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Toni-Marie Montgomery

Pianist and music professor Toni-Marie Montgomery (1956- ) was born to Hattie Drayton in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She started piano lessons at the age of six, and began performing on the piano at age nine. In 1971, Montgomery’s mother used her hard-earned savings to buy her a Steinway grand piano. Montgomery attended the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts, graduating with her B.Mus. degree in 1980. Only a year later, in 1981, she received her M.Mus. degree from the University of Michigan. Montgomery went on to earn her D.M.A. degree in piano chamber music within three years, becoming only the second person to receive that degree from the University of Michigan.

Montgomery became artistic director and assistant director of the School of Music at Western Michigan University. She then moved to Connecticut to serve as assistant dean for academic programs at the University of Connecticut’s School of Fine Arts. While teaching there, Montgomery participated in the founding of the Black Music Repertory Ensemble at Columbia College in Chicago. The Ensemble was founded in 1987 as an outgrowth of the Columbia College Center for Black Music Research. Montgomery left Connecticut in 1990 to become a professor at Arizona State University. During her ten year tenure, she served as associate dean in the College of Fine Arts and Director of the School of Music. In 2000, the University of Kansas School of the Fine Arts hired Montgomery as its first African American academic dean. When she left in 2003, the university inducted her into its Women’s Hall of Fame. Montgomery was then hired at Northwestern University, becoming the first African American and first female dean of the Bienen School of Music.

Montgomery is an active musical performer. She has travelled around the world to perform in countries such as Austria, Brazil, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. In 1994, Montgomery and the Black Music Repertory Ensemble recorded an NPR series entitled “African American Music Tree.” She has also appeared with the group on the “Today Show” and CNN. In 2003, Montgomery collaborated with cellist Anthony Elliott to release a CD entitled Music for Cello and Piano by African American Composers.

Toni-Marie Montgomery was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 26, 2010.

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Interview Date


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University of Michigan

University of the Arts

Merion Mercy Academy

Most Precious Blood of Our Lord School

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Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

San Diego, California

Favorite Quote

That's Ridiculous

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Interview Description
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Favorite Food

Ice Cream (Chocolate)

Short Description

Music professor and pianist Toni-Marie Montgomery (1956 - ) was the first African American and first female dean of Northwestern University Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music.


Western Michigan University Bullock Performance Institute

University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts

Arizona State University Katherine K. Herberger College of the Arts

University of Kansas School of Fine Arts

Northwestern University Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Toni-Marie Montgomery's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Toni-Marie Montgomery lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes her mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about her father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes her mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Toni-Marie Montgomery remembers her early neighborhoods

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Toni-Marie Montgomery remembers her piano lessons

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Toni-Marie Montgomery recalls her early exposure to music

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Toni-Marie Montgomery remembers Amherst Summer Music Center in Raymond, Maine

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about Philadelphia music

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes Most Precious Blood of Our Lord School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes the Main Line region of Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Toni-Marie Montgomery remembers Merion Mercy Academy in Merion Station, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes her early aspirations to become a concert pianist

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about piano competitions

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes the differences between classical and jazz piano

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about her favorite classical music

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Toni-Marie Montgomery remembers the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Toni-Marie Montgomery recalls studying music at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Toni-Marie Montgomery remembers a symposium on black composers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about African Americans in classical music

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes the state of professional musicianship

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about the black aesthetic in classical music

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes the Black Music Repertory Ensemble

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Toni-Marie Montgomery recalls her early higher education positions

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizone

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Toni-Marie Montgomery remembers performing with the Black Music Repertory Ensemble

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Toni-Marie Montgomery recalls moving to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about Kansas City

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about the differences between visual artists and musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes her tenure at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes her Steinway and Sons piano

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Toni-Marie Montgomery recalls her decision to work at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about marching bands

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Toni-Marie Montgomery recalls eliminating Northwestern University's organ program

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Toni-Marie Montgomery remembers finding a new jazz program director

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes her initiatives at the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about minority enrollment in music schools

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about the emergence of hip hop education

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Toni-Marie Montgomery recalls her efforts in creating community interest in classical music

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes her hopes for the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about her musical interests

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Toni-Marie Montgomery reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Toni-Marie Montgomery reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Toni-Marie Montgomery describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Toni-Marie Montgomery narrates her photographs







