Monday, June 14, 2010

Guest Book Post: 'I am the Great-Granddaughter to the late R. Nathaniel Dett.'

[The Collected Piano Works of R. Nathaniel Dett; Summy-Birchard (1973)]

We are pleased to report that the Guest Book at has received an informative entry today from Latisha A. Wright:

Latisha A Wright
“Monday, 6/14/10, 12:02 AM I am the Great-Granddaughter to the late R. Nathaniel Dett. The Granddaughter to the late Helen Elise Hopkins, Dett's daughter. I would just like to send my thanks and gratitude for this informative page, as unfortunately, I have just learned of my Great-Grandfather and all that he has accomplished, a few years ago. This page allows me to hear his delightful music and learn more of the wonderfully talented man he was and forever will be. Again my sincere thank you. :) From: Jamaica, Queens NY”

Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma is Professor of Music at Lawrence University Conservatory in Appleton, Wisconsin. His scholarly research has enabled us to reconstruct the life and career of R. Nathaniel Dett on the page dedicated to him at R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) was born in Canada, but emigrated to the United States with his family in 1893. He was an African American composer, pianist and choral director whose tenure at Hampton Institute from 1913-1932 was legendary. It was at Oberlin that he first heard Dvorak's use of Bohemian folk song in classical music.

Prof. De Lerma writes: “From this time, he was resolved to participate in the preservation of the spirituals although he had originally looked on them, as did others, as reminders of slavery times.” “When Dett completed his five-year course at Oberlin in 1908, he became the first African American to earn a B.A. in Music there with a major in composition and piano.” “He immediately began teaching, first at Lane College (Jackson, Tennessee) until 1911, when he moved to Lincoln Institute (now University) in Jefferson City, Missouri, and then in 1913 to Hampton Institute (now University) as director of the music program.

Dett died in Battle Creek, Michigan while touring with a Women's Army Corps chorus as a member of the U.S.O. As a composer, Dett is remembered chiefly for the choral works he based on African American spirituals, and for the works for solo piano he composed in the Romantic style.

1 comment:

JMW said...

Yet another reminder of the superlative and irreplaceable work done by Dr. De Lerma