(b Philadelphia, PA, July 19, 1843; d Philadelphia, PA, 1918). American pianist, singer, educator, and composer. He studied music with his father Thomas à Becket Sr. (b 17 March 1808; d 6 Jan 1890) and in Philadelphia public schools. The father, a music teacher, actor and composer, wrote Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean. In 1855 Thomas à Becket Jr. performed at the Walnut Street Theatre in a work written by his father. He developed into one of the finest, most sought after accompanists in the city, joining with leading artists and singing groups. Member and president of the Mendelssohn Club, he sang in a series of 35 light operas produced at the Amateur Drawing Room (1868–72) and accompanied the Orpheus Club (1877–98). An important educator, from 1873 until he died à Becket taught and played the organ at Girard College, a residential school for orphaned boys. À Becket became a member of a group of professional musicians who evaluated music teaching methods in the Philadelphia Public Schools. À Becket family archives at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts include diaries (...
Martha Furman Schleifer
(b El Espinar, nr Segovia, c1530; d Mexico City, between 17 March and May 19, 1570). Spanish composer, active in Mexico. He served as a choirboy at Segovia Cathedral from 1542 to 1549, where he was taught by Gerónimo de Espinar (who later taught Victoria at Avila) and from 1544 by the maestro de capilla there, Bartolomé de Olaso (d 1567). He was employed at Salamanca University by Matheo Arévalo Sedeño, a rich nobleman, who later acted as his sponsor at Mexico City; he became a cathedral singer there on 16 October 1554 and, after being ordained, was appointed maestro de capilla on 2 January 1556. For the commemoration services for Charles V held in Mexico City on 29 November 1559 he composed an alternatim psalm setting in four parts. His several ‘motetes, villancicos y chanzonetas’ composed for Corpus Christi and Christmas (many to texts by Juan Bautista Corvera) earned the approval of the Archbishop Alonso de Montúfar, who had him promoted from prebendary to canon on ...
[Stephen Valentine Patrick William]
(b New York, NY, Dec 16, 1921; d Encino, CA, Oct 30, 2000). American composer, radio and television personality, pianist, singer, and comedian. The son of Belle Montrose and Billy Allen, both of whom worked in vaudeville, he moved from place to place as a child, attending many schools for short periods of time. He played piano from an early age, although his musical training was mainly informal. He began a professional career in Los Angeles as a disc jockey on radio during the 1940s, then turned to television in the 1950s; he established himself as a comedian, and often played the piano during his shows, improvising jazz and singing his own songs. Among the musicians who appeared with him regularly was the vibraphonist Terry Gibbs. Allen’s most popular television program was “The Tonight Show,” which he began broadcasting locally in New York in 1953, subsequently leading it to nationwide success the following year. Allen performed the title role in the film ...
Horace Clarence Boyer
(b McCormick, SC, Sept 25, 1921; d Philadelphia, PA, July 30, 2008). American gospel singer, pianist, and composer. She moved to Philadelphia at an early age and sang and played at a local Church of God in Christ. In 1942 she joined a female quartet, the Spiritual Echoes, and served as their pianist for two years, leaving the group in 1944 to organize the Angelic Gospel Singers with her sister Josephine McDowell and two friends, Lucille Shird and Ella Mae Norris. Their first recording, “Touch Me, Lord Jesus” (1950), sold 500,000 copies in less than six months. Her most famous composition is “My Sweet Home” (1960). The incidental harmony of their rural singing style and Allison’s sliding technique appealed to a large number of supporters who otherwise found the gospel music of the period controlled and calculated. The group traveled and recorded with the Dixie Hummingbirds during the 1950s. Allison toured, recorded, and performed gospel music for over seven decades....
Harry B. Soria
(b Honolulu, HI, Nov 28, 1897; d Honolulu, HI, Oct 9, 1985). Hawaiian singer, musician, composer, and bandleader. Almeida lost his eyesight completely by age ten, and left school after the sixth grade. His father returned to Portugal, and his Hawaiian mother and adoptive Hawaiian father nurtured him, immersing him in the music and culture of the rural community. At age 15, Almeida formed his first musical group, the Waianae Star Glee Club, and soon achieved local fame as “John C. Almeida, Hawaii’s Blind Musician.” Eventually, he replaced his birth middle name of Celestino, with the name of his adoptive father, Kameaaloha, and is remembered today as John Kameaaloha Almeida.
