Columbia College Chicago

Personal Papers and Music Manuscripts

Alton Augustus Adams Sr, first Black bandmaster of the US Navy
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Adams, Alton A.

Papers, dated 1915–1985 and undated, including autobiographical and biographical materials, correspondence, speeches and writings, scrapbooks, and music manuscripts of many of his compositions as well as manuscript and printed music by other composers.

20 boxes plus 3 volumes

Received on deposit from Alton A. Adams Jr., 1994–1995.

Biographical note:

Alton Augustus Adams Sr. was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, in 1889 and died there in 1987. He studied music by correspondence, earning a bachelor of music degree, and founded the St. Thomas Juvenile Band in 1910. When the United States assumed territorial administration of the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917, the band was inducted into the U.S. Navy as a goodwill gesture. Adams made a name for himself as the first black bandmaster in the U.S. Navy and as a writer on band-related topics.

After retiring from the U.S. Navy in 1934, Adams returned to serve through World War II. In 1942 in Guantánamo, Cuba, he led a Navy band that was the first racially integrated band in the U.S. armed forces. Adams was also a composer; his published compositions include three marches: “The Governor's Own,” “The Spirit of the U.S. Navy,” and “The Virgin Islands March,” which became the “national anthem” of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In addition to conducting and composing, Adams was a journalist, writer, radio broadcaster, and educator and was considered an important person in St. Thomas, its “First Citizen.” From 1918 to 1931, he supervised the music programs in the public schools of the Virgin Islands. After his retirement from the Navy in 1947, Adams worked as a press correspondent for several media organizations, produced a radio program featuring classical music, and was active for many years in the tourism industry, including running his own guest house in St. Thomas. Notably, he was a founding member of the Hotel Association of the Virgin Islands and served as its president from 1952 to 1970.

Scope note:
I. Autobiographical and Biographical Materials 
II. Correspondence 
III. Journalistic activities 
IV. Hotel Association of the Virgin Islands 
V. Other civic activities 
VI. Speeches and writings 
VII. Musical activities 
VIII. Musical compositions and music 
IX. Miscellaneous materials

The personal papers of Alton Augustus Adams, Sr. reflect his activities as a bandmaster in the U.S. Navy (1917–1934 and 1942–1947), as a press correspondent (1949–circa 1968), as a member and president of the Hotel Association of the Virgin Islands (1952–1970), and as a lifelong educator, civic leader, author, and local historian. They also contain manuscripts of his music compositions, band parts, and music by other composers performed by his band or inscribed to him. In his extensive correspondence, there are letters from major American bandmasters, including John Philip Sousa and Edwin Franko Goldman, and correspondence with Richard Franko Goldman, whose band often performed Adams's marches. The three scrapbooks mostly document band activities, including a successful 1924 tour of the eastern U.S. mainland.

Many of Adams's musical compositions were destroyed in a fire in 1933, but a number of scores and parts survive, including his three published marches and other concert pieces. There are also arrangements (usually parts only) for other pieces played by the band, from standards such as “Oh Promise Me” and “Tales from the Vienna Woods” to pieces by Latin-American composers possibly arranged for band by Adams himself.

The correspondence of Alton A. Adams dates from 1915 to 1985 and includes letters relating to his military career, letters from several musicians and composers—including Eva Jessye, Clarence Cameron White, Philippa Duke Schuyler, and William L. Dawson—and letters from other important figures, among them Claude Barnett, George Schuyler, and Carter G. Woodson. Several governors of the Virgin Islands are also represented. There is a separate name index to Series II at the end of the inventory included in the PDF version of the full finding aid.

Materials from the period that Adams served as supervisor of music include sporadic correspondence, speeches, and writings that reflect his educational service, but there are no formal records of this aspect of his career in the collection.

Records of the Hotel Association of the Virgin Islands, including correspondence, minutes, and memos, are present, especially for its early years, when the hotelkeepers successfully fought a two-percent hotel tax and attempted to develop a vocational training system for hotel workers. Records of other areas of public service are less complete.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Adams was a journalist and correspondent for the Pittsburgh Courier, the Associated Negro Press, and the Associated Press, among others. His stories and press wires with correspondence concerning them are in Series III, along with limited records from the early years of the Virgin Islands Press Association.

For a number of years, Alton Adams hosted a radio broadcast sponsored by the Hotel Association. His radio scripts are in Series VII. Many speeches and writings survive in typescript form as well, including a completed but unpublished typescript on arranging music for band.

Series VII contains information about Adams's other musical activities, including performances of his marches by the Goldman Band and the adoption of his “Virgin Islands March” as the national song of the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1963. There are also several folders of materials relating to composer/performer Philippa Duke Schuyler, who often performed in St. Thomas.

