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Beck, Johann Heinrich (12 September 1856–26 May 1924), conductor, composer, and violinist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Charles Beck, a businessman, and Rebecca Butler. He was one of five children, all boys, all of whom played the violin. He was educated in Cleveland and spent most of his life there, although he attended the Leipzig Conservatory from 1879 to 1882. He made his acclaimed European debut at the Leipzig Gewandhaus as violinist in his own String Quartet in C Minor. His diploma read in part: “In Theory Mr. Beck possesses highly advanced knowledge, in practical Composition, ...

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Bergmann, Carl (12 April 1821–10 August 1876), conductor, cellist, and composer, was born in Ebersbach, Saxony, the son of middle-class parents. His talent for music manifested itself early, and he was a pupil of Adolph Zimmerman at Zittau as early as 1827 and later studied with the organist-composer Adolph Hesse at Breslau. By 1842 he was playing cello and occasionally conducting the orchestra in Breslau and in these capacities toured central and eastern European cities between 1842 and 1848. His early compositions, written before 1848, apparently included an opera and a symphony....

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Braham, David (1838–11 April 1905), composer, conductor, and violinist, was born near London. His father and brother were musicians, as were two of his sons and four of his nephews. In his teens Braham decided to become a professional harpist but, according to one source, gave up the instrument when a British coach driver informed him that he was welcome aboard but his bulky instrument was not. Shortly thereafter he began studying the violin and became an accomplished performer though he never aspired to a career as a concert soloist. As a youth he played violin in various London music halls....

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Casals, Pablo (29 December 1876–22 October 1973), cellist and conductor, was born Pau Carlos Salvador Defilló de Casals in El Vendrell (Catalonia), Spain, the son of Carlos Casals i Riba, a musician, and Pilar Ursula Defilló i Amiguet. Casals demonstrated his musical gift early, joining his father’s church choir at age five and later studying violin, piano, and organ with his father. He discovered the cello in 1888 and entered the Municipal School of Music in Barcelona. Casals studied cello with José García, his only teacher on the instrument, but even then he was rethinking accepted techniques of cello playing. He was joined in Barcelona by his mother and brother, helping support the family by playing in a café. He graduated in 1893 with highest honors in cello, piano, and composition....

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Cooley, Spade (17 December 1910–23 November 1969), western swing bandleader and fiddler, was born Donnell Clyde Cooley in or near Pack Saddle Creek, Oklahoma, the son of John Cooley and Emma (maiden name unknown). Some sources indicate that he was born on 22 February 1910 in Grand (or Grande), Oklahoma. The family moved in 1914 to Oregon, where at age seven Cooley received his first musical instruction in classical violin, though soon he was applying his musical talents by fiddling at local dances. As one-quarter Cherokee Indian (from his father’s side), Cooley attended Chemawa Indian School, at which he played the cello in the school orchestra. It was also at Chemawa that Cooley acquired his nickname “Spade” during a poker game in which he drew a number of spade flushes....

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Dickerson, Carroll (1895– October 1957), jazz and popular bandleader and violinist, was a . His birthplace, family, and upbringing are unknown. Through the 1920s Dickerson led jazz bands in Chicago, including residencies at the Entertainers’ Café (1921) and Sunset Café (1922–1924), where cornetist George Mitchell...

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Garcia, Jerry (01 August 1942–09 August 1995), rock band leader, guitarist, and singer, was born Jerome John Garcia in San Francisco, California, the son of Joe Garcia, a ballroom jazz musician and bartender, and Ruth (maiden name unknown), a nurse. Garcia was raised in a home filled with Spanish relatives and music. An active boy, he lost the third finger of his right hand in a childhood accident. Although he sang at an early age, he first aspired to become a painter....

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Tiny Grimes, c. 1946-1948. © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB23-0354 DLC).

