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Ernest Bloch. With three children. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103560).

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Bloch, Ernest (24 July 1880–15 July 1959), composer and educator, was born in Geneva, Switzerland, the son of Maurice Bloch, a purveyor of tourist merchandise, and Sophie Brunschwig. Bloch senior, an official of the small Jewish community in Legnau, in the Canton of Aargau, provided his family with an Orthodox environment. Bloch exhibited an early interest in music, and during his teenage years he received training in violin from Albert Goss and Louis Etienne-Reyer and in solfège and composition from Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. He left school at the age of fourteen, shortly after his bar mitzvah. From 1896 to 1899 Bloch studied in Brussels, where his teachers included Eugène Ysaÿe, Franz Schörg, and François Rasse. Bloch’s compositions from this apprenticeship period reveal the influence of the Russian national school, particularly in matters of fluctuating meters, folk-flavored melodies, irregular rhythms, exotic scalar constructions, a propensity for modality, and coloristic scoring. His ...

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Campbell, Lucie E. (1885–03 January 1963), gospel composer and teacher, was born in Duck Hill, Mississippi, the daughter of Burrell Campbell, a railroad worker, and Isabella Wilkerson. Her mother was widowed several months after Lucie’s birth, and the family soon moved from Carroll County to Memphis, the nearest major city. Lucie and her many siblings struggled to survive on their mother’s meager wages, which she earned by washing and ironing clothing. Given the family’s insubstantial income, it could afford a musical education for only one child: Lucie’s older sister Lora. Lucie eventually learned to play piano, however, through her own persistence, a gifted ear for music, and a little help from Lora....

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George W. Chadwick. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-85844).

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Chadwick, George Whitefield (13 November 1854–04 April 1931), composer and music educator, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, the son of Alonzo Calvin Chadwick, an insurance agent, and Hannah Godfrey Fitts. Both his parents were musically inclined. His father had been the president of the Martin Luther Music Association of Boscawen, New Hampshire, and was a sponsor of a singing school, where he had met his wife. Chadwick’s mother died eleven days after he was born. His father remarried and sent Chadwick, still an infant, to live with his grandparents for the next three years. When Chadwick was reunited with his father and stepmother, the family moved downriver to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where Alonzo became an insurance agent and participated in the local choral society, which performed at ...

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Carlos Chávez Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1937. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103962).

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Chávez, Carlos (13 June 1899–02 August 1978), influential Mexican composer/conductor, author, and educator, of Spanish and some Indian descent, was born Carlos Antonio de Padua Chávez y Ramírez in Mexico City, the seventh son of Augustin Chávez, an inventor, and Juvencia Ramírez, a teacher. His mother supported the children after her husband’s death in 1902. Chávez began his musical studies at an early age and studied piano, first with his elder brother Manuel, then with Asunción Parra, and later with composer and pianist Manuel M. Ponce (1910–1914) and pianist and teacher Pedro Luis Ogazón (1915–1920). Chávez credited Ogazón with introducing him to the best classical and Romantic music and with developing his musical taste and technical formation. He received little formal training in composition, concentrating instead on the piano, analysis of musical scores, and orchestration. Chávez’s maternal grandfather was Indian, and from the time Chávez was five or six his family frequently vacationed in the ancient city-state of Tlaxcala, the home of a tribe that opposed the Aztecs. He later visited such diverse Indian centers as Puebla, Jalisco, Nayarit, and Michoacan in pursuit of Indian culture, which proved a significant influence on his early works....

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Coerne, Louis Adolphe (27 February 1870–11 September 1922), composer and college professor of music, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Adolphe M. Coerne and Elizabeth Homan. After an early education in Germany and France, Coerne moved with his family to Boston. Following Coerne’s graduation from the Boston Latin School in 1888, he studied composition, harmony, and counterpoint with ...

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Converse, Frederick Shepherd (05 January 1871–08 June 1940), composer and educator, was born in Newton, Massachusetts, the son of Edmund Winchester Converse, a Boston dry goods merchant, and Charlotte Augusta Shepherd Albree. Educated in the public schools of his hometown, he entered Harvard College in 1889, where he studied with ...

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Cornish, Nellie Centennial (09 July 1876–07 April 1956), pianist and arts educator, was born in Greenwood, Nebraska, the daughter of Nathan Cornish, a businessman, and Jeannette Simpson. The U.S. centennial in 1876 was the source of her middle name. She founded the Cornish School of Music, now Cornish College of the Arts, a pioneer institution in the teaching of dance, music, and theater in the Pacific Northwest....

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Dett, R. Nathaniel (11 October 1882–02 October 1943), composer and educator, was born Robert Nathaniel Dett in Drummondsville (now Niagara Falls), Ontario, Canada, the son of Robert Tue Dett, a musician and music teacher, and Charlotte Johnson, a musician. The Detts were a highly literate and musically active family, especially interested in European concert traditions. For young Dett, the classical traditions formed his musical roots, and he would never lose touch with them....