An interesting and important part of the papers is Adams's autobiography, which he left in semifinished form and in many versions. Series I contains both the typescript of the autobiography and other fragmentary versions and biographical materials. These have been edited by Mark Clague and published in the CBMR's Music of the African Diaspora series as The Memoirs of Alton Augustus Adams, Sr.: First Black Bandmaster of the United States Navy (Berkeley: Center for Black Music Research and University of California Press, 2008).

Ben Holt, (1955–1990), baritone with the Met and NYC Operas

Holt, Ben

Papers, dated circa 1980 to circa 1990 and undated, primarily ephemera, clippings, and programs concerning his career as a concert and operatic singer. Also included are scores and sheet music (some annotated), posters, a collection of taped recordings of his performances, commercial sound recordings, and books from his library.

7 boxes and 17 volumes
19 reel to reel tapes, 3 cassettes, circa 7 linear feet of LPs

Donated by Mayme Wilkins Holt, 1992.

Biographical note:

Ben Holt, a baritone who sang with the Metropolitan and New York City opera companies, was only thirty-four years old when he died in 1990 of Hodgkin's Disease. He was born in Washington, D.C., in 1955, and first performed at the age of eight at Takoma Elementary School in their production of Mendelssohn's Elijah. Holt studied voice at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, winning a scholarship two years later to the Juilliard School's Opera program.

Winner of numerous awards and fellowships, Holt is best known for playing the title role Malcolm in Anthony Davis's opera, X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X in the 1986 New York City Opera company world premiere production, occasioning a ten-minute standing ovation when he came out for a bow on opening night. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1985 as Schaunard in Puccini's La Bohème. Other major operatic roles included Josiah in Thea Musgrave's Harriet, the Woman Called Moses, Porgy in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, and Randall Ware in Ulysses Kay's Jubilee.

A popular recitalist, he often programmed work by black composers and arrangements of spirituals. Holt appeared in the Kennedy Center's 1979 National Black Music Colloquium and Competition presentation of composition finalists and went on to perform with a number of major orchestras in his brief career, including the New York Philharmonic, the National Symphony, and Canada's Tafelmusik. Unfortunately, he was only able to make a few recordings.

The annual Ben Holt Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in 1996 at the Juilliard School of Music to help support students of African and/or Native heritage, and an annual concert series in his name ran at Lawrence University for several years. Ben Holt is remembered for his exciting stage presence as well as his fine voice.

Scope note:

The collection documents his career as a recitalist and performer of baritone roles in opera and consists almost entirely of ephemera, programs, clippings, reviews, and posters. There are a few textbooks and a considerable collection of operatic scores and sheet music. A complete photocopied score to the Davis opera can also be found, along with partial scores to other operas featuring black performers and by black composers and songs and other classical repertoire.

Correspondence and personal documents, however, are almost entirely lacking.

Holt's record collection, consisting of about 7 linear feet of LPs in a variety of genres and 17 books and music score books were donated along with his papers. An inventory to the books and recordings is available onsite. There is also a box of reel-to-reel and cassette sound recordings of particular interest that document some of his performances and radio interviews, including his debut at Carnegie Hall on May 12, 1987.

Bill Banfield, professor Berklee College of Music, jazz and concert music composer
Banfield, William C., 1961–

Papers, dated from 1978–2001, including manuscripts and photocopies of musical compositions, correspondence, photographs, clippings and promotional materials, writings. There is also information concerning his music production company BMagic, and Young Artists Development, Inc. (YADI), an educational organization he co-founded in Boston.

5 boxes

Donated by Bill Banfield, 1992, 1994, and 2002, with additional donations expected.

Biographical note:

Dr. William Cedric “Bill” Banfield is currently a professor and director of the Africana Studies/Music and Society initiative at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He is well known for his original, boundary-crossing compositions and his writings on the black aesthetic and artistic theology.

Originally from Detroit, he had a busy musical life early on, starting guitar lessons at the age of nine, and performing with professional bands from the age of twelve. Banfield next spent several years in Boston, earning a BM in 1983 from the New England Conservatory of Music and a master of theological studies degree from Boston University in 1988. While there, he studied with T. J. Anderson, William Thomas McKinley, George Russell, and Theodore Antoniou. He also established BMagic Operations, a small national record label specializing in local talent.

