Black Music History Facts: William Grant Still

Hey hey!

It’s day 2 of Black History Month, and I’m back with more black music history fun facts!

William Grant Stills is a classical composer and gas had major orchestras play his compositions. He was a trailblazer for the African Americans in the world of classical music.

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  • Born May 11, 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi
  • He started taking violin lessons at the age of 15. He then taught himself clarinet, saxophone, oboe, double bass, cello, and viola (He was pretty amazing, no?)
  • Still actually went on to Wilberforce University to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree.
  • He conducted the band at his university and started composing and orchestrating…all while teaching himself to play more instruments.
  • Received a scholarship to study at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
  • He was a student of George Whitefield Chadwick and later Edgard Varèse. (Both were composers/musicians)
  • Worked as an arranger for popular music
  • Played in the pit for various musicals
  • In 1934, we starting writing his first opera. He went on to write 8 operas.
  • In 1949 his opera, Troubled Island, was performed by the New York City Opera. It was the first opera by an African American to be performed by a major company.
  • He went on to conduct the New Orleans Philharmonic in 1955. He was the first African American to conduct a major orchestra in the south.
  • He was also the first African American to have an opera performed on television in the US. A Bayou Legend premiered on PBS in 1981.

Afro-American Symphony – I. Moderato Assai

This symphony was the first one written by an African American and performed in the US by a major orchestra. As you’ll hear, this piece has classical and blues elements. The best of both worlds!

 

 

 

Black Music History Facts: Lena Horne

Happy Black History Month!

I love history, I love music, and I love my fellow black folks 🙂

Every day this month, I’ll be posting black music history fun facts. Today’s feature is the amazing, elegant, and strong, Lena Horne.

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  • Born June 30th, 1917.
  • She was in the Chorus line of the Cotton Club when she was 16.
  • Moved to Hollywood and started playing small roles in films, then moved on to bigger roles in 1943 (Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather)
  • First African-American signed to a long-term studio contract
  • She was one of the first to work on both sides of the “color line”. She sang with both white and black swing and jazz groups.
  • She was blacklisted as a Communist because of her participation in the Civil Rights Movement and her friendship with Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois, who were activists.
  • Received Honorary Doctorate from Howard University in 1980
  • Her career spanned over 70 years
  • More of a random fact….she guest starred on The Cosby Show and A Different World back in the 80s and 90s (two of my favorite shows haha)

– Bri

Holiday Student Feature: Brianna L.

Happy Holidays!

It may be a few days after Christmas, but it’s still the holiday season.

You may remember Brianna from my first student feature, she’s a voice student of mine. Here we are singing a duet of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. We had about 2 weeks to crank it out, and it was a lot of fun! Hope you all enjoy and have a happy holiday 🙂

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Holiday Student Feature: Shiloh and Levi

Happy holidays, everybody!

Tonight (Christmas eve), I’ll be posting all my amazing students playing some holiday favorites. The first one is a two for one deal, Levi and Shiloh! They’re brother and sister, and some of the smartest, talented, and kindest kids I know. I’ve been teaching them for about 4 months, and they’ve learned so much in that short amount of time. I hope you enjoy what they’ve prepared for you 🙂

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Levi decided he wanted to play a duet with me, and we chose Deck the Halls. Levi is 10 years old and an advanced beginner.

 

shiloh

Shiloh played Jolly Old St. Nicholas. She’s 5 years old, and a beginner.

Sunday Student Features: William T.

Hello and Happy Halloween!

This week for my Sunday Student Feature, I present to you my classical piano student, William (Will)! He’s a very intelligent, eager, headstrong and talented 13-year-old. He’s been taking piano with me for about 6 months. He’s one of the few students I have that genuinely love Classical music. He’s very eager to learn as much as he can about it. He had already taught himself quite a bit before we met and he’s also great at playing by ear. What we mostly work on in our lessons are technique and reading music. Will has also expressed an interest in composing, which I am very excited to work on more with him as time goes on. This young man is a very hard worker and has an insane amount of potential. As I say about all my students, it’s truly a privilege to be a part of his musical journey, and I hope it takes him far 🙂

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William chose to play an excerpt from the First Movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. He only had the piece for a couple of weeks prior to filming this video. Being a student in all AP classes and balancing piano lessons, is not an easy task. But Will rose to the occasion, and I am very proud of him and the progress he’s made!

– Bri

 

Welcome!

Hey there, and welcome to my first blog post!

I started this blog to have a place to write about all the crazy, funny, inspiring, and sometimes a bit disappointing experiences I have had teaching music lessons and working in music here in Los Angeles. I figured this was a better venue than typing out Facebook statuses that are 5 paragraphs long haha.I also wanted a place to feature my amazing and talented students! Be on the look out for the first student feature videos within the next few weeks. I will also post various projects I’m working on.

I absolutely love music, it is my passion. It’s about 90% of my life, really. The other 10% is pop culture, hair, crochet/knitting, and food 🙂 I have been surrounded by music since before I was born. I started singing in choirs from age 3, piano at 7, and joined the school band in 5th grade and began my journey into percussion. I graduated from North Central College with a B.A. in music. My emphasis was in Music Composition and Percussion Performance.  I have been teaching music lessons (voice, piano, drums/percussion, and music theory) for a little over 2 years. I started a few months before  I moved to Los Angeles from Chicago. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to gain and keep students, several composition and vocal recording gigs, an internship at Comma Music, and a spot in the Cinema Scoring program playing percussion. I love my work, and I feel so blessed and grateful to have been able to accomplish what I have so far.

I’ve recently started a Facebook and Youtube channel where I’ll post updates and various pieces and projects I work on. I will try to post weekly, if not every 2 weeks. You can also find a link to my website where you can find more info on me and book a lesson with me.

Last week, I put out a cover of an Adele song that is my new favorite from her new album, “All I Ask”. It’s such a pretty song and she has so much passion and power behind her voice. I had to cover it! I decided to arrange my own track as well. It’s a simple arrangement (much like the original) with piano, strings, and some synth in the bass. I arranged, recorded, and mixed it all using Ableton Live 9. Check out the audio from my Soundcloud and the video via YouTube!

All I Ask – Adele (Cover by Bri Simmons)

Book A Lesson With Me!

– Bri