Almeida could not read or write, but shared the poetry of over 200 Hawaiian language compositions, earning him the title of “the Dean of Hawaiian Music.” Almeida also popularized numerous other Hawaiian compositions from the 19th century. Among his most famous recordings are “Ku’u Ipo Pua Rose,” “’A ’Oia,” “Gorgeous Hula,” “Holoholo Ka’a,” “Noho Paipai,” “Kiss Me Love,” “Roselani Blossoms,” and his radio theme song, “’O Ko’u Aloha Ia ’Oe.” Over his 70-year career, Almeida mastered the mandolin, ukulele, guitar, steel guitar, violin, banjo, bass, saxophone, and piano. Almeida was a prolific recordings artist on numerous labels, and a successful radio host on several Hawaii stations. He served as mentor to numerous protégés, including Bill Ali’iloa Lincoln, Joe Keawe, Billy Hew Len, Genoa Keawe, and Almeida’s adopted son, Pua Almeida....
revised by Luis Merino
(b Santiago, Sept 2, 1911; d Santiago, Aug 2, 1954). Chilean composer and pianist. He studied with Allende for composition and Renard for the piano at the Santiago National Conservatory (1923–35), where he then held appointments as coach at the opera department (1935), assistant professor of the piano (1937), professor of analysis (1940), and director (1945). At the same time he taught at the Liceo Manuel de Salas in Santiago. He was secretary-general to the Instituto de Extensión Musical (from 1941), a founder-director of the Escuela Moderna de Música, Santiago (1940), and a member of various arts societies. In 1943 he went to the USA as a guest of the Institute of International Education and in 1953 he was in Europe for the performance of his Wind Sextet at the ISCM Festival. His early compositions show the influences of French music and Chilean folklore; from the late 1940s his work became more Expressionist and abstract....
Roxanne R. Reed
(b Anguilla, MS, March 21, 1919; d Hazel Crest, IL, 15 June, 1995). American gospel director, singer, composer, and publisher. Anderson established a career forming and training gospel groups in Chicago. His formative years were spent as one of the original Roberta Martin Singers, one of the premiere gospel groups of the 1930s and 1940s. He left briefly, between 1939 and 1941, to form the first of his many ensembles, the Knowles and Anderson Singers with R.L. Knowles. He rejoined Martin, but ultimately resigned because of the travel demands. In 1947 he formed Robert Anderson and his Gospel Caravan, but after several members left in 1952, he formed a new set of singers that recorded and performed under the name the Robert Anderson Singers through the mid-1950s. Throughout his career, Anderson recorded on a multitude of labels including Miracle and United with Robert Anderson and the Caravans; and later with the Robert Anderson Singers, on Apollo. Anderson wrote, and often sang lead on, many of the songs his groups performed, including “Why Should I Worry” (...
(b Memphis, TN, Feb 3, 1898; d Chicago, IL, Aug 27, 1971). American jazz pianist, singer, bandleader, and composer. She studied keyboard privately from an early age and had hopes of becoming a concert pianist. While she was enrolled at Fisk University, her mother and stepfather moved to Chicago, where in 1917 she took a job as a sheet music demonstrator, which led to her joining the Original Creole Jazz Band as its pianist. It was her first job playing jazz and she decided not to return to Fisk. She subsequently worked with several bands, including King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, with which she performed in San Francisco in 1921 and made her recording debut in 1923. By this time the band included louis Armstrong, whom she married in 1924. Armstrong’s place in jazz history was assured by her participation on Oliver’s Gennett recordings and Louis’ Hot Five sessions for Okeh. She played an important role in Louis’ move into a brighter spotlight before their separation in ...
(b Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb 9, 1978). American Brazilian composer, arranger, pianist, and vocalist. Clarice Assad is a member of one of Brazil’s most acclaimed musical families. Daughter of guitarist and composer Sergio Assad, and niece of Odair and Badi Assad, she began performing with her family when she was seven years old. Assad skillfully traverses the worlds of jazz and classical music in her performances and compositions. As a composer and arranger, she has written commissioned works and arrangements for violin, symphony orchestra, string quartets, and guitar quartets. She has also written original compositions for the ballet Step to Grace by Lou Fancher and the play The Anatomy Lesson by Carlus Mathus. Some of her notable compositions include Pole to Pole, O Curupira, Bluezilian, and Ratchenitsa. As a pianist, she performs her own compositions and also arranges popular Brazilian songs and jazz standards. As a vocalist, Assad sings in Portuguese, French, Italian, and English, and is known for her precise intonation, even when performing improvised scatting....