An educator for all ages, Banfield has taught at numerous community centers and academic institutions; he co-founded the Young Artists Development, Inc. music school in Boston (with fellow composer Stephen Newby) in 1985, a program for young, inner-city artists. Banfield served as its director until 1988. Upon earning the DMA degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1992, he became a professor at Indiana University and travelled as visiting artist and scholar to colleges throughout the United States. In 1993, he established the Undine Smith Moore Collection of Scores and Manuscripts of Black Composers, both the permanent archives and the Extensions concerts featuring these works. In 1997, Banfield held the endowed chair in the Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minneapolis; he returned to Boston in 2005 to take up his current post.

Bill Banfield incorporates multiple aesthetic influences into his work, using a variety of symphonic, concert, and jazz idioms while maintaining a unique personal voice. As a composer, he has received awards and grants from both private and government funders, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Jerome Foundation. Orchestras in a number of cities have commissioned and performed his work including the Detroit, Atlanta, San Diego, and Akron symphonies as well as the National in Washington, D.C.

In addition to his work as an educator, Banfield maintains an equally active performing career in jazz and fusion, appearing with his own trio and leading the B-Magic Orchestra. Recordings of his music in both jazz and concert genres appear on the TelArc, Atlantic, Cedille, and Innova labels, among others. Many of his jazz and popular compositions have also been performed by other artists including Bobby McFerrin, Regina Carter, Don Byron, Rachel Z, Billy Childs, and Nnenna Freelon.

Banfield has served as host for several public radio shows including his own series entitled Essays of Note. Scarecrow Press (Lanham, Maryland) has published several of Banfield's recent books, including Landscapes in Color: Conversations with Black American Composers (2003), Black Notes: Essays of a Musician Writing in a Post Album Age (2006) andBlack Notes and Cultural Codes: The Makings of a Black Philosophy of Music (2009).

Currently Banfield serves as chair of Black Music Culture for the Association of American Culture and the Popular Culture Association of America conferences and as executive director of Videmus/ Visionary records. He recently joined Scarecrow Press as its contributing editor of Cultural Studies and Jazz Publications.

Scope note:

The bulk of the collection consists of compositions, including songs and jazz works, but is especially strong in concert music. There are both original manuscripts and photocopies of published and unpublished scores, including sacred vocal music and orchestral works. Several scores contain annotations by the composer and others. Banfield's first six symphonies are represented, and there are four copies of Momma Why? (a little opera), one with performance notes. Unpublished manuscripts include the unfinished 2nd movement for “Zola: Chamber Suite,” written in 1986, three versions (two are manuscripts) of 96/66, Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra dated 1981, 1983 and 1986 (rescored), and the first movement of an early string piece, Quartet No. 1 in E-flat Major, dated 1979. Most of the compositions date from 1981 to 1991, with a smaller number of works dated from 1992 to 2000.

Banfield's personal papers include correspondence from 1977 to 1993, including one folder of composer correspondents. There are flyers and programs documenting his career from the late 1970s to the early 1990s and photographs of his performances and artistic activities, as well as events related to BMagic and YADI. There is also some additional material related to the YADI training program and the performances of the students and documenting the early days of BMagic Operations.

Unpublished writings, primarily student papers include his master's thesis and a book draft entitled “Essays of Note, An Epistle: Reflections on Black American Music Culture.” A student paper in the collection is his analysis of the work of T. J. Anderson, one of his composition teachers in Boston. Three cassettes and a commercial CD are the extent of the sound recordings held, though commercial recordings of many of Banfield's compositions are widely available.

For further information, see his official website:

William Brown (1938–2004), operatic tenor

Brown, William, 1938–2004

Papers dated circa 1947 and 1955 to 2003, including concert programs, promotional materials, correspondence, photographs and media concerning his career as an operatic tenor and recitalist.

10 boxes (circa 9 linear feet)

Received from Brenda Kelly, 2007, with additional donations by Ann Sears, December 2008.

Biographical note:

William A. Brown was born on May 29, 1938, in Jackson, Mississippi. Brown began singing in his local church choir at an early age and in 1949, he started more formal musical training on the trumpet and piano. His success as a trumpeter at Jim Hill High School afforded him the opportunity to attend Jackson State College on a full scholarship in 1955. However, after performing there in his first opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, Brown changed his concentration to voice, graduating in 1959 with a BME. He then enrolled at Indiana University–Bloomington in to study voice. After earning his master of music degree in 1962, Brown enlisted in the United States Navy and served as a chief petty officer and chorister for the U.S. Navy Band “Sea Chanters” until 1966.