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Grimes, Tiny (07 July 1916?–04 March 1989), jazz and rhythm-and-blues guitarist and bandleader, was born Lloyd Grimes in Newport News, Virginia. Grimes told interviewer Bob Kenselaar that he was unsure of his birth date, there being no certificate. He told writers Stanley Dance and Arnie Berle that he was born in 1917, but other published sources give 1916 or 1915. Details of his parents are unknown. Grimes took up drums in a Boy Scout marching band. He played regularly at a beach dancehall near Newport News until a storm and subsequent flood destroyed the hall and his drums. Around the seventh grade he dropped out of school to work typical boyhood jobs selling papers and shining shoes. He taught himself to play piano, and while living in Washington, D.C., he became a pianist and singer in a trio called Wynken, Blynken and Nod. The group performed regularly on radio on “ ...

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Hill, Ureli Corelli (1802–02 September 1875), violinist and conductor, was born in Connecticut, the son of music teacher and composer Uri K. Hill and Nancy Hull. Hill was named Ureli after his father and his father’s physician friend, “Eli,” and Corelli after the seventeenth-century Italian violinist. When Hill’s parents separated in 1811, each parent agreed to take one son (another sibling had died earlier). Hill lived with his father in New York City and began studying violin. His brother, ...

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Hupfeld, Charles Frederick (1788–15 July 1864), violinist, conductor, and composer, was born in Germany. The identities of his parents are not known. He was probably related to Bernhard Hupfeld, a composer and violinist trained in Italy, who served as director of music at the University of Marburg. Charles Hupfeld was closely associated with Henry Hupfeld, Bernhard’s eldest son, who was also a violinist. Charles Hupfeld arrived in Philadelphia as an excellent violinist and probably studied the violin in Germany, but no details of his life there are known....

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Johnson, Francis (16 June 1792–06 April 1844), musician, bandleader, and composer, also known as Frank Johnson, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Little is known of his youth and parentage. Most sources cite Martinique as his birthplace, but Stephen Charpié's (1999) work with baptismal records establishes his birth date, birthplace, and status as a free African American. Though skilled at a number of instruments, Johnson seems to have first attained local prominence as a fiddler at dances, parties, and the like; there is some evidence that he played with Matthew “Matt” Black's band in the late 1810s. Johnson also seems to have received some limited instruction during this period from Richard Willis, an Irish immigrant who later directed the West Point military band and who introduced the keyed bugle (also known as a Kent bugle) to the United States....

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Francis Johnson. Courtesy of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania.

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John Kirby [left to right]John Kirby and Buster Bailey, 1946. © William P. Gottlieb; used by permission. William P. Gottlieb Collection, Library of Congress (LC-GLB13-0538 DLC).

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Kirby, John (31 December 1908–14 June 1952), jazz bassist and bandleader, was born in Baltimore. Details about his parents are unknown. Abandoned, Kirby had a horrible childhood in an orphanage; it “left him without social graces, and he lacked formal education.” He sold newspapers, shined shoes, and groomed horses before securing a job as a Pullman porter on the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1924 he came to New York with a trombone, which was immediately stolen. He worked in restaurants to buy a tuba and then performed in Harlem, returning to the railroad when opportunities to play were scarce. He was a member of Bill Brown and his Brownies briefly in 1928 and again from 1929 into early 1930. Having begun to play string bass as well as tuba, he switched between both on Brown’s recording “What Kind of Rhythm Is This?” (1929)....

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Kirk, Andy (28 May 1898–11 December 1992), jazz and popular bandleader and bassist, was born Andrew Dewey Kirk, the son of Charles Kirk and Dellah (maiden name unknown). The family lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, but Kirk may have been born just across the river in Newport, Kentucky; he was unsure. His mother died around 1901, his father disappeared, and he was raised by his mother’s half sister, Mary Banion, a domestic who moved her family to Denver in 1904....

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Serge Koussevitzky. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115913).

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Koussevitzky, Serge (26 July 1874–04 June 1951), double-bass virtuoso and conductor, was born Sergei Aleksandrovich Kusevitskii in Vishny-Volotchok, Tver (now Kalinin), Russia, the son of Alexander Koussevitzkii and Anna Barabeitchik. Both of his parents were musical; his mother was a pianist and his father, a ...

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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....