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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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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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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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Mannes, Clara Damrosch (12 December 1869–16 March 1948), pianist and educator, was born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland), the daughter of Leopold Damrosch, a conductor, composer, and violinist, and Helene von Heimburg, a singer. The family, including three older children and an aunt, emigrated to New York City in 1871, when Leopold accepted the offer of the music directorship of the Arion Society, one of a large number of singing groups active in New York at that time....

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Mason, Lowell (08 January 1792–11 August 1872), music educator and composer, was born in Medfield, Massachusetts, the son of Johnson Mason, a businessman, and Catherine Hartshorn. Mason was educated in Medfield schools and singing schools, where he learned to read music. He took an active interest in music and at age sixteen conducted his church choir. Largely self-taught, he played many instruments and as a teenager led a local band. Nonetheless, he intended to become a businessman and not a musician, as he saw no future for himself in music, which offered little opportunity for a livelihood....

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Mathews, W. S. B. (08 May 1837–01 April 1912), music educator, was born William Smythe Babcock Mathews in London, New Hampshire, the son of Samuel S. Mathews, a Methodist minister, and Elizabeth Stanton Babcock. (His second given name was originally spelled “Smith.”) Encouraged by his mother to study music, Mathews was largely self-educated, a fact that might account for his failure to obtain a permanent teaching position in a college or university. He was broadly educated, however, reading widely in philosophy as well as in music, and his own success in self-education may account for his efforts to establish procedures by which others could become self-educated. In 1857 he married Flora Swaim, with whom he had seven children. In 1910, as an elderly widower, he married his business associate Blanche Dingley....

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Schuman, William Howard (04 August 1910–15 February 1992), composer, educator, and administrator, was born in New York City, the son of Samuel Schuman, an executive of a printing company, and Ray Heilbrunn. He attended the public schools in New York. He took violin lessons as a youngster but showed no special proficiency. In high school he formed a jazz band. He also tried his hand at writing musical shows and popular songs, though he knew almost nothing about composition or musical theory. One of his collaborators, ...

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Seeger, Charles (14 December 1886–07 February 1979), musician and polymath, was born Charles Louis Seeger, Jr., in Mexico City, Mexico, the son of Charles Louis Seeger, a businessman, and Elsie Simmons Adams. The first child of well-to-do parents, Seeger was descended from several generations of New England Yankees. His father was a successful businessman, and the family moved between Mexico City and New York City several times during his precollege years. His schooling was by tutor in Mexico, later at the Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York, run by Unitarians (the family faith), and then Harvard College, where he earned a B.A. in music in 1908....

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Stearns, Marshall Winslow (18 October 1908–18 December 1966), jazz scholar and professor of English, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the son of Harry Ney Stearns and Edith Winslow, occupations unknown. His father bought Stearns a set of drums when he was thirteen. After playing drums, guitar, and saxophone in the Cambridge area, he left aside performance to study at Harvard University (B.A., 1931) and Harvard Law School (1932–1934). Bored with the law, he instead took up medieval literature at Yale University, eventually earning a Ph.D. (1942) and serving a series of appointments on the English faculties of the University of Hawaii (1939–1941), Indiana University (1942–1946), Cornell University (1946–1949), New York University (1950–1951), and Hunter College, where he settled as a professor in 1951. His ...

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Thompson, Oscar (10 October 1887–03 July 1945), music critic, author, and lecturer, was born Oscar Lee Thompson in Crawfordsville, Indiana, one of two surviving sons of Will Henry Thompson, a merchant, and Ida Lee, an amateur musician. Educated in the private Academy of Dramatic Arts near his hometown, Thompson received a certificate in piano and voice and as a young adult intended to pursue a career as a singer. After a few marginally successful engagements on the concert platform in Indiana and Illinois in 1912, he redirected his career toward music criticism after being engaged as a part-time reviewer by a local newspaper. In 1914 he married Janviere Maybin in Tacoma, Washington; they had four children. He continued to write music, drama, and book reviews until 1917, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army....

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Tourjée, Eben (01 June 1834–12 April 1891), music educator, was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, the son of Ebenezer Tourjée, a mill worker, and Angelia Ball. Tourjée was employed as a manual laborer as early as age eight; consequently, his formal education and musical training were limited. About 1850 he became a clerk in a music store in Providence. By 1853 Tourjée had moved to Fall River, Massachusetts, where he opened his own music store and led the music at the Bank Street Methodist Church. From this time until he settled in Boston in 1867, Tourjée was active in Providence, Fall River, Newport, Rhode Island, and East Greenwich, Rhode Island, as a teacher, church musician, editor, and entrepreneur. He began a periodical, the ...

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Verrett, Shirley (31 May 1931–5 Nov. 2010), opera singer, recitalist, and educator, was born in New Orleans, the second of six children of Leon and Elvira Verrett. Her parents had been among the growing number of African Americans who had converted to Seventh-Day Adventism, and the Verrett children were raised in a restrictive religious environment. Verrett’s earliest musical training came from her father, who wanted her to become a concert recitalist in the tradition of ...