In 1968, William Brown made his debut with the New York City Opera in Hugo Weisgall’s Nine Rivers from Jordan and went on to become an internationally acclaimed concert, opera, and recording artist known for his virtuosity and beautiful tone. He was a champion of twentieth-century music and made an important contribution to the public appreciation of black music in 1970 when he gave recitals nationwide titled “Black Composers Concert(s),” which highlighted music written by black composers. Brown was a charter member of the Black Music Repertory Ensemble at the Center for Black Music Research in Chicago, Illinois. His recorded work appears on CBS Records, Nonesuch, New World, and CRI among others. Brown continued to perform until late 2002 in concerts with the Boston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Royal Philharmonic, Detroit, and Capetown symphonies, as well as in operatic roles with the New York City, Lake George Opera Festival, Opera Ebony, and Goldovsky opera companies, and many more. Ebony magazine listed William Brown as one of the “ten new voices of the eighties.”

In 1972, he took the position of Associate Professor of Music at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1993, Brown received their Distinguished Professor Award; he remained on the faculty until his untimely death in 2004. His home state of Mississippi proclaimed a William Brown Day in his honor.

Scope note:

The William Brown papers consist of concert programs, correspondence, newspaper and magazine articles, photographs, slides, cassettes, compact discs, and videotapes. The bulk of the collection consists of more than 200 photographs of William Brown and other colleagues taken during his career. Included within this part of the collection are photographs from his childhood, naval duties, and operatic performances. The extensive collection of concert programs chart his performing career from 1968 to 2003.

Original order has been maintained much as possible. The collection is then arranged by type of material and is alphabetically and chronologically arranged within each folder.

For further reference, see also:

  • Southern, Eileen. 1982. Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.
  • Smith, Eric Ledell. 1995. Blacks in Opera: An Encyclopedia of People and Companies, 1873–1993. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland.
Cyril Felix William Creque

Creque, Cyril Felix William, 1899–

Music manuscripts, dated 1937, circa 1948, 1955, and undated, sheet music for “The Upward Way (A Patriotic Song of the V.I.)” published in 1959 by Arch Music in New York, and a book of original poetry, Trade Winds (Newport, RI: Franklin Printing House, 1934).

1 box, with 1 volume

Received from Dale Mathews, March 2003.

Biographical note:

Cyril Creque, poet, composer, and Health Department officer, was born on St. Thomas (then the Danish West Indies) in 1899. He attended the best schools available on the island, and, as was a common practice at the time, continued his education by correspondence. Creque earned a diploma from the University Extension Conservatory of Chicago, Illinois, in 1938.

His life-long career, however, was with the Health Department. He began as a clerk in 1919 and attained the post of administrative officer before retiring in 1950. Yet, despite his claims that music and poetry were but hobbies, Creque made recognized contributions to the cultural life of his homeland. He often lauded the virtues of music and poetry (including both European “masters” and local works) in print and in a monthly radio show he hosted with his son on station WSTA in St. Thomas.

As one of the forerunners of the Virgin Islands poetic tradition, Creque is listed in Who's Who in American Poetry. His poetry was published in two collections, Trade Winds, in 1934, and Panorama, in 1947.

Creque also gave piano lessons and served as church organist for both the Memorial Moravian Church and the Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church, of which he was a member. His songs reflect his patriotism and his love for the Virgin Islands. Major musical works are “From Mark of the Yoke,” written in honor of the centennial of the abolition of slavery in the Virgin Islands in 1848, and “The Upward Way (A Patriotic Song of the V.I.).”

Scope note:

The collection is small, consisting of just six music manuscripts, sheet music for one published song, and one book. However, the handwritten scores offer a welcome insight into the work of this locally important but mostly forgotten composer and poet. Cyril Creque was one of the educated elite on the islands, and like that of his contemporaries (including Alton Augustus Adams), his work captures the essence of the local cultural milieu during the early 1900s, reflecting the political issues of the day and the kind of romantic patriotism prevalent in the Virgin Islands at that time.

In addition, his published song, written shortly before his death and arranged by Arthur Charles, is only available here and at the University of the Virgin Islands Library. It appears to have gone out of print.

Memphis "Eddie" Curtis

Curtis, Memphis
Alternate name: “Tex” Curtis

Papers, dated 1954–1983, consisting chiefly of manuscript lead sheets of Curtis's original compositions, manuscript scores and parts, and other materials relating to his musical career.

4 boxes

Donated by Joseph Lewis, March 2001.

Biographical note:

Eddie Curtis (a.k.a., Memphis E. Curtis) was a composer, arranger, and singer who was born in Galveston, Texas, on July 17, 1927. He became interested in music at an early age, and by the age of 15, had led his own band. He received his education at the Boston Conservatory of Music, the Berklee School of Music, and UCLA and took private music instruction at Pepperdine University. Curtis composed hundreds of songs, including the R&B hits “Lovey Dovey” (recorded by the Clovers and other artists) and “It Should've Been Me” (made famous by Ray Charles). He also wrote several songs that were recorded by Connie Francis. Curtis died of prostate cancer on August 22, 1983, in New York.