[Lucas, Lemuel Eugene]
(b Gainesville, TX, June 24, 1900; d Palm Springs, CA, Jan 24, 1972). American singer, composer, and pianist. He received his stage name from his stepfather. He began his career by joining the circus at the age of 15 and soon thereafter reached New Orleans where he played piano in parlor houses. After military service in World War I, he met Roy Bergere, with whom he subsequently toured in a vaudeville duo. Austin began writing songs and moved on to work for Mills Music in New York as a demo singer. After he made his first recording for Victor Records (1924), his crooning style, influenced by African American work songs and cowboy singers, came to the attention of the producer Nat Shilkret, who teamed him with Aileen Stanley for a duet, “When my Sugar Walks down the Street” (Vic., 1925). Within months Austin became a star in his own right with hit songs such as “Ain’t she Sweet” and “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue,” and continued this streak throughout the 1920s with “My Blue Heaven” and “Girl of My Dreams,” among others. Austin then started his own music company, recorded with Fats Waller, and performed extensively on radio and in concert. In the early 1930s he also appeared in several Hollywood films as a singing cowboy. His singing style soon became outdated, and he began other ventures, including starting nightclubs in New Orleans, Hollywood, and Las Vegas, as well as traveling shows. He revived his singing career in the 1950s, when he appeared on television and in nightclubs. Austin composed or copyrighted 85 songs. His last appearance was at a New Year’s Eve concert in Miami in ...
Laurie J. Sampsel
(b Milton, MA, Feb 18, 1760; d French Mills, NY, Nov 23, 1813). American composer, singing master, singer, and tunebook compiler. Babcock lived most of his life in Watertown, MA, where he worked as a hatter. As a teenager he fought in the Revolutionary War, and he died while enlisted in the Army during the War of 1812. He was active primarily as a psalmodist during the period from 1790 to 1810. Babcock was the choir leader at the Watertown Congregational church, sang at and composed music for town events, and taught singing schools there in 1798 and 1804. He may also have been an itinerant singing master in the Boston area. Babcock composed 75 extant pieces, including anthems, set pieces, fuging tunes, psalm, and hymn tunes. Most of his music was first published in his own tunebook, Middlesex Harmony, which was published in two editions (1795...
Javier F. León
(b Chorrillos, Lima, Peru, May 24, 1944). Peruvian singer, composer, and music researcher. Although brought up in a family with close connections to criollo and Afro-Peruvian musical traditions, from early in her career Baca was attracted to vanguardist poetry. Since then she has explored various ways of setting poems to music, drawing from Afro-Peruvian traditions and also from nueva canción, jazz, and world music. She and her husband, Ricardo Pereira, are also known for their efforts in researching and promoting Afro-Peruvian musical traditions. Until recently, the experimental character of her music was not favored by Peruvian audiences so she mainly pursued a performing career abroad. In 1995 her inclusion in the David Byrne compilation The Soul of Black Peru launched Baca into the international spotlight. While outside of Peru her sound has become synonymous with that of Afro-Peruvian music, it is only since Baca won a Latin Grammy in ...
Michael J. Budds
(b Kansas City, MO, May 12, 1928). American composer and pianist. He learnt the cello, drums and piano from an early age and developed a particular interest in jazz. He played as a night club pianist, and then served in the army, touring as a pianist (1950–52). He went on to study music at the Mannes College of Music, New York, the New School of Social Research, McGill University, Montreal and gained a scholarship to the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, California. His composition teachers included Milhaud, Martinů and Cowell. Bacharach became an accompanist for Vic Damone, subsequently working with such performers as Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers and Paula Stewart, to whom he was married from 1953 to 1958. From 1958 to 1961 he toured internationally with Marlene Dietrich. Bacharach began writing arrangements and composing songs in the mid-1950s, working at the Brill Building and collaborating with the lyricist Hal David (...
William E. Boswell
(b Wenham, MA, July 10, 1811; d Boston, MA, March 11, 1889). American teacher, singer, and composer. He sang, directed choirs, and taught music in Salem, Massachusetts, and in 1833 toured the country with a concert company. He then settled in Bangor, Maine, as a businessman, but moved to Boston in 1837 to study music with John Paddon. He was director of music at W.E. Channing’s church for eight years, and succeeded Lowell Mason as superintendent of musical instruction in the Boston public schools in 1841. Also in that year he began holding “musical conventions,” which led to many appearances as soloist with the Handel and Haydn Society, of which he later became vice-president. He founded the Boston Music School and served as principal and head of the singing department until 1868, when he retired and the school closed. He was editor of the Boston Musical Journal for several years. Baker collaborated in compiling over 25 collections of songs, hymns, anthems, and glees, including ...
(b Cleveland, OH, July 21, 1878; d Santa Ana, CA, May 3, 1927). American composer and singer. After studying music at the Cleveland Conservatory he went to New York, where he became a pianist in vaudeville theaters and a founding member of ASCAP. From 1907 to 1927 he was a staff pianist and composer at M. Witmark and Sons. His first success came with the ballad “Will you love me in December as you do in May?,” written in 1905 to lyrics by Jimmy Walker. Many of his most popular songs thereafter were composed for the Irish tenors John McCormack and Chauncey Olcott, with whom he also collaborated. Ball composed some 400 songs, including such standards as “Mother Machree” (1910), “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” (1913), and “A Little Bit of Heaven” (1914). Much of the last decade of his life was spent performing in vaudeville. His film biography, ...
