshall at that time. The teachers who were really concerned and cared about the kids and weren't a--weren't afraid of them. You know I think a lot of the thing now is that we're running into is fear, you know.$$But see you had a forty-year career over at Marshall [High School], right?$$Forty, forty-one and a half, forty-two years.$$Okay, okay.

Louise Hope

Educator and arts advocate Rhoda Louise Meredith Kent-Hope was born on January 15, 1915 in Newton, Kansas. She is the only child of Annie Mae and Paul Matthew Meredith. She earned her B.S. degree in music from the University of Wichita in Wichita, Kansas in 1936 and her M.S. degree in music education from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio in 1946. She also completed additional coursework in reading, language arts, mathematics, classroom organization and behavior management.

Kent-Hope was a teacher in Cleveland Public Schools from 1951 to 1977. From 1974 to 1977, she led teacher workshops at Cuyahoga Community College, and from 1987 to 1994, she taught piano and music appreciation at the Cleveland Music School Settlement. In 1990, Kent-Hope and other educators joined the Great Lakes Theater Festival in launching the Adrienne Kennedy Society. In addition to celebrating the genius of an African American playwright, the Society provided mentoring programs for elementary and secondary school students. In 1993, Kent-Hope co-founded (along with June Sallee Antoine) Creative Writing Workshop Projects, a non-profit arts education and student-mentoring program.

Kent-Hope was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including Teacher Leader Grants from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation and a grant from the Pace Program for Action by Citizens in Education. She was active in civic affairs, including the Women’s City Club, the Musical Arts Association of the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Council of Human Relations. She held life memberships in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the NAACP, and she also belonged to the Urban League of Greater Cleveland and the United Church of Christ.

She was the mother of two daughters, Julia Carlyne and the late Anita Louise Kent. Twice widowed to Morehouse classmates, her first husband was Dr. Carl Owen Kent, a physician in Cleveland, Ohio for over thirty-five years, and her second husband, an engineer, Dr. Edward Swain Hope, Ph.D.

Mrs. Kent-Hope passed away on October 6, 2005.

Accession Number

A2005.137

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/14/2005

Last Name

Hope

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Louise

Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Rhoda

Birth City, State, Country

Newton

HM ID

HOP01

Favorite Season

None

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cleveland, Ohio

Favorite Quote

God Is Good.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

1/15/1915

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Hot Biscuits

Death Date

10/6/2005

Short Description

Music instructor Louise Hope (1915 - 2005 ) co-founded the Adrienne Kennedy Society.

Favorite Color

Blue

Jeffrey Mumford

Jeffrey Mumford served as instructor in music at the Washington Conservatory of Music, artist in residence at Bowling Green State University, and assistant professor of composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. A native of Washington, D.C., he earned his B.A. degree at the University of California, Irvine, and his M.A. degree from the University of California, San Diego. Mumford has composed solo works for voice, piano, and other instruments, as well as works for chamber ensemble, chorus and orchestra. His recordings include The Focus of Blue Light, and Dark Fires.

Mumford has received commissions from the Nancy Ruyle Dodge Charitable Trust; Sonia and Louis Rothschild; Theater Chamber Players; Meet the Composer/Art Endowment Commissioning; Music/USA; the National Symphony Orchestra; Walter W. Naumburg Foundation; Amphion Foundation; New York Music Ensemble; McFim Fund of the Library of Congress; and violinist Wendy Richman. Mumford's works have been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the American Composers’ Orchestra, among others.

Mumford's honors, awards, and grants include the Guggenheim Foundation; the American Music Center; an ASCAP Foundation grant; ASCAP Standard Panel Awards; the ASCAP Aaron Copland Scholarship Award; and seven Meet the Composer grants.

Mumford and his wife have one daughter.