Scope note:

The collection primarily consists of Curtis's original compositions. The majority of these are manuscript lead sheets, although there are also a number of manuscript scores and parts. These lead sheets, scores, and parts make up the first three boxes of the collection. The materials in Box 4 include music from Curtis's musical comedy “This Is the Day!!” songs from “The Folk Album,” and a financial proposal for a musical comedy entitled “Ever Since Eve!!” Box 4 also includes a publicity photograph of Curtis and a 12-inch 45-rpm record of his “The Oreo Cookie Gang!!”

Lillian Evanti
Evanti, Lillian, 1890-1967

Collection dated circa 1925–1963, consisting of photographs, a letter from Owen Dodson of Howard University, and a typescript of the prologue to Evanti's autobiography.

12 items

Donated by Frances T. Matlock, July 1997

Biographical note:

Lillian Evanti (born Lillian Evans on August 12, 1890) was an African-American soprano and composer of several songs. She received her musical education at Howard University and had additional vocal training in France and Italy. She toured widely throughout the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and South America, winning much critical acclaim for her opera performances. She died on December 6, 1967.

Scope note:

The collection consists of photographs of Evanti in operatic roles and during visits to Berlin, Mexico, and Brazil; one letter from Owen Dodson to Evanti thanking her for a donation of costumes to Howard University, dated June 6, 1963; and a typescript of the prologue to her unpublished autobiography “Where My Caravan Has Rested,” with handwritten additions, given as a speech at Women's Day of the Century of Negro Progress Exposition in Chicago in 1963.

Maestro Paul Freeman (1936–2015), Music Director / Founder Chicago Sinfonietta
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Freeman, Paul, 1936–2015

The Paul Freeman papers span from 1987–2009 and include scores, audio and video recordings, and a small amount of personal papers. A majority of the scores are annotated by Freeman. The recordings include non-commercial performances by the Chicago Sinfonietta and other orchestras conducted by Freeman. 

34 linear feet

Donated by Maestro Paul Freeman, 2010.

Biographical Note:
Paul Douglas Freeman was a conductor, composer, and founder of the Chicago Sinfonietta; he is recognized as the first African-American orchestral director in the world. Freeman was born on January 2, 1936 in Richmond, Virginia. He graduated from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and studied conducting at the Hochshule für Musik (University for Music) in Berlin, Germany with Ewald Lindemann. Freeman served as conductor of the Opera Theater of Rochester (1961–1966), associate conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (1968–1970), composer-in-residence of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1970–1979), and conductor of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra (1979–1989). In 1987, Freeman co-founded the Chicago Sinfonietta, a group that gained notoriety for performing the works of African-American composers. In 1996, Freeman was named music director of the Czech National Philharmonic Orchestra in Prague. After retiring from the Chicago Sinfonietta in 2011, Freeman was named Emeritus Music Director. Freeman passed away in July 2015.

Scope Note: 

The collection includes a large number of scores, highlighting the characteristic diversity of the Chicago Sinfonietta's programming, and featuring music by Black composers in particular. Many of the scores are of particular interest for study, as they contain analytic and performance markings by the Maestro. Recordings cover much of the repertoire in the collection and may be used for score study; other audio-visual recordings document the attention of Maestro Paul Freeman and the Chicago Sinfonietta in the media.


James Furman
Furman, James, 1937–1989

Papers, dated circa 1960 to 1990, including biographical materials, correspondence, musical compositions, and the manuscript for an unpublished book, “Black Gospel Music: A History and Performance Practice,” with some research materials used in the work.

12 boxes, 2 volumes (8 linear feet)

Received from Dominique-René de Lerma and Ruth Lanham, 1990–1991.

Biographical note:

James Furman was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1938. He earned a bachelor's degree in music and a master's degree in music education from the University of Louisville. After teaching for several years in public schools, he joined the faculty of Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1965, where he remained until his death. He published several choral and chamber compositions and had major performances of others that remain unpublished, particularly his oratorio I Have a Dream. A complete biography can be found in theInternational Dictionary of Black Composers (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999) and in Eileen Southern's Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982).

Scope note:

The collection is in three parts: biographical information and personal papers, an unpublished book on gospel music, and copies of musical compositions. Most of the personal papers date from Furman's years at Western Connecticut. The correspondence includes a series of letters concerning AAMOA (Afro-American Music Opportunities Association) and a few letters from gospel artists, notably from Beverly Glenn. A speech, “My Development As a Composer,” and notes on some of his compositions may be of particular interest.