(b Lisle, IL, Nov 8, 1955). American singer, pianist, composer, and bandleader. Her father played with the Glenn Miller band and her mother was a professional blues singer. After studying psychology and classical piano at the University of Iowa, Barber returned to Chicago and began playing five nights a week at the Gold Star Sardine Bar, where she attracted varying critical attention for her husky voice and the inclusion of pop songs, including “Black Magic Woman” and “A Taste of Honey,” in her repertoire. She recorded her first album, Split (Floyd), in 1989 and her second album, A Distortion of Love (Antilles) in 1991. She subsequently moved to the independent label Premonition, which was bought by Blue Note in 1998. In 2003 Barber became the first songwriter to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Under its aegis she composed a song cycle based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. She is the subject of a documentary, ...
(b New Orleans, LA, Jan 13, 1909; d New Orleans March 13, 1994). American guitarist, banjoist, singer, composer, and writer, husband of the singer Blue Lu Barker. His great-uncle Louis Arthidore was a clarinet virtuoso who played with the Onward Brass Band and his grandfather Isidore Barbarin played alto horn; on the latter’s advice he studied clarinet (with Barney Bigard) and ukulele, banjo, and guitar (with Bernard Addison). He also learned drums with Louis and Paul Barbarin. Barker performed professionally in the 1920s in Mississippi and Florida, before moving in 1930 to New York, where he played guitar in the groups of James P. Johnson, Albert Nicholas, Sidney Bechet, and Henry “Red” Allen and in the swing orchestras of Lucky Millinder, Benny Carter, and Cab Calloway. In the 1940s he switched to six-string banjo and took part in the dixieland revival. During the same period he worked with West Indian musicians and recorded for Spotlite with Sir Charles Thompson and Charlie Parker. Before returning to New Orleans in ...
Katherine K. Preston
(b Leipzig, Germany, June 25, 1897; d Jacksonville, FL, Dec 8, 1956).
American composer and pianist of German birth; naturalized American. As a child he attended the Leipzig Conservatory, studying under Carl Reinecke. He moved to the United States with his family in 1907 and made his New York recital debut the next year. He became a US citizen in 1912. Busoni inspired him to experiment with new scales, and Barth helped to invent a portable quarter-tone piano in 1928, for which he composed numerous works; he was acquainted with Ives and may have rekindled that composer’s interest in quarter-tone music. Barth performed in the United States and Europe on the harpsichord, piano, and quarter-tone piano, and was a soloist with orchestras in Cincinnati, Havana, and Philadelphia; with the Philadelphia Orchestra he served for five years under Stokowski, and performed his Concerto for quarter-tone piano on 28 March 1930...
(b Edgard, LA, Dec 24, 1920). American Trumpeter, arranger, producer, songwriter, bandleader, and singer. He started his career as a trumpeter playing with established bands led by, among others, Papa Celestin, Joe Robichaux, and Claiborne Williams before joining Fats Pichon’s ensemble, considered one of the top groups in New Orleans, in 1939. During World War II he played in the 196th AGF (Army Ground Forces) Band, where he met Abraham Malone, who taught him how to write and arrange. After the war, he formed his own band in New Orleans, which made its debut at the Dew Drop Inn and later performed at Sam Simoneaux’s club Graystone where many of the city’s top instrumental players, including the drummer Earl Palmer and the saxophonists Lee Allen and Red Tyler, were showcased.
Bartholomew is best known for his talents as an arranger and songwriter. In the 1950s and 60s he worked with many of the biggest stars of the day, including Smiley Lewis, Lloyd Price, Shirley and Lee, and Joe Turner. By the 1970s he had associations with some of rock and roll’s most established talents, including Paul McCartney, Elton John, and the Rolling Stones. His most productive association was with fats Domino, whom he met through Lew Chudd, the owner of Imperial Records, where he worked as a house arranger, an A&R man and an in-house bandleader. From ...
(b San Francisco, CA, Sept 30, 1968). American composer, vocalist, and improviser; daughter of composer Herbert Bielawa and organist/scholar Sandra Soderlund. As a child she composed, sang, and played violin. She was a member of the San Francisco Girls Chorus and wrote some of her earliest compositions for the group. Bielawa studied literature at Yale, graduating in 1990, and soon moved to New York City. In 1992 she began singing and touring with the Philip Glass Ensemble and later sang with John Zorn. In 1997 she co-founded the MATA Festival, a concert series that presents the music of younger composers.
Bielawa’s compositional output is extensive and includes orchestra works, music for voice and ensemble, and music for dance. Her musical language is rhapsodic, harmonically adventurous, and grounded in a propulsive energy. Her orchestrations are characterized by a warmly expressive range of timbres. Bielawa’s musical oeuvre has been shaped by her close relationships with particular performers and their unique abilities. Her ...