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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