The manuscript of the book on gospel music shows the author's struggle to manage and make sense of such a large topic. His insights on performance practice may be of greatest use to researchers. The manuscript versions of the book were received in no discernible order. They have been arranged in the order indicated by the chapter outline prepared for interested publishers. Most chapters have typed versions with corrections and handwritten drafts; in some cases there are also miscellaneous fragments filed separately at the end of the chapter. Miscellaneous notes and fragments that could not be placed easily in any chapter are filed at the end of the series. A file on gospel performers contains both Furman's stylistic analysis of certain performers, particularly Andrae Crouch and Mahalia Jackson, and also some questionnaires completed by musicians. Along with the unsorted manuscript materials, three typescript versions of the book were also received. All are slightly different. The probable definitive version is bound in a looseleaf notebook with tabs indicating the chapters. Miscellaneous papers that were originally laid into the front and back of this notebook have been removed to folders in Box 2 to ensure their preservation.

The musical works consist mainly of photocopies of manuscripts, some original manuscripts, and parts prepared by the composer for performances of his works. Two boxes contain duplicate choral parts to his I Have a Dream, which was never published. The score (1970) and instrumental parts are present in the collection. The string parts are lacking. There is also a folder of published music.

Talib Rasul Hakim

Hakim, Talib Rasul, 1940–1988

Papers, dated from 1965 to 1988, including personal papers, correspondence, scores, and performance notes for his compositions. A few recordings of performances are also included.

13 boxes

Received from Lorenzo Chambers, 1994–1995.

Biographical note:

Talib Rasul Hakim was born Stephen Alexander Chambers in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1940. He developed an interest in music in high school, studied clarinet and piano, and continued his education at the Manhattan School of Music (1958–1959) and the New York College of Music (1959–1963). Sometime in the 1960s he became interested in Sufism and assumed his Arabic name. He taught at several institutions and was the recipient of many awards and grants. His pieces “Sound-Gone” (1967), “Placements” (1970), and “Visions of Ishwara” (1970) were commercially recorded and published, and numerous other works received concert performances. His music often incorporated avant-garde compositional and performance techniques and also strongly reflect his interest in Islam and Eastern religions. He died in 1988.

Scope note:

The collection is in two series: papers and scores, with a few concert and rehearsal recordings as well. The papers mainly consist of notes and materials about his compositions and personal notes and fragments. His notes on the performance of his compositions will prove invaluable to performers and scholars. Some flyers and programs from his performances survive. The correspondence is sketchy and dates mainly from the years just before his death.

Not all of his scores are represented in the collection, which is particularly strong on early pieces (from the 1960s), although his major later works are present. Many scores are self-published ozalids, but the masters also survive. There are some manuscript sketches for later works. The published scores are present only in their published form. Hakim's important 1967 piano piece “Sound-Gone” had gone out of print but has recently been reprinted. A published copy is now available for study.

Edmund Thornton Jenkins
Jenkins, Edmund Thornton, 1894–1926

Papers, dated 1916–1926, consisting of manuscripts of his musical compositions, printed music of his compositions published at his own press (Anglo-Continental-American Music Press in Paris, France), and one folder of biographical information. Also included are clippings and a program (1940) concerning the concert career of his sister, Mildred Jenkins Haughton, and sheet music (1917–1937 and undated) belonging to her.

6 boxes

Received on deposit from Jomo Zimbabwe, son of Mildred Jenkins Haughton, through Gitlin, Emmer and Kaplan of Boston, Massachusetts, in 1990.

Biographical note:

Edmund Thornton Jenkins was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and studied at the Avery Institute and Morehouse College. He got his early musical training at the Jenkins Orphanage founded by his father, a Baptist minister, and toured with the Jenkins Orphanage Band during the summers. After travelling to England with the band in 1914, he enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music. He earned a diploma in 1921. Upon leaving the Academy, Jenkins supported himself by playing in jazz bands and dance orchestras in England and later in Paris where he also began his own publishing company, the Anglo-Continental-American Music Press, which published some of his own compositions.

Around 1920, Will Marion Cook, a noted American composer and performer of both art music and musical theater works, invited Jenkins to direct his Southern Syncopated Orchestra, which performed a mixed repertoire of early jazz and classical music and toured Europe (and the United States) in 1918–1919. After Jenkins grew disappointed by unsuccessful attempts to establish funding and an audience for black orchestral music in America, he returned to Europe in 1924. His operetta,Afram (1924), and the Negro Symphonie Dramatique (1925), indicate a renewed focus on concert music later in his short life. He died in Paris in 1926.

