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Childers, Lulu Vere (28 February 1870–06 March 1946), founder and director of the School of Music at Howard University and singer, was born in Dryridge, Kentucky, the daughter of former slaves Alexander Childers and Eliza Butler. She studied voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and in 1896 was awarded a diploma that was replaced by a bachelor’s degree in 1906 when the conservatory began granting degrees. The Oberlin Conservatory chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national honor society, elected her a member in 1927. She studied voice further with Sydney Lloyd Wrightson at the Washington Conservatory of Music, with William Shakespeare, and with Oscar Devries at Chicago Musical College....

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Damrosch, Leopold (22 October 1832–15 February 1885), musician and conductor, was born in Posen, Prussia (now Poznań, Poland), the son of Heinrich Damrosch. Neither his father’s occupation nor his mother’s name is known. Like many middle-class Germans of the nineteenth century, Damrosch grew up in a music-loving family and received thorough musical training as part of his general education. Musical activity, however, was valued more as an avocation than as a profession, so his father objected when Damrosch expressed a desire to pursue music professionally. Damrosch reluctantly yielded to family pressures and halted his music studies. He completed Gymnasium training, embarked briefly on legal studies, and ultimately switched to medicine, completing a medical degree in 1854. Music continued to beckon, however, and within a year of earning his medical degree Damrosch left medicine for the violin. Consequently, the rift with his parents widened. Indeed, when Damrosch’s famous son ...

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Goldkette, Jean (18 May 1893–24 March 1962), dance bandleader, businessman, and classical pianist, was born in Patras, Greece, the son of Angelina Goldkette, an actress. It is not known who Jean's father was. The Goldkette family was a troupe of entertainers that traveled throughout Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Angelina met and married John Poliakoff, a journalist, in Moscow in 1903. Raised in Greece and Russia, Jean studied classical piano from an early age, and he attended the Moscow Conservatory of Music. He moved to Chicago in 1910, when he was 17, to live with George Goldkette, an uncle. His mother and stepfather moved to the United States in 1919....

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Jean Goldkette. With his orchestra. Courtesy of the Red Hot Jazz Archive.

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Hewitt, James ( June 1770–02 August 1827), conductor, composer, and publisher, was born in Dartmoor, England, the son of John Hewitt, a captain in the British navy. (His mother’s name is unknown.) Details of his childhood are sketchy, but sources indicate that he occupied 12 Hyde Street in the Bloomsbury section of London during 1791–1792. Although it is impossible to verify his family’s claim that Hewitt was leader of the King’s Band of Musick, it is known that around this time he was a member of the orchestra at Astley’s Amphitheatre in London, one of the forerunners of the modern circus. In 1790 Hewitt married Louisa Lamb; they had one child, but both mother and child died shortly after the baby’s birth....

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Hall Johnson Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1947. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-108272).

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Johnson, Hall (12 March 1888–30 April 1970), composer, arranger, and choral conductor, was born Francis Hall Johnson in Athens, Georgia, the son of William Decker Johnson, an AME minister, and Alice (maiden name unknown). Music was an important part of Hall Johnson’s childhood. He heard the singing of his grandmother and other former slaves as they sang the old spirituals in his father’s Methodist church. This grounding in the original performance of Negro spirituals was to represent a significant influence on his later life. Johnson, exhibiting an early interest in music, received solfeggio lessons from his father and piano lessons from an older sister. As a teenager he developed an interest in the violin and taught himself to play....

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Maretzek, Max (28 June 1821–14 May 1897), opera impresario, conductor, and composer, was born Maximilian Mareczek in Brünn, Moravia (now Brno, Czechoslovakia). His formal education emphasized literature and the classics; he was also instructed on the piano and pursued general music studies. He enrolled at the University of Vienna at the age of seventeen, first to study medicine, then law (both professions were acceptable to his parents). He discarded both, however, and with the encouragement of the Austrian music historian and teacher Joseph Fischof turned his attention to music, his first love. His major field of concentration was composition, which he studied with the composer and conductor Ignaz Xaver Ritter von Seyfried. These studies resulted in his first major work, the opera ...

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Neuendorff, Adolph Heinrich Anton Magnus (13 June 1843–04 December 1897), conductor, composer, and administrator, was born in Hamburg, Germany. He came to the United States with his parents (names unknown) in 1854 in the first wave of German immigrants. The family settled in New York, where his father was employed as a bookkeeper. Neuendorff studied violin with George Matzka, a violist in the New York Philharmonic and its emergency conductor in 1876, and with Joseph Weinlich. His principal piano teacher was Gustav Schilling, who also taught him composition and theory. Schilling was noted for writing a six-volume encyclopedia of music, the ...

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Petrides, Frédérique (26 September 1903–12 January 1983), conductor, violinist, and writer about women in music, was born Frédérica Jeanne Elisabeth Petronille Mayer in Antwerp, Belgium, the daughter of Joseph Mayer, an aristocratic businessman, and Seraphine Marie Christine Sebrechts, a concert pianist, teacher, composer, and later photographer....

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Wiggs, Johnny (25 July 1899–09 October 1977), jazz cornetist, bandleader, and promoter, was born John Wigginton Hyman in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of a Mr. Hyman (given name unknown) and Alice (maiden name unknown). Both of Wiggs’s parents sang, and his mother played piano. He attended LaSalle school. He started to play the mandolin in 1907, studying from an older cousin until he discovered that he could play anything he wanted by ear and quit taking lessons. In 1908 he heard a bottle man who “had a New Year’s Eve noisemaking horn that had a brass reed and a wooden mouthpiece. … That man blew … the dirtiest blues sounds I have ever heard. Those sounds got into my ear and stayed there,” he later told writer George W. Kay. Influenced by this experience, he bought a cornet at age ten....