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See Andrews Sisters

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Armstrong, Lil (03 February 1898–27 August 1971), jazz pianist, composer, and singer, was born Lillian Hardin in Memphis, Tennessee. Nothing is known of her father, but her mother, Dempsey Hardin, was a strict, churchgoing woman who disapproved of blues music. At age six, Lil began playing organ at home, and at eight she started studying piano. In 1914 she enrolled in the music school of Fisk University in Nashville, taking academic courses and studying piano and music theory. After earning her diploma, around 1917 she joined her mother in Chicago, where she found work demonstrating songs in Jones’ Music Store. Prompted by her employer, in 1918 Hardin auditioned for clarinetist Lawrence Duhé’s band at Bill Bottoms’s Dreamland Ballroom, where she played with cornetist “Sugar Johnny” Smith, trombonist Roy Palmer, and other New Orleans musicians. When Smith became too ill to continue working, he was replaced by first ...

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Bachauer, Gina (21 May 1913–22 August 1976), pianist, was born in Athens, Greece, the daughter of Jean Bachauer, a foreign-car dealer of Austrian descent, and Ersilia Marostica, of Italian descent. Bachauer’s father’s business was profitable, and she enjoyed a comfortable childhood. Her career may have been determined as early as Christmas of 1917, when she received a toy piano as a present. Young Gina impressed family and friends with her ability to play the tiny instrument; consequently, her mother enrolled her at the Athens Royal Conservatory....

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Batchelder, Alice Coleman (1874–17 June 1948), arts administrator and pianist, was born in Beatrice, Nebraska, the daughter of Theodore Coleman, a newspaperman, and Jennie (maiden name unknown). (She was to acquire the name Batchelder through marriage when she was thirty-nine.) During her childhood her family moved from Beatrice to Washington, D.C., then to Santa Clara, California, and finally to Pasadena, California, where her father served as city editor of the ...

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Beach, Amy (05 September 1867–27 December 1944), composer and pianist, was born Amy Marcy Cheney in West Henniker, New Hampshire, the daughter of Charles Abbott Cheney, a paper miller and, later, paper stock salesman, and Clara Imogene Marcy, an amateur pianist and singer, both from colonial New England families. In 1871 the family moved to Chelsea, Massachusetts, near Boston, and in 1875 to Boston proper. An only child, Beach was an infant prodigy with perfect pitch and total recall, an instinctive gift for the piano that showed itself at age four, and an untaught sense of harmony and form. Her general education began at home with her mother (1873–1879) and ended with three years (c. 1879–1882) at a Boston private school. Her piano studies also began in 1873 with her mother. She next studied with W. Ernst Perabo (1875–1882) and finally with ...

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Boas, Franziska Marie (08 January 1902–22 December 1988), dancer, percussionist, and dance teacher and therapist, was born in New York City, the daughter and youngest of six children of noted anthropologist Franz Boas and Marie Krackowizer. Educated in public schools in Englewood, New Jersey, Boas received a B.A. degree in zoology and chemistry from Barnard College in 1923. Her undergraduate studies also included dance with Bird Larson, with whom she continued to study from time to time after graduation. Other formal study included drawing and sculpture with ...

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Bonds, Margaret Jeannette Allison (03 March 1913–26 April 1972), composer, pianist, and teacher, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Dr. Monroe Alpheus Majors, a pioneering black physician, medical researcher, and author, and Estelle C. Bonds, a music teacher and organist. Although legally born Majors, she used her mother’s maiden name (Bonds) in her youth and throughout her professional life. She grew up in intellectually stimulating surroundings; her mother held Sunday afternoon salons at which young black Chicago musicians, writers, and artists gathered and where visiting musicians and artists were always welcomed. Bonds first displayed musical talent in her piano composition “Marquette Street Blues,” written at the age of five. She then began studying piano with local teachers and by the time she was in high school was taking lessons in piano and composition with ...

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Brown, Gertrude Foster (29 July 1867–01 March 1956), suffragist, concert pianist, and music educator, was born Gertrude Marion Foster in Morrison, Illinois, the daughter of Lydia Ann (or Anna) Drake and William Charles Foster, an agricultural commodities trader and real estate investor. At the early age of five, Gertrude displayed a talent for music by teaching herself to play short piano pieces that she had heard her older brother practicing. When she was twelve years old, she was hired as the organist for the local Presbyterian church, the first organist for that church ever to be paid a salary....

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Bumgarner, Samantha (30 October 1878–24 December 1960), folksinger and instrumentalist, was born Samantha Biddix in Jackson County, North Carolina, the daughter of Has Biddix, a well-known local fiddler. (Her mother’s name is unknown.) She grew up in the hilly area southeast of Asheville, a region rich in fiddle and banjo music and in old ballads. Her father could, she recalled, make his fiddle “croon like a lovin’ woman,” but at first he would not let his daughter touch his instrument. She persisted and became adept at the fiddle; she also, like many mountain musicians of the time, developed skill on the banjo. Her first banjo was “a gourd with cat’s hide stretched over it and strings made of cotton thread and waxed with beeswax,” but by the time she was fifteen she had learned to play it so well that her father bought her a “real” store-made banjo. She began to travel with her father as he went around the region playing for dances and fiddling contests. (Before the turn of the century, the guitar was rare in the Appalachians, and a mountain “string band” often consisted of a fiddle and banjo.)...