For more information, see: Jeffrey P. Green, Edmund Thornton Jenkins: The Life and Times of an American Black Composer, 1894–1926(Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982).

Scope note:

The Jenkins manuscripts include a number of compositions from his student days, and later popular and serious compositions. For some orchestral works only piano scores or incomplete orchestral parts have survived. There are also several unfinished compositions, some only sketches. Both Jenkins's student compositions and his later works show evidence of his interest in and use of African-American folk and popular themes. Two such works for full orchestra were performed during his lifetime: Folk Rhapsody (on American Folk Tunes), which was written and premiered in 1919, and American Folk Rhapsody: Charlestonia, written in 1917 and premiered in 1925. His operetta, Afram ou la belle Swita, set partly in Africa, includes a chorus in an African language, along with American songs. Another late work, his Negro Symphonie Dramatique, subtitled “Scenes de la Vie d'un Esclave,” exists only as a piano score.

One folder of printed biographical material is included, but the family correspondence on which Green based his book is not part of this collection.

Melba Liston

Liston, Melba

Music manuscripts including lead sheets, scores, and parts and 1 letter box of papers concerning her career.

44 boxes

Donated by Thelma Stattion, 1999.

Biographical note:

Melba Liston was a jazz composer, arranger, and performer born in 1926. She was a trombonist during an era (1942–1985) when few women played brass instruments and even fewer toured with jazz bands. She played in the bands of several important jazz musicians, including Count Basie, Dexter Gordon, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Randy Weston, and Quincy Jones. Liston had an active career as an arranger for important jazz composers as well as popular music record labels. She also worked with youth orchestras in the troubled neighborhood of Watts, California, leaving the United States to teach at the Jamaica Institute of Music for six years (1973–1979). After suffering a stroke in 1985 that left her paralyzed, she continued to arrange using a computer through the 1990s until her death in 1999.

Scope note:

The Melba Liston Collection primarily documents her careers as arranger, composer, and educator rather than her accomplishments as a trombonist. It contains lead sheets to her own and other people's compositions and manuscript scores of many of her arrangements for Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, and Mary Lou Williams, among others. One extensive series contains numerous arrangements for Randy Weston, and her late computer scores for him are also present.

Liston's career as an arranger for recording companies—especially Motown—and for performers such as Marvin Gaye, Ruth Brown, Gloria Lynne, and many others, is highlighted in most jazz reference books. Arrangements for performers can be found among her scores, although details about the specific arrangements are often cryptic. Also included in her score collection are musical arrangements and lead sheets dating from her years in Jamaica, although once again, related documentation is sparse or lacking.

As a pioneering woman performer and a respected arranger, Melba Liston deserves a comprehensive biographical study, but her surviving papers document very little of her life, reflecting mainly on her music, which to her was all-important. Performers will find her scores and lead sheets useful. Potential biographers will find it necessary to rely on secondary sources and interviews to place her music in its historical context.

The Liston music is inventoried in two main series: 1) lead sheets and 2) scores, both arranged in alphabetical order. Smaller series at the end contain her works for individual musicians, which reflects the organization of her scores as they were originally received.

Irene Britton Smith

Smith, Irene Britton

Papers, dated circa 1930 to 1990 and undated, predominantly manuscripts of her musical compositions and composition exercises, plus a scrapbook reflecting her musical and professional careers, and correspondence.

22 boxes

Donated by Eva S. Butler on behalf of Irene Britton Smith, August 1998. Copyrights conveyed to the CBMR by Leon Despres, executor of Irene Britton Smith's estate, October 8, 1999.

Biographical note:

Irene Britton Smith (1907–1999) was born and educated in Chicago, where she attended Wendell Phillips High School and the Chicago Normal School. Music and music composition were her avocation. Professionally, she taught reading in the Chicago public schools for forty years. During her summer vacations, she studied music in Chicago, receiving a BM from the American Conservatory of Music in 1946 and a MM from DePaul University in 1956. She also studied composition at Juilliard, at Tanglewood, and with Nadia Boulanger at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France. Smith herself played violin, piano, and organ, and she served as a church musician. After her retirement from teaching, she was active as a docent for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's youth concerts.

Scope note:

Most of the collection consists of Smith's compositions, dated late 1940s to 1950s, with most undated. She wrote music for orchestra, solo violin, and piano, as well as choral works, spiritual arrangements, and art songs. Some of her works appear to be intended for children and were perhaps written for her students. Her papers contain a folder of poems and texts she apparently considered for musical settings, as well as correspondence from Countee Cullen concerning her request to set his poem “Leaves.”

