Sunday, March 31, 2013

40 Photos by Kristin Williams and Pete Nenortas 'can be seen in a slide show on the updated Longfellow Chorus web site'

The Longfellow Chorus 

March 30, 2013

Portland, Maine
"SC-T is a cult, a religion, a master.
Bravo Maestro."
Dr. William Tortolano, Coleridge-Taylor biographer, March 25, 2013.

[Kristen Irby, as Hiawatha, and Fana Tesfagiorgis, as Minnehaha, in the Longfellow Chorus production of the complete Hiawatha, by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, March 16 & 17, 2013.]

As an audience member commented, was it a dream? After taking a year to plan, organize and set into motion, the 2013 Longfellow Choral Festival went by so quickly it seems a bit phantasmagoric. Luckily, volunteer photographer Kristin Williams, who also sings soprano in The Longfellow Chorus, captured about 300 images of the rehearsals. 40 of those, along with a few distant shots made during the concerts by our sound technician, Pete Nenortas, can be seen in a slide show on the updated Longfellow Chorus web site.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

CD 'Varietes Tropicales' Released by 'Ecole de Musique Dessaix-Baptiste' in Jacmel, Haiti

Aline BATARD writes from Haiti:


A meeting with Secours Populaire, colored by Variétés Tropicales!
The group Popular Aid of Haute Vienne in France has been an im-portant partner of the Dessaix-Baptiste school for the past three years. After their visit to the school last year, we had the idea of producing a CD. And from idea to reality . . . was only a step. Well, actually, a series of steps. Planning for the CD, selecting the groups that would participate and then the reper-toire, organizing rehearsals and recording sessions, putting together the CD booklet (beautifully illustrated with a painting by the Jacmelienne artist Rose-Marie Lamour whom we warmly thank), and so on.

And, here we are! A delegation of the Popular Aid group has come to Jacmel with the CDs in hand. A CD in which the work of the school is illustrated through the presentation of three groups: The Hugues Leroy Jazz Ensemble, Jazzy Blue and Kwi d’Or. Three groups with distinct but com-plementary musical characteristics and colors, mixed together to produce a CD that we invite you to discover as soon as possible!

The CD is available at the Dessaix-Baptiste Music School in Jacmel and is available in France on the website of the Popular Aid group:

What a wonderful way to support the projects of the music school!
We offer an immense thanks to Popular Aid for their continued support of and confidence in the music school!

Friday, March 29, 2013

'A Recital of Sacred and Classical Music' of Organist Dr. Grant D. Venerable, II Includes 'Reverie' of William Grant Still

Dr. Grant D. Venerable, II on Biography, Life in Music and Organ Recital:

Grant Delbert Venerable II is native to Los Angeles, California. His father Grant D. Venerable (1904-1986), mathematician-civil engineer, was a cornetist and tenor vocalist and his mother Thelma Scott Venerable (1916-1950) was an accomplished organist and homemaker.

Young Venerable was trained on the piano by Mmes. Dovie Steward and Harriette Williamson (childhood and teen years) and introduced to the organ by William Grant Carter and Ivy Lee Beard (1960s). He attended UCLA (B.S., Chemistry) and the University of Chicago (Ph.D., Physical Chemistry). He taught chemistry at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo and the University of California at Santa Cruz (1970s) and worked in Silicon Valley industry (1980s) before being called to the College of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University to teach the history and philosophy of science from the ancient Nile Valley to modern times (1990s).

Grant Venerable was organist for Congregational-UCC churches in northern California (1980s-1990s) and concertized in his unique improvisational style accented by rich tone colorings. From 1996 until his retirement in 2011, he was a senior academic officer at Chicago State University, Morris Brown College (Atlanta), and Lincoln University of Pennsylvania (as provost and senior vice president). In Chicago he was affiliated with the First Unitarian Church and his family's Episcopal Church of St. Edmund and served on the Boards of CityQuest and Brent House, the Episcopal Chaplain's Center at The University of Chicago.

This CD may be ordered at Tel 928 526-9355 or at website or by email at

This recital entitled, “Bach, Rhythm and Soul – Celebrating the Journey with Kith and Kin,” offers a musical portrait of formative moments in my life. The prelude piece, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, was intended not only to warm up the fingers, but also to display the range of the organ's impressive tonal resources – from soft celestial strings and majestic trumpets to its brilliant full organ sound. The W.G. Still piece recalls my meeting Judith Anne Still in 7th grade and her parents William Grant and Verna Arvey Still in their LA home where Reverie was composed.

