Monday, August 27, 2007

Gail Davis Barnes: African American Pianist

Gail Davis Barnes is an African American pianist and piano teacher in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is an ardent advocate of the works of composers of African descent. This has led her to make numerous lecture-recitals at schools and colleges on the piano music of Black composers. Her interest is also reflected in her CD Magnolias (53:28), containing works by the Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) and the African American composer R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943). The pianist released the CD independently in 2001; it is available from Nicola's Books in the Westgate Shopping Center in Ann Arbor.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is represented by pieces from
Scenes From An Imaginary Ballet, Op. 74; Moorish Dance, Op. 55; The Angels Changed My Name, Op. 59, No. 9; Deep River, Op. 59, No. 10; Run Mary, Run, Op. 59, No. 21; and The Bamboula (African Dance), Op. 59, No. 8. R. Nathaniel Dett's share of the disc is Magnolia Suite, comprised of Magnolia, Deserted Cabin, My Lady Love, Mammy, and The Place Where The Rainbow Ends. Brief audio samples of the linked titles can be heard at

Excerpts from the pianist's resume explain her educational background and professional activities:

"Gail Davis Barnes is an independent private piano teacher and performer in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she maintains a studio. She attended Ohio State University (OSU) where she received a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance and a double minor in music history and organ. During her years at OSU, she played in many recitals both as a soloist and accompanist; she also was a featured soloist with the OSU Symphony Orchestra. Upon graduation, she attended the University of Michigan where she received a Master of Music degree in piano performance with a minor concentration in music history."

"Ms. Davis Barnes has participated in piano master classes with Malcolm Frager, Theodore Lettvin, Dorothy Taubman, and Ralph Votapek. She has also conducted master classes in Ohio and Michigan.

She has served as Minister of Music at Glacier Way United Methodist Church, Church of the Good Shepherd, and as a substitute organist/pianist at Calvary United Methodist Church.

The last 24 of her 34 years of piano teaching have been dominated by the Suzuki Method. Her primary Suzuki training has been at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point with Mrs. Haruko Kataoka. In addition, she has spent many hours observing other Suzuki piano and violin teachers instruct their students.

One of the high points of Ms. Davis Barnes’ teaching career was when she had the opportunity to teach general music to grades 2-8, and music appreciation to grades 10-12 to an international group of children in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia for two years, where she also did some private teaching and performing.

Ms. Davis Barnes’ lecture recitals concerning the classical music of Black Composers have been enthusiastically received at different universities around the country. Special presentations of these recitals have been warmly received by elementary and secondary students in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Pensacola, Florida, and Paradise Valley, Arizona."

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