Her correspondents include Chicago composer Florence B. Price and Stella Roberts, her composition teacher at the American Conservatory of Music. Most of the correspondence she kept is in her scrapbook, along with programs from concerts in which her works were performed and other items about her activities as a teacher and musician.

In addition to her scrapbook, she kept a file of clippings and programs on composer and conductor Margaret Harris (1943–2000), also a Chicago native. The file on Harris and other loose items laid into the back of the scrapbook, plus items received separately, are filed in separate files.

An interesting component of the collection are the various composition exercises and reworkings of compositions by other composers that Smith retained after her studies. These, along with her class notes, which she also kept, would be useful for a study of her development as a composer, as would a typed draft of an undated letter to Roberts in which Smith states her ideas about music.

The collection also contains her textbooks and books on theory and composition, which have been inventoried, and her collection of music by other composers, some of which date from the 1920s and 1930s. Music by black composers and association copies are listed in the full finding aid, available as a PDF. Appended to the collection are 5 boxes of published music not by black composers which have been filed alphabetically by composer but are not inventoried.

Richard E. Stamz
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Stamz, Richard E.

Papers, dated circa 1919 to 2010 and undated. Materials mostly related to his career as a "Black Appeal" radio disc jockey personality, and his music businesses, including promotional materials, radio sponsorship and broadcast papers, sound recordings, photographs, scrapbooks, correspondence, and other materials.

Extent: Circa 27 linear feet

Donated by his daughter, Phyllis Stamz, in 2010.


Richard E. Stamz (1906–2007) was a broadcast pioneer and active member of Chicago’s Englewood community. His 1950s radio show on WGES, “Open the Door, Richard,” helped promote and popularize urban black musical genres such as soul, blues, and gospel, and it was a prominent outlet for advertisers to reach African American audiences. The Richard E. Stamz papers span from 1919–2010 and include material from his broadcasting career, his involvement in the Englewood community, and his personal life.Throughout his life in Chicago, Stamz was heavily involved in the Englewood community; papers, photographs, and ephemera related to his community and political activities are part of the second series.

Cited Sources:

Roberts, Patrick A., and Richard E. Stamz. Give ‘Em Soul, Richard!: Race, Radio, & Rhythm & Blues in Chicago. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2010.

Wendell G. Wright
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Wright, Wendell G.

Collection, dated 1957–1997 (bulk 1977–1994), consisting chiefly of audio and video recordings of the Lois J. Wright Memorial Concert Series, as well as papers, concert programs and correspondence relating to the series. There is also a collection of scores, including several compositions and arrangements by Gerald Burks Wilson.

18 boxes

Donated by Dorothy Wright, August 2000.

Biographical note:

Wendell G. Wright, born on August 18, 1921, was an East Baltimore native who attended Douglass High School. He wanted to attend the Peabody Conservatory after graduation but was denied admission because he was an African American. Instead, he took private singing lessons in Baltimore and sang with choirs along the East Coast. He became the first African American to join Baltimore's Handel Choir and performed at the White House at one of President Richard M. Nixon's prayer breakfasts.

Wright devoted his life and resources to helping young singers and musicians. In the spring of 1977, he started the Young Artists Series at St. Katherine's Episcopal Church, which soon evolved into the Lois J. Wright Memorial Concert Series, named for Wright's first wife, who passed away that year. The Concert Series encouraged and supported performances by minority classical musicians. Wright's efforts also resulted in the creation of the Community Outreach Committee at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where he was appointed chairman of the Inclusion Committee, which brought more African Americans into the orchestra. Additionally, he created “Live, Gifted and Black,” an annual concert where African-American artists performed the work of African-American composers with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Wright died on May 24, 2000, at the age of 78. His second wife, Dorothy, whom he married in 1978, donated the collection after his death.

Scope note:

The Wendell G. Wright Collection consists primarily of materials relating to the Lois J. Wright Memorial Concert Series and includes nearly 300 reel-to-reel audio tapes of musical performances, most of which are recordings of Concert Series performances, along with recordings of related musical performances. Papers relating to the Concert Series, which include concert programs and correspondence, have been arranged chronologically by concert season. Although the series appears to have continued from 1977 until at least 1997, the collection contains no papers relating to the years 1980 through 1984. Audio and video recordings of the Concert Series beyond the 1993–1994 concert season are lacking.

The Wendell G. Wright Collection also includes several published musical scores by black composers, and these consist largely of spiritual arrangements. An interesting component of the collection is a group of twenty scores (both manuscripts and copies of manuscripts) by the African-American composer Gerald Burks Wilson. A few fragments and unidentified pieces by Wilson are also included. There are other materials relating to Wilson, including copyright registration certificates for his compositions, in the series.