The various sacred pieces were staples of my childhood upbringing in my family's African Methodist Episcopal (AME), Presbyterian, and Baptist heritage. I learned the Boellmann Toccata during my early years of teaching chemistry at Cal Poly. I have long relied on my musical performance as a tool for keeping mental, emotional, and spiritual balance. It is how I dissipate excess levels of stress. Music affords me entry to deep inside my soul even as it lets me stand outside of myself to achieve inspiration and insight.

Preparing for the recital enabled my discovery of long-hidden aspects of my inner self, perhaps the most important being the source of my life energy as a musical artist. Even in doing science, I felt like an artist seeking unity in his creations. The October 6th recital was symbolic of the meaning of life experienced in the pieces played. Along with the sacred melodies, two pieces stand out: 1) The nearly haunting beauty of Reverie for organ by “Dean of African American composers” William Grant Still and 2) the symphonic-scale Chorale No. 3 in A Minor by Belgian-born Frenchman Cesar Franck. The whole meaning of life attached to the Still and Franck works shine like a bright star. The recital gave me a euphoric sense of completing one journey and beginning the next.

Soprano Marti Newland in MELODEON American Gems Sunday, April 7th, 2013 at 4 Church of the Epiphany, 74th and York, NYC

Marti Newland
Soprano Marti Newland has performed in recitals and oratorios throughout the United States and Europe.  Marti is a choral adjudicator for Worldstrides Heritage Festivals and has taught private voice lessons at Seton Hall University.  She has sung in music festivals including three seasons with the Aspen Music Festival Opera Theater Center and Centro Studi Italiani in Urbania, Italy.  Her music theater roles include Glenda (The Wiz) and Mama Euralie (Once on This Island) and she has been a guest soloist with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Opera Noire of New York, and Harlem Opera Theater.  Marti has worked with teachers and directors including W. Steven Smith, Lorraine Manz, Caroline Jackson Smith and Edward Berkeley.  She is a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory of Music (B.M. voice performance) and currently a Ph.D. Candidate at Columbia University in Ethnomusicology.  While she has performed roles in opera scenes including Antonia (Les Contes d’Hoffmann), Governess (Turn of the Screw), Contessa (Le Nozze di Figaro), Musetta and Mimi (La Boheme), Cio Cio San (Madame Butterfly), and Louise (Louise), Marti specializes in African American art music.

American Gems

Three Pieces for the 1889 Mason and Hamlin Liszt Organ by Arthur Bird
            March of the Ethiopians

Gitanjali, 1914 music by John Alden Carpenter, poetry by Rabindranath Tagore*
            The Day is No More
            When I bring to you colour’d toys
            On the day when death will knock at thy door
            The sleep that flits on Baby’s Eyes
            I am like a Remnant of a Cloud of Autumn
            On the Seashore of Endless Worlds
            Light, My Light
Three Songs by Will Marion Cook 1912
            Exhortation, a Negro Sermon
            Rain Song
            Swing Along!
Three Spiritual Songs:
            Here’s One – William Grant Still
            Urbs Syron aurea from Hora Novissima – Horatio Parker
            General William Booth Enters Into Heaven – Charles Ives

Absent Friends by Arthur Corri-Clifton (1784-1832)

Marti Newland, soprano

Stephen Oosting, tenor
George Spitzer, baritone
Artis Wodehouse, Liszt Organ and piano

[William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, Recordings, sheet music and books of William Grant Still are available at, which is operated by the composer's daughter Judith Anne Still]

Comment by email:
Dear Mr. Zick, 
On behalf of MELODEON, thank you for this blog posting about our upcoming performance! Will be sure to keep you posted of future events. We appreciate the support from AfriClassical.  Sincerely, Marti  [Marti Newland]

Charles Kaufmann: Please help us bring attention to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, his music, and now, his movie, by liking the 'SC-T, The Movie,' Facebook page

Angela Brown, soprano, calls home from Nickelodeon Cinemas in Portland, Maine, before the premiere of "Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America" on March 13, 2013.

Above: Lester Green conducts and sings with The Longfellow Chorus in Washington in the movie "Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America, 1900–1912."

