Cook, Will Marion
- Thomas Riis
(b Washington DC, Jan 27, 1869; d New York, July 19, 1944). American composer and conductor. He revealed musical talent early and at 15 was sent to study the violin at Oberlin College Conservatory, later studying in Germany with Joachim. He returned to the United States in 1889, and in 1890 assumed the directorship of an orchestra supported by his mentor, the famed civic leader Frederick Douglass. Cook’s orchestra toured in the Northeast and possibly to Chicago in 1892. Cook promoted Colored American Day (25 August 1893), part of the World’s Columbian Exposition of that year, and in all his efforts was determined to bring black American music and musicians to the public eye. After the Exposition he returned to New York and attended the National Conservatory, studying with John White and its director, Dvořák. As a classical performer he met frustration and discrimination, and eventually he turned completely to popular music....