CBMR Digest is a publication of the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago

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CBMR Digest

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ISSN # 2168-3301spring 2013 | Volume 26, No. 1

CBMR Receives Precious Chicago Music Association Ledger

On June 7, 2013, Barbara Wright-Pryor, President of the Chicago Music Association and a long-time CBMR friend and supporter, presented to CBMR Executive Director Monica Hairston O’Connell the official CMA ledger that contains the meeting minutes of the organization from July 13, 1936, through March 5, 1940. The CMA was the founding branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians. In fact, the CMA existed prior to the formation of NANM, and many of its members, led by president Nora Douglas Holt, hosted the July 1919 gathering in Chicago at which the NANM was formally established. Ever since the founding of NANM, the CMA and its individual members have been intimately involved with the national organization’s activities, so the CMA ledger is a treasure trove of information that provides documentation and clarification of not only Chicago events, but of national and international events as well.

It was through Wright-Pryor, the executor of the Theodore Charles Stone estate, that the bulk of CMA materials were donated to the CBMR. Stone (1912–1998), a Chicago-based but internationally known singer, music journalist, and impresario, served as the president of CMA for many years and it was in his collection, parts of which form a component of the CMA Collection, that the CMA ledger was contained.

Even a cursory examination of the ledger provides an intimate look into the black music world of that period. Wright-Pryor, who has studied the ledger in detail, quickly pointed out several passages of special interest.

  • December 2, 1936. Composer Florence B. Price discussed details of her personal experiences with her music publishers. CMA members “lauded” Marian Anderson’s international broadcast from Prague, which included Price’s “My Soul is Anchored in the Lord” and Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”
  • July 20, 1937 [see image at right]. The minutes of the meeting concluded with a report by Acting Secretary Josephine Inniss concerning a statement made by Maude Roberts George, music journalist with The Chicago Defender and the CMA president at that time, through which she reminisced that in 1933 “she was interested to the extent that she made it possible for the Negro Program, June 15, in a Century of Progress Music Series at the Auditorium Theater by underwriting the contract with Dr. Frederick Stock, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.” It was at this June 15, 1933, performance titled The Negro in Music, that Florence Price’s first symphony (E Minor) was premiered. The event marked the first time a major work by an African-American woman composer was performed by a major American orchestra.

The ledger is full of references to Price, Margaret Bonds, and Margaret’s mother Estella Bonds that document the important roles all three women played in the activities of CMA and in the cultural and concert music world in Chicago. Through digital scanning, use copies of the fragile ledger will be made available for research in the CBMR Library and Archives.

Wright-Pryor also augmented the CMA and Stone papers with other materials, including photographs of Stone and other CMA members from the 1940s through the 1980s, and program books from the NANM, CMA, and the National Negro Opera Foundation. Of particular interest are two books compiled and published by Ford S. Black—the 1915–1916 Colored People’s Guide Book for Chicago: Showing People You Ought to Know, Places You Ought to Visit, and Sights You Ought to See and the 1917 Black’s Blue Book Directory of Chicago’s Active Colored People and Guide to Their Activities.

For more information about the collections of the NANM, CMA, Theodore Charles Stone, and the R. Nathaniel Dett Club (another Chicago branch of the NANM), please visit the CBMR Library and Archives.

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