Accession Number

A2005.011

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/12/2005

Last Name

Mumford

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Bunker Hill Es

Hearst Es

Sidwell Friends School

University of California, Irvine

University of California, San Diego

First Name

Jeffrey

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

MUM01

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Brussels, Belgium

Favorite Quote

Be Encouraged.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

6/22/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Music instructor and music composer Jeffrey Mumford (1955 - ) enjoyed a prolific career as a composer and arranger. He worked as an instructor in music at the Washington Conservatory of Music, artist in residence at Bowling Green State University, and assistant professor of composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Employment

Oberlin College

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jeffrey Mumford's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jeffrey Mumford lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jeffrey Mumford remembers his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jeffrey Mumford describes his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jeffrey Mumford reflects upon his family's middle class background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jeffrey Mumford describes his mother's teaching career in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jeffrey Mumford lists the elementary and high schools he attended in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jeffrey Mumford describes growing up in Washington, D.C. in the early 1960s

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jeffrey Mumford details his parents' social and civic engagements

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jeffrey Mumford describes his early musical influences

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Jeffrey Mumford remembers his brother's interests in music and baseball and his great-cousin's friendship with Cab Calloway

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Jeffrey Mumford remembers his introduction to classical music as a child in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Jeffrey Mumford remembers his early improvising with musical instruments and multiphonics

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jeffrey Mumford describes how his father influenced his interest in music

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jeffrey Mumford talks about the problems of categorizing music

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jeffrey Mumford remembers his high school music theory class and seeing Cab Calloway perform

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jeffrey Mumford remembers his English teacher, Mrs. Anne Yondorf, from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jeffrey Mumford describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jeffrey Mumford describes holidays with his family in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jeffrey Mumford remembers not wanting to attend the University of California at Irvine in Irvine, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jeffrey Mumford talks about studying music rather than painting at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jeffrey Mumford describes those who influenced his musical compositions at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Jeffrey Mumford recalls entering graduate school at the University of California, San Diego in San Diego, California

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jeffrey Mumford describes a course he teaches on African American classical composers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jeffrey Mumford reflects upon the experiences of African American composers throughout the centuries

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jeffrey Mumford talks about the impact of composer William Grant Still

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jeffrey Mumford describes the vastness of music written or composed by African American artists, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jeffrey Mumford describes the vastness of music written or composed by African American artists, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jeffrey Mumford details trailblazing composers

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jeffrey Mumford names influential music historians

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jeffrey Mumford remembers the impact of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Jeffrey Mumford reflects upon progress made since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Jeffrey Mumford details his views of President George W. Bush's educational policy

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jeffrey Mumford shares his perspective on the National Endowment for the Arts

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jeffrey Mumford shares his concerns about government censorship of the arts

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jeffrey Mumford talks about his daughter and wife

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jeffrey Mumford describes his recordings and his recent compositions

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jeffrey Mumford considers his hopes for society

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jeffrey Mumford describes his goals for the future

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jeffrey Mumford reflects upon his legacy