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Carlisle, Una Mae (26 December 1915–07 November 1956), jazz pianist, singer, and composer of popular songs, was born in Zanesville, Ohio, the daughter of Edward E. Carlisle and Mellie (maiden name unknown), a schoolteacher. (The assertion that she was born in Xenia, Ohio, published in many references, does not conform to family records.) With piano training from her mother, she sang and played in public at age three in Chillicothe, Ohio. After participating in musical activities at church and school in Jamestown and Xenia, Ohio, she began performing regularly on radio station WHIO in Dayton while still a youngster. In 1932 she came to the notice of ...

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Teresa Carreño. Modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative, c. 1862 (printed later), by Mathew Brady Studio. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

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Carreño, Teresa (22 December 1853–12 June 1917), pianist, was born in Caracas, Venezuela, the daughter of Manuel Antonio Carreño, a Venezuelan minister of finance, and Corinda García de Sena y Toro. Although the young Carreño exhibited musical talent as a toddler, she did not begin studying the piano with her father, a talented amateur, until she was six. Manuel Antonio devised clever technical and musical exercises for his precocious daughter, which included improvisation, harmony, and variation techniques. His educational methods created a foundation of meticulous work habits from which Carreño would never stray....

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Carter, Maybelle (10 May 1909–23 October 1978), country-music singer and instrumentalist and matriarch of a music performing dynasty, known as Mother Maybelle, was born Maybelle Addington around Nicklesville, Scott County, Virginia, a few miles north of the Tennessee-Virginia state line. Both of her parents, Hugh Jack Addington and Margaret Elizabeth Kilgore, had deep roots in rural Scott County. Maybelle was one of ten children, many of whom grew up playing various stringed instruments. Maybelle’s mother was a banjo player, and when Maybelle was still a child she joined in as the family band played for local square dances. She played the autoharp as well, but her real fascination came when she was about twelve and one of her older brothers gave her a guitar. “I started trying different ways to pick it,” she later recalled, “and came up with my own style, because there weren’t many guitar pickers around.” The guitar was just becoming popular in the mountains, and the style Maybelle came up with—what would become known as the “Carter lick” or “thumb-brush” technique—allowed the thumb to pick the melody on the bass strings while the fingers keep rhythm downstroking the higher strings. This permitted the guitarist to pick a melody and keep rhythm at the same time, and eventually it became the most copied guitar style in country music....

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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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Cousin Emmy (1903–11 April 1980), country singer, banjoist, and comedian, was born Cynthia May Carver near Lamb, a hamlet in south central Kentucky near Glasgow. The youngest of eight children, she grew up in a log cabin while her father tried to make ends meet working as a sharecropper raising tobacco. Her family was musical, and she learned old English and Scottish ballads from her great-grandmother. As she grew up, she became proficient on a number of instruments, ranging from the orthodox (fiddle, banjo, guitar) to the unusual (the rubber glove, the Jew’s harp, the hand saw). A natural “show off” and entertainer, by around 1915 she was leaving the farm and trying her hand at entertaining in nearby towns. Having no real interest in school, she taught herself to read by studying mail order catalogues....

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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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Fay, Amy Muller (21 May 1844–28 February 1928), pianist and musical activist, was born in Bayou Goula, Louisiana, the child of Charlotte Emily Hopkins and Charles Fay, both descended from prominent New England families. (She was christened Amelia but was known as Amy.) Her father, an Episcopalian minister, was the son of a leading judge, while her mother, the daughter of the first Episcopal bishop of Vermont, was herself a woman of great intellect. Amy grew up in St. Albans, Vermont, where her father opened a private school. She received her first musical instruction from her mother. After her mother’s death when Amy was twelve, she continued her music study with her older sisters, except for the summer of 1861, when she studied for a few weeks with Jan Pychowski at the normal school in Geneseo, New York....

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Gryce, Gigi (28 November 1927–17 March 1983), jazz saxophonist, flutist, and composer, was born in Pensacola, Florida, and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. Gryce was the product of a highly musical family: his brother and four sisters all were classically trained on a variety of instruments. In his youth, Gryce attended music school in Hartford, developing his skills on flute, alto saxophone, clarinet, and piano. In 1946 he began performing in and around Hartford, both as a sideman and as the leader of his own 23-piece group. In 1948 Gryce moved to Boston to attend the Boston Conservatory, where he studied composition and instrumentation with Daniel Pinkham and Alan Hovaness. In 1952 he won a Fulbright scholarship to study music in Paris, where he continued his instruction in composition with the famed composer Arthur Honegger....

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Harris, Johana (31 December 1912–05 June 1995), pianist, composer, and teacher, was born Beula Aleta Duffey in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the daughter of Claude Duffey, a grocery supplier, and Laura Coughlan. Before she was two, Harris climbed up on the parlor piano stool to play music she had heard the Royal Canadian Mounties Band play on Parliament Hill for the changing of the guard. Her mother, afflicted by familial deafness, couldn’t hear her playing exactly what the band had played, but she noticed the enchanted spectators watching her dance on the bandstand; consequently, she arranged Harris’s debut at the age of four as a professional dancer....