Choreographer Darrell Moultrie and dancer Kamille Upshaw confer during the filming of the ballet scene for "Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America" in Portland High School Auditorium, October 2012

The Longfellow Chorus
Portland, Maine
March 25, 2013

Now that the 2013 Longfellow Choral Festival is behind me, I can concentrate on Plan B: Getting our film, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America, out into the world. 

To begin the process, I've designed an official SC-T, The Movie, web page. What I think you'll find especially interesting on the page is the slide show of 45 stills and promo shots, which can be viewed by following the link labeled "view a slide show of stills and promo photos," or by clicking on the poster image on the right hand side of the page.

I've also designed an SC-T, The Movie, facebook page. Please help us bring attention to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, his music, and now, his movie, by liking the SC-T, The Movie, Facebook page, and by posting your comments. You'll be able to keep in touch with developments by friending SC-T, The Movie, facebook page.

Onward and upward with Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and his music.

Charles Kaufmann, Artistic Director
The Longfellow Chorus

Thursday, March 28, 2013

'Folks and Fantasies: The Chamber Music of William Grant Still & Clifford Julstrom' is New CD by William Grant Still Performing Arts Society

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

(Photo is the sole property of 
William Grant Still Music, 
and is used with permission)

Folks and Fantasies: The Chamber Music of William Grant Still & Clifford Julstrom;
William Grant Still Performing Arts Society; 
Directed by Dr. Everett N. Jones III; 
William Grant Still Music WGSM CD4001 (2013)

Dr. Everett N. Jones III 

The Folk Music Revival in the U.S. built up over several decades until enjoying its greatest success in the Sixties, the decade in which William Grant Still composed his six Little Folk Suites from the Western Hemisphere.  He combined short, jaunty tunes from both the United States and other countries and cultures in the Western Hemisphere.  Those who enjoyed Folk Music during the 1960s are likely to feel a tinge of nostalgia for the music of that era, upon hearing Still's diverse and authentic tunes on this disc.  We have enjoyed the Folk Suites numerous times.  

This recording is a first in several respects. It is the first recording of The William Grant Still Performing Arts Society, which is described in the liner notes: “The William Grant Still Performing Arts Society, which is in its infancy, is dedicated to promoting the performance, recording, and dissemination of the music and history of minority composers and performers of concert music in all communities.”

The disc is the inaugural release of William Grant Still Music, WGSM CD4001. The performers are Caen Thomason-Redus, Flute; Tami C. Lee Hughes, Violin; Dorthy Okpebholo, Viola; Michael Jorgensen, Violin; Victor Sotelo, Cello; Everett N. Jones III, Piano. The recording was Produced and Directed by Everett N. Jones III.

Chamber Music of William Grant Still

William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, The liner notes by Dr. Everett N. Jones III mention some of the many firsts which mark the career of William Grant Still (1895-1978), such as having a major composition, the Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American) performed by a major orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic under the direction of Howard Hanson.

Dr. Jones observes: “Still's transcendental view of humanity is reflected in his unique American fusion of African-American, European, and of many other musical cultures, genres, and spiritual beliefs. The musical diversity of his compositions ranges from concert symphonies, tone poems, chamber works, operas and ballets, to the transcriptions of spirituals, folk songs, and blues.”

The first 12 tracks are devoted to the 6 Little Folk Suites from the Western Hemisphere. Everett Jones notes they were composed in 1968 and arranged in pairs. “The First Suite contains a Creole Folk Song and a waltz-like tune about Early California. The Second Suite has a tune called El Nido and one based on an early 19th century British Folk song popular during the Gold Rush – Sweet Betsy from Pike (USA). Pieces from Louisiana and Martinique are first in the Third Suite; this suit ends with a setting of the spiritual Wade in the Water. The Fourth Suite begins with a movement inspired by two Indian guitarists popular in the 1940s-60s. The first movement, Los Indios, is followed y a southern folk tune titled the Crawdad Song. Little Folk Suite #5 contains a lullaby about the boogie man (Tutu Marimba) and ends with a slow graceful dance in triple meter that evolved from the mazurka and waltz (La Varsoviana). The final folk suite contains Anda Buscanda de Rosa en Rosa and a cowboy song titled Whoopee Ti Yi Yo.