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
Jeffrey Mumford describes those who influenced his musical compositions at the University of California, Irvine in Irvine, California
Jeffrey Mumford reflects upon the experiences of African American composers throughout the centuries
Transcript
But all that just goes to say that I just was very serious about what I was doing [at the University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California], and I found something that, through this accident of critical abuse, shall we say, maybe turned out to be the best thing that happened to me in a way, that I discovered my love of composition. And I had a teacher [Peter S. Odegard] who saw that in me and allowed me to develop my own path. Again, I approached that in a similar way that I did painting. I, I wrote style studies. I wrote pieces in the style as I understood it, in the style of [Robert] Schumann, [Igor] Stravinsky, and a composer named Francis Poulenc, who was a member of group called Les Six, six composers in Paris [France] who were trying to, in a way I don't want to say so simplistically react against Impressionism, but they saw the path of French music being different than that which was laid before by W.C. Ravel. And their music was much more influenced by I guess that aspect of popular culture, of the cafes, music halls and so forth. And that music spoke to me very personally, so I wrote this piece, a, a suite called 'The Six Early Pieces of Use,' and each piece was a piece in a style of a different member of Les Six, as, again, as I interpreted it. I was pretty pleased with it, and I wrote a number of other pieces under Professor Odegard's tutelage--culminating in my senior year with a, a big rambling cello sonata in, influenced by a composer named Elliot Carter, who I discovered in the listening lab at the, the university. One of my work-study jobs was to work at the listening lab to make some money. And I loved listening lab. It had, you know, again, walls and walls and walls of LPs [long plays]. And again, an, an education comes in many ways. And I think one of the most important ways that composer or any musician can educate themselves just to sit down and listen to lots, and lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of music. It's what I encourage my students to do. And so I went systematically through the shelves (laughter)--listening to as many LPs as I could just get my hands on. I'd bring food in with friends. We'd sit there and just listen to everything in there and just--I discovered Elliot Carter, another composers. And this cello sonata was a piece that just grabbed my attention and my heart in a very visceral way. The first movement had this ticking motor from, in the piano over which was this soaring cello melody. And I'd runner, run around the place dancing to it 'cause it had this kind of walking bass. You know, I--I, I loved it, you know. And so, that influenced this cello sonata that I was writing. Another composer I discovered there was a composer named Billy Jim Layton, who later on became head of the music department at SUNY [State University of New York], Stony Brook [University, Stony Brook, New York]--State University of New York in Stony Brook. He wrote this string quartet which had strong jazz influences in the first movement, particularly had this walking bass and the cello and had this incredible abstract, and soaring, and, and compelling violin lick melody (laughter) flying in. And I would run, dance to that, and I would just play that over and over and over again. And those had big influences on my music as well.$$Okay, so, so that was the, the capstone of the undergraduate years--$$Yeah.$$--the cello piece.$I mean when you can have a subscription season of a major symphony orchestra and have black composers only appear on the 20th of January and the month of February, that's a real problem.$$And why those times, please?$$(Laughter) Because the 20th of January is [Reverend Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.]'s birthday, and February is Black History Month. And you know, there are composers who actually have said, "Don't call me in February. There are eleven other months you can play my music," (laughter). "Don't be calling me then." I appreciate that. I mean I, you know, I understand the pain that that comes from and the, the sense of your resentment that, you know, we are pigeonholed, you know, this is your time, know your place. We'll play you then. We'll celebrate your history in this month, and then the rest of the season we'll play all the other real music, you know, which is ridiculous. So, in my class we talk about self-definition, to what extent is black culture quote, unquote defined by the vernacular, defined by popular culture, the legacy of people working in the genre of symphonic music and opera, and how else you want to define concert music, classical music, whatever is vast--dates back centuries. The violinist that was the dedicatee of [Ludwig van] Beethoven's 'Kreutzer Sonata,' George [Augustus] Polgreen Bridgetower was a mulatto. The Chevalier de Saint-Georges [Joseph Boulogne] was court musician to [King] Louis XVI, a violinist and a composer, in his own right a brilliant composer, called the black Mozart, as if it has to be the black Mozart (laughter)--(unclear)--you have to name him something, right. Again more labels and pigeon holes. But the effort to give him legitimacy, right, so it has to be called the black Mozart as opposed to [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart being (laughter) the white Saint-Georges, right. But anyway, I digress, as Jack Paar would say. So this class talks about those kinds of things. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to have living composers and scholars come into the class and discuss their experiences. And we used a book, among other sources, called 'Musical Landscapes in Color[: Conversations with Black American Composers'] by a composer colleague of mine, William [C.] Banfield, which is a series of interviews of musicians of all stripes, from popular jazz through classical, including [HistoryMaker] Herbie Hancock, Patrice Rushen, [HistoryMaker] Olly Wilson, distinguished composer and professor emeritus at University of California, Berkeley [Berkeley, California], [HistoryMaker] T.J. Anderson, and Hale Smith, the late Hale--Hale Smith is still alive, but he's in a coma, a brilliant man, and we need to all give him our prayers and good wishes because he, he is a wonderful resource for us all. He's from Cleveland [Ohio], went to Cleveland Institute of Music [Cleveland, Ohio], and again, stood between jazz, classical, to different areas of music, and worked at the publishing company, and has been a major force in our music and music in general.