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Diller, Angela (01 August 1877–30 April 1968), pianist and music educator, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of William A. M. Diller, a church organist and choirmaster, and Mary Abigail Welles. As a child, she played piano by ear; when she was twelve she began studying with Alice Fowler, whom she described as “an inspiring teacher” and with whom she studied until she was seventeen. Soon after that she took her first teaching position at St. John the Baptist School for Girls, a New York boarding school, where some of her pupils were her own age. Diller took students to New York Philharmonic concerts, first educating herself about the works to be played by studying scores borrowed from the public library so that she could discuss the music with her students....

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Farrell, Eileen (13 February 1920–23 March 2002), singer and educator, was born in Willimantic, Connecticut, the daughter of Michael John Farrell and Catherine Kennedy. Both parents had been vaudeville entertainers, but during Eileen's youth Michael worked as a painter and decorator. Eileen showed some aptitude for music at several Catholic grammar schools and then Woonsocket High School in Rhode Island. Her mother, who gave the girl her first voice lessons, suggested, upon Eileen's graduation in 1939, that she go to New York City for professional training with Merle Alcock, formerly of the Metropolitan Opera. Farrell studied with her for five years but claimed that she learned nothing of value and that Alcock improperly sought to take a percentage of her eventual earnings. Intimidated, Farrell twice returned home but was encouraged to persist. In 1940 an audition was arranged with CBS Radio, and suddenly her career was launched....

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Eileen Farrell In costume for her role in "Andrea Chénier" at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, 1962. Photograph by Robert Kradin Associated Press

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Fillmore, John Comfort (04 February 1843–14 August 1898), educator, scholar, and musician, was born near Franklin, Connecticut, the son of John L. Fillmore and Mary Ann Palmer, farmers. Sometime before 1860 his family moved to Ohio, near New Lyme, and from there he entered Oberlin College in 1862. In 1864 he served as a private in Company K of the 150th Ohio Regiment for 100 days, a period marked by ill health that persisted to interrupt his education. Consequently Fillmore withdrew from Oberlin in the winter of 1864–1865. In October 1865 he married Elizabeth Adams Hill, a fellow Oberlin student. They had three children....

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Fischer, Irwin (05 July 1903–07 May 1977), composer, conductor, and educator, was born in Iowa City, Iowa, the son of Christopher Columbus Fischer and Ella Hornung. Fischer’s childhood was spent in a number of Iowa towns, where his father was at various times a farmer, a barber, and a shopkeeper. When he was eleven the family moved to Chicago. After appearing in high school productions of Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas, he decided to become an actor. His father opposed the boy’s going to college but died during his senior year, so Fischer decided to put himself through the University of Chicago. There he majored in theater and appeared in additional productions. He also continued piano study and composed a few short works. This interest in music kept enlarging, and upon his graduation in 1924 with honors (third year Phi Beta Kappa), Fischer enrolled at the American Conservatory of Music, also in Chicago....

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Hanby, Benjamin Russel (22 July 1833–18 March 1867), songwriter and music educator, was born in Rushville, Ohio, the son of the Reverend William Hanby and Ann Miller. He learned music as a child by attending singing schools. The family moved to Westerville, Ohio, around 1848 in part so that the children might attend Otterbein College. Hanby entered Otterbein in 1849, but his studies were seldom full-time, for he also taught school and directed singing schools. In addition he began composing songs, generally of a type promoting social, moral, or religious betterment. In 1856 his immensely popular “Darling Nelly Gray” was published by ...

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Kagen, Sergius (22 August 1908–01 March 1964), pianist, pedagogue, and composer, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of Isaiah Kagen, a newspaperman, and Vera Lipshitz, a writer and educator. At age nine Sergius was sent to study piano with Glazunov at the Petersburg Conservatory. To escape the famine and destruction that accompanied the Russian Revolution, Kagen’s family fled to Berlin in 1921 in a cattle car, a difficult journey of several months’ duration. There Kagen was enrolled at the Hochschule für Musik and studied piano with Leonid Kreutzer. In 1922 the family began to emigrate to the United States, one member at a time. The fifteen-year-old Kagen, already a veteran of historical and personal turmoil, was the last to follow....

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David Mannes Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G401-T-4872-002).

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Mannes, David (16 February 1866–25 April 1959), violinist, conductor, and educator, was born in New York City, the son of Henry Mannes, a merchant, and Nathalia Wittkowsky. Mannes’s parents and elder brother had immigrated to the United States in 1860. With financial help from a cousin, Mannes’s father had opened a clothing store on Seventh Avenue in New York City. Mannes was born in the impoverished family’s home above the store. As a young child Mannes created his first violin from a cigar box, a piece of wood, and a string. His parents, hoping to encourage him, bought him a cheap violin and arranged for his intermittent studies. One of his earliest and most influential teachers was John Douglas, an African-American violinist, who had studied in Dresden with Eduard Rappoldi. Douglas was a talented, European-trained violinist who was never able to secure a chair in a symphony orchestra in the United States; he refused to charge Henry Mannes for David’s lessons. In New York, Mannes also studied violin with August Zeiss, Herman Brandt, concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, and Carl Richter Nicolai, Brandt’s successor as concertmaster of the Philharmonic. As a young adult Mannes traveled to Germany to study with Heinrich de Ahna, second violin of the Joachim Quartet, and Karel Haliř, a violin professor at the Hochschule für Musik. His violin studies culminated in six months in Brussels with celebrated violinist Eugène Ysaÿe....