Featured Composers

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 - 1912) was the son of Dr Daniel Taylor, a Creole from Sierra Leone, and Alice Martin, an English woman.  He began violin lessons with his grandfather at a very young age, one description mentions that he was often seen "carrying a small violin in one hand and his marbles in the other."  In 1890, he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, awarded over other notable composition students Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams, both of whom are regularly found on competition lists.  In 1900, Coleridge-Taylor's most successful composition, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, was debuted and made him a household name throughout the world.  He toured the United States three times meeting many famous American composers, musicians, writers and orators.  Due to the common practice of publishers buying musical works for a flat fee, Coleridge-Taylor spent much of his professional career in financial distress while his works sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

Having befriended many notable black authors such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and W.E.B. DuBois in the United States, Coleridge-Taylor began both searching for a connection to the history of his father and organizing and participating in Pan-African seminars and conferences.  Often attributed to the strains of his financial situation, Coleridge-Taylor died of pneumonia in 1912 at the age of 37, survived by his wife and two children.

Alton A. Adams

     Composer, piccoloist, band leader and musical essayist Alton Augustus Adams, born in 1889 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, became the first black bandmaster in the U.S. Navy and a vital social leader and spokesman in the Virgin Islands. As a young piccoloist, Adams joined the local youth band and then began a band of his own. He studied music theory and composition late through correspondence courses with Dr. Hugh A. Clark at the University of Pennsylvania.
     Adams relied heavily on music publications to connect with the greater musical world. In turn, he began writing essays on musical topics for publications not only in the Virgin Islands, but also throughout the U.S. His vast experience in publication and prose would be instrumental in the U.S. Navy reaching out to ask him and his Adams Juvenile Band to be inducted en masse with Adams as their bandmaster. In this role he became a de facto ambassador between the Navy and the newest territory of the United States.
     A man of his time, Adams' compositions had romantic qualities and his marches followed the style of the day. Usually full-throated and with tinges of nationalism and regionalism, Adams' works melded well with popular compositions by contemporaries such as Sousa, Holst and Coleridge-Taylor. Adams' work "Virgin Islands March" became the official territorial march of the U.S. Virgin Islands and his work "The Governor's Own" has been played for decades by military bands worldwide.

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