Thursday, March 3, 2016

Margaret A. Bonds was an African American Composer, Pianist and Musical Director Who Was Born in Chicago on March 3, 1913

Margaret Allison Bonds
is profiled at,
which features a comprehensive Works List and a 
by Dr. Dominique-
René de Lerma, 

Margaret Allison Richardson Bonds was an African American composer, pianist and musical director who was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 3, 1913. Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma is a former Professor of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.  He is a specialist in African heritage in classical music, and has kindly made his research entry on Margaret Bonds available to this Website.  We learn from it that her parents separated two years after her birth, and divorced two years later: "She was born in Chicago as Margaret Jeanette Allison Majors to Dr. Monroe Majors and Estella C. Bonds...
"Her parents separated in 1915 and, when her parents divorced in 1917, her mother resumed her birth name, assigning this also to her daughter."             
At the age of 13, Margaret Bonds started to learn composition from two up and coming African American composers, and also learned piano from one of them.  She studied at a music school and participated in the youth section of a national organization of African American musicians, according to Prof. De Lerma: "By the time she had begun the study of composition in 1926 with  Chicago newcomers William Dawson and Florence Price (with whom she also studied piano), she was a charter member of the Junior Music Division of the National Association of Negro Musicians, and had been a student at the Coleridge-Taylor Music School, where her mother and Tom Theodore Taylor served on the faculty."

Bonds entered Northwestern University at 16, in 1929.  Prof. Rae Linda Brown wrote the liner notes for the CD Black Diamonds: Althea Waites Plays Music By African-American Composers, Cambria 1097 (1993).  She describes the importance of the Wanamaker Prize Bonds won in 1932 for her composition Sea Ghost: "Margaret Bonds (1913-1972) achieved national recognition when she won the Wanamaker Prize in 1932 for the song Sea Ghost, the same contest in which her teacher, Florence Price, received her coveted awards."
The research entry notes the young pianist made her debut at New York's Town Hall in 1932, and performed a concertino at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933.
Bonds played a concerto by Florence Price with the Chicago Women's Orchestra in 1934, in a concert broadcast by CBS Radio.

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