Monday, February 28, 2011 Pianist Harold Bradford tells students 'people from all over the world are involved in classical music.'

[Pianist Harold Bradford (San Francisco Chronicle)]

Edward Guthman, Special to The Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle February 28, 2011
Monday, February 28, 2011
“Every Tuesday and Wednesday night, Harold Bradford travels back in time at Goat Hill Pizza. The mode of transport is piano and the points of navigation include classical, pop, folk and religious hymns. Bradford, 62, teaches piano lab at Bay Area Technology School in North Oakland and plays piano each Sunday at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Richmond. He lives in South San Francisco with his wife of three years, Khanida, and has two grown daughters and a son.

“On top of the piano at Goat Hill Pizza, I have a poster with a picture of the 20th Century Limited, the world's most famous passenger train. It reads, 'Harold Bradford Piano Adventures. Where shall we go today?' A typical set starts with a classical piece I'm composing, or an ancient folk hymn from anywhere in the world. My wife always requests that I start with our favorite hymn, 'Be Thou My Vision.'"

“I grew up in Charleston, W.Va.. My father was a dentist, one of the first African American dentists in West Virginia. He practiced until he was 89. And my mother was a nurse and a visual artist. Her family was Cherokee. My whole life has been about church, music, school, family. Everybody in the family played and sight-read music. I was first inspired by my mom and my big sister, Daisy. I started taking lessons when I was 9, and I would imitate them.”

“In second grade I was one of the first African American students to enter an integrated school in Charleston - the only one in my class. I started blending in more when I played music. I played trombone in the band and won a master bandsman's award. In eighth grade my music teacher played Brahms First Symphony for us. That really triggered my focus on classical music. From Brahms, I became interested in Bach and Handel, Rachmaninoff, Debussy.

“From my piano teacher I learned about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), an African British composer, and George Bridgetower (1778-1860), an African Polish violinist who was a friend of Beethoven. Here I am playing Beethoven and Mozart and Bach and she says, 'You know, people from all over the world are involved in classical music.' I share that with my students. A lot of them feel disconnected from classical music. I tell them, 'It's not confined to just one culture or group of people.' Once they feel they're a part of it - and understand that their people were part of its creation - it's easier for them to succeed in classical music.” [George Bridgetower and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor are profiled at, whose page on George Bridgetower was researched and written by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma]

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