Toni-Marie Montgomery talks about Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizone
Toni-Marie Montgomery remembers finding a new jazz program director
Moved to Arizona State University in Tempe [Arizona], T-E-M-P-E, right outside of Phoenix [Arizona]. And I was hired as an assistant dean in the college of fine arts [Katherine K. Herberger College of the Arts; Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts], was quickly promoted within weeks, because the associate dean was moved up. So, I was promoted to associate dean. And so, I stayed in the role for six years. I was also an untenured faculty member, and got tenure at the end of the sixth year, as is custom. And then, the last four years that I was there I was director, School of Music.$$Okay, now what--well any--well, what, what are the highlights, I guess, of what, you know, of this position at, at Arizona State, it's seems like a real--?$$Well, it's longest that I stayed anywhere 'cause to, up 'til that time I was moving every two years. It was because Arizona State was such a great, I mean, a big school. There were at that time, I think close to forty thousand students; there're more now. So, because of the size of university I was able to just get experience in general education, for instance, the math, science classes that every student takes. I learned a lot just about being an administrator. I had--I think of mentors in positive and negative ways, and the mentor that I had there was a negative one, the one who was dean and so I learned a lot of things about what not to do as dean and things that really should be encouraged. I made connections with other associate deans on campus, and in fact we formed an associate dean and assistant deans group. So, all of the assistant and associate deans on campus and we were then recognized by central administration, the provost and president [Lattie F. Coor], received funding and training. I kept in contact with many of those people, you know, and one is actually a college university president, now. So, I think just I garnered a lot of administrative experience from being at a large research university like that. The last four years as being director school of music, I gained budgetary experience, supervisory experience because we had sixty-three full time faculty members. I don't know the number of staff we had. There were seven hundred students enrolled. And the school, for a state assisted program, I mean, it's considered say one of the top twenty music programs in the United States. So, got a lot of experience that way, became known among--there's a fine arts deans group, but there's also National Association of Schools of Music. That's an accrediting body, there's over six hundred members of that. So, I've been known and recognized, you know, and in those two fields.$$Okay, any outstanding students that, that you, you can remember or, or other faculty members that--?$$As far as students, no. No one that again that I would say, "Oh they've made it big time," or even, you know, part time. People who then have gone on to jobs in higher ed [higher education] who are, you know, professors. As far as faculty members, many of them were still there at ASU, have moved on to other institutions.$Another difficult decision which, you know, I landed on top was with our jazz program. So, the director of our jazz program [Don Owens] decided--he told me in December that he was gonna retire at the end of the year. And I was just amazed, because in order to have a faculty search the person announces the year before that they're going to leave, and then, you put together a search committee in the fall. And so, it usually takes from, say if they start working in October then it will be the winter, March or so, when you have finally have candidates on campus. So, there was not enough time to have a, a search for his position. We had an interim person. I brought in consultants whom I know from good music programs, jazz programs, to look at our program saying what was necessary, and then we did search. I turned down recommendations from the search committee of people who, whom they would like to have as director. I didn't see that any of those people were gonna change the direction of our program. It was just okay; it wasn't great. We weren't known for jazz. And so, I wasn't willing to make an appointment of someone who then was just, we were gonna have an average program. Why would we invest, you know, hundreds, thousands, millions of dollars, into a program that was just gonna be average? So, there had been an outcry because we're so close to Chicago [Illinois], that people were saying that they didn't believe that--they thought I was ending the program. I wasn't ending the program; I just was waiting. And so they were saying that there are tons of jazz musician in Chicago and certainly she could find someone. That's true. There are tons of jazz musicians, but jazz musicians who have the credibility and experience of working in a music school where pri- predominantly you're gonna have classical musicians. So, you had to have your own respect, level of respect and recognition that then was gonna compare with some of these other faculty who are members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. You can't come in, 'cause jazz for the most part has been a second class citizen in our music schools. I remember being at KU, University of Kansas [Lawrence, Kansas], and graduates saying to me, "We weren't allowed to play jazz in our school." Well, that wasn't unique to the University of Kansas. Every music school if you were caught playing jazz you could be suspended. It just, you know, was considered low brow, and, you know, was certainly wasn't a elitist like classical music is. So, I wouldn't want anybody to come in with one arm tied behind them, because they didn't have the reputation or performance ability as some of these other faculty. So, we were able after several years of hiring Victor Goines who had been the first director of the jazz program at Juilliard [The Juilliard School, New York, New York], G-O-I-N-E-S. And he plays with Wynton Marsalis in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. And people who had no interest in jazz are coming to jazz concerts. He's spoken to alumni groups, he's just really, he's just a wonderful ambassador. So, the program is strong. We got a major gift from a family foundation for his jazz program, so we're doing well.$$Okay, yeah, yeah, I've--I constantly read good things about the jazz program.$$Yeah.