Dr. Everett Jones III concludes the notes on the Chamber Music of William Grant Still with these observations: “The second movement from the Suite for Violin and Piano, was suggested by Sargent Johnson's “Mother and Child.” This is one of Still's more popular works because of its long beautiful melodic lines, violin cadenza, and emotional warmth.”

Chamber Music of Clifford Julstrom

The liner notes begin: “Clifford Julstrom (1907-1991) was the son of Swedish immigrant parents who cultivated his musical interest. He received a Ph.D. in composition from the Eastman School of Music under the tutelage of Howard Hanson and Bernard Rogers. He composed over 90 compositions, founded the Western Illinois University Symphony, and served as Chair of the Music Department until 1969. His style is tonal, neoclassical, and balances dissonance with a fusion of Classical, Romantic, and 20th Century composition devices.”

This recording presents two relatively contemporary works of Clifford Julstrom, Four Moods for string quartet, on Tracks 14-17, and Fantasy for flute, string quartet, and piano, on Track 18. Everett Jones writes: “The Four Moods were written in 1970 and the first movement, Drammatico, begins with a strong assertion of hope.” Semplice, Scherzando Giocoso and Patetico complete the work. The liner notes continue: “The Fantasy for Solo Flute, String Quartet and Piano is a one-movement multi-sectional work written in 1976 that fully exploits the Romantic and 20th Century techniques of harmony, shifting meter, and tempo changes. This is the first compact disk recording of the Four Moods, the Fantasy and the complete Little Folk Suites by William Grant Still.”

Disclosure: A review copy of this recording was provided by the record label.

Sergio Mims: Adolphus C. Hailstork's 'Symphonies 2 & 3' on WHPK-FM,, 12-3 PM Central Time, April 17, 2013

Adolphus C. Hailstork (b. 1941) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List and a Bibliography by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,

Sergio Mims:

I hope that you and your listeners will have a chance to listen to part or all of my classical music radio show Wednesday, April 17, 12-3PM (U.S. Central Time) on WHPK-FM 88.5 Chicago locally and livestreamed online on

The program for that day will be:

Adolphus C.  Hailstork Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 (Naxos recording), Brahms Quintet for Piano, Violins, Viola and Cello and Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22



'Incantation and Dance' of William Grant Still Performed at Western Illinois University School of Music Oboe Studio Recital 2 PM Sunday, April 7, 2013

Works By William Grant Still
New World Records NWR 80399
(Works include Incantation and Dance, for oboe)

William Grant Still (1895-1978) is profiled at, which features a comprehensive Works List by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, Recordings, sheet music and books of William Grant Still are available at, which is operated by the composer's daughter Judith Anne Still.  William Grant Still was an oboist, but Incantation and Dance is his only composition for oboe.

Western Illinois University
News Release
Oboe Studio Recital at WIU April 7
MACOMB, IL - - Western Illinois University's School of Music oboe studio will perform at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 7 in the College of Fine Arts and Communication (COFAC) Recital Hall. 

Accountancy major and music minor Alexandra O'Donnell (Macomb, IL) will perform "Incantation and Dance," by William Grant Still. "Sonata in A Minor," by Georg Philip Telemann will be performed by junior Kayleigh Marcotte (Springfield, IL). "Sonate," by Paul Hindemith will be performed by freshman music major Matthew Goulding (Lansing, IL). Graduate student Kimberly Keim (Indianapolis) will perform "Sarabande et Allegro," by Gabriel Grovlez, and senior Emily Hart (Quincy, IL) will perform "Six Metamorphoses after Ovid, Op. 49," by Benjamin Britten. 

All oboists study under WIU Music Professor Michael Ericson

All performers, except Hart, will be accompanied by either Minjung Soo or Narae Joo. 

For more information, contact COFAC Recital at (309) 298-1843.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kappa Journal, Spring 2013, Features David E. Robinson III, Cellist & Founder of 'Still Waters Youth Sinfo-Nia' for African-American Youth in Atlanta Area

"David E. Robinson III, who is the founder and director of a youth symphony in Atlanta"

David E. Robinson III:

Greetings Everyone,

It is, indeed, an honor to be featured in the Spring 2013 issue of the Kappa Journal. The picture is okay (what a facial expression), but I would have loved to have my students in there with me.  But still, it is a great honor especially receiving my 25-year certificate for being a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. at the Southeastern Provincial Public Meeting.  I have been a Kappa for 33, but at the 25-year mark I was nowhere to be found until I joined the Stone Mountain-Lithonia Alumni Chapter.  Prior to that, I attended an event at Davage Auditorium at Clark-Atlanta University, which was a part of Founders' Day.  

This article talks about my teaching career, especially with my youth orchestra.

“Scott Joplin’s Interview a Century Later: Composing an African American Cultural Legacy” First Weiner Public Lecture, Rolla, MO, April 15, 2013, Prof. Susan Curtis

Dancing to a Black Man's Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin
Susan Curtis; University of Missouri Press (2004)

Scott Joplin (c. 1867-1917) was an African-American composer and pianist of ragtime and classical music.  He is profiled at, which relies extensively on an authoritative biography, Dancing to a Black Man's Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin, written by Susan Curtis and published in 2004 by the University of Missouri Press.  Susan Curtis is Professor of History and American Studies at Purdue University.

AfriClassical has invited Prof. Curtis to comment on the latest version of the Scott Joplin page at the website.  She has replied, in part:

"Dear Mr. Zick,

I have visited your website several times and I’m deeply honored to have my work on Scott Joplin featured so prominently."  "As the Maxwell C. Weiner Visiting Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Missouri University of Science and Technology for this semester, I will be giving a couple of public lectures, one of which will be about Scott Joplin...a version of that talk is attached.  If it seems suitable for your Joplin blog, I would like very much to have you post it.

Here’s wishing you all the best,
Susan Curtis"

“Scott Joplin’s Interview a Century Later: Composing an African American Cultural Legacy

First Weiner Public Lecture, Rolla, MO, April 15, 2013 

Susan Curtis

In April 1913, almost exactly a century ago, the New York Age published an interview with Scott Joplin, the great African American composer of ragtime music. It is, to my knowledge, the only interview with Joplin that is extant today. It appeared in a prominent black weekly that enjoyed a national readership and on a page edited by a noted music and drama critic, Lester A. Walton. The interview is short—in essence, Joplin claims significance for the music he had written and advanced as well as frustration with the fact that his music has been misunderstood. It invites us, a century later, to reflect on Scott Joplin’s musical legacy as a revealing moment in U.S. history.
But I want to suggest something more. That is, there’s something more than a century anniversary of an episode in the life of an American composer at stake here. We must remember that the Scott Joplin we honor today was, for decades, forgotten—relegated to the unimportant selvages of the fabric of American culture. When we listen to his words today, we must apprehend the limited audience that encountered them in 1913. Thus, the point of this meditation is twofold. First, I want to share with you what Joplin had to say about the musical genre with which his name is associated and to explore why his work appeared in the New York Age at that particular moment. Second, I want to think about the high price we, as a society, have paid for not hearing him in the first place. Taken together, I hope these two pieces will help us see how and why history matters.
I. Scott Joplin and Classic Ragtime
It is not entirely clear to me why Lester Walton decided to make Joplin’s words the lead story in his “Theatrical Comment” on April 3, 1913. As far as I can tell, Walton and Joplin had a vexed relationship with one another. The two knew each other in St. Louis in the early 1900s—they both spent time at Tom Turpin’s Rosebud Café and claimed many of the same friends. Walton was a native son of the Mound City, having been born there in 1879. He graduated from Sumner High School in 1897, and in 1902, Walton began working as a reporter for the St. Louis Star, covering both the four courts and the golf beat. Joplin, of course, was not a native Missourian, but he had lived in the state since 1893 when he moved to Sedalia after having been in Chicago at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Joplin had obtained a patchy education as a youngster in Texarkana, but he took at least some courses on music at the George R. Smith College for Negroes in Sedalia before moving to St. Louis in late 1900 or early 1901. Joplin and Walton left St. Louis at about the same time, too—both seeking their fortunes in New York City in the field of entertainment.1
In spite of these shared experiences and common ties to St. Louis, there is little evidence of a friendship between them, even though they traveled in some of the same circles in their new home. Walton was one of the founders and officers of the Colored Vaudevillian Benevolent Association (C.V.B.A.); Joplin became a member and took an active part in C.V.B.A.—sponsored events.2 Walton achieved a position of considerable influence as the drama critic and editor of a popular page called initially “Music and the Stage” shortly after his arrival in the city. Except for a few brief notices, however, he rarely touted Joplin’s talent as a composer. Indeed, before publishing the interview with Joplin, Walton promoted other musicians much more enthusiastically than his fellow St. Louisan. For some reason, Walton kept Joplin at arm’s length.
In 1913, however, Walton shone the spotlight on Scott Joplin. He entitled the segment, “Detriment to Ragtime,” and opened the piece with the observation that “There is no harm in musical sounds”—regardless of whether they came from an up-tempo piece of ragtime or a slow melodic song. He then turned the next paragraphs over to Joplin, whom he described as “one of the world’s greatest writers of ragtime.” Joplin’s comments disparaged musicians who wrote tasteless lyrics for their otherwise beautiful pieces of music, and he argued that objections to ragtime music more often than not stemmed from “vulgar words” rather than from the music itself.
In the remaining paragraphs devoted to his comments, Joplin made two claims that form the basis of the legacy he sought to compose for himself. The first was to establish ragtime as a distinctly African American musical genre. “Ragtime rhythm,” he insisted, “is a syncopation original with the colored people though many of them are ashamed of it. But the other races throughout the world are learning to write and make use of ragtime melodies.”3 Attribution of ragtime to African Americans had been common about a decade earlier, although the associations made by white writers for The Etude and Grove’s Dictionary of Music were not particularly flattering.4 Joplin’s desire to establish African American origins for ragtime must be seen in response to an increasing detachment of African Americans from the music in the mainstream press. In a classic case of what Eric Lott called “love and theft,” Irving Berlin and Louis Hirsch—not Scott Joplin—were touted as the standard-bearers for American ragtime music.5 Here, Joplin took pleasure in the fact that “other races” had been inspired by the genius of composers of African descent, like himself, but he did not wish to surrender originality to those who had followed. At the same time, Joplin felt compelled to acknowledge and explain criticism of ragtime that had come from African Americans. He likely still remembered the harsh denunciations of ragtime like the one that appeared in The Negro Music Journal in 1903, which called ragtime a “low and degrading class of music.”6 Instead of a reason for race pride, the writer no doubt recoiled from music written by African Americans that was widely condemned by white, middle-class arbiters of American culture. In 1913, Joplin sought to reclaim credit for the musical innovation and to distance himself from some lyrics that had dragged down the race.
Beyond claiming credit for a form of which “white people took no notice” until about 1893, Joplin also linked his musical efforts to classical music. He wrote: “If some one were to put vulgar words to a strain of one of Beethoven’s Symphonies, people would begin saying, ‘I don’t like Beethoven’s Symphonies.’ So it is the unwholesome words and not the ragtime melodies that many people hate.”7 Joplin claimed classical status indirectly by comparing his music with that of Beethoven. Such a move was, unfortunately, necessary because of Joplin’s limited success in promoting his serious work. His great triumph, of course, was the completion of an opera, Treemonisha, in 1911. An anonymous reviewer for The American Musician asserted that Joplin had “created an entirely new phase of musical art and ha[d] produced a thoroughly American opera, dealing with a typical American subject, yet free from all extraneous influence.” The reviewer saw Joplin as an heir to Antonin Dvorak’s daring effort to incorporate African American musical riffs in New World Symphony, and he considered the composer to be for African American music what Booker T. Washington and Paul Laurence Dunbar were for African American letters.8 Two years later, however, Joplin still sought a financial backer and producer willing to stage what the reviewer had called an “interesting and potent achievement.”
Joplin had faced similar problems ten years earlier when he completed his first opera, A Guest of Honor, which likely dramatized Booker T. Washington’s formal invitation to dinner at the White House with Theodore Roosevelt in the spring of 1902. Joplin had the music, the book, actors, and a venue, but he failed to secure the necessary financial backing to present the opera to the public.9 At about the same time, Joplin finished an extraordinary ballet making use of syncopated music and popular dances. He called the work The Ragtime Dance. John Stark, the publisher who had dubbed Joplin “The King of Ragtime Writers,” refused to publish it. Stark’s refusal does not necessarily mean that he failed to see the large vision displayed by Joplin; rather, he rightly could not imagine his customers knowing what to make of the work as a piece of sheet music. Stark’s daughter Nellie pressured him to publish the piece, but without the whole concept—music and staged dance—it made little sense to Stark’s clientele, and the poor sales confirmed for Stark that Joplin’s value to him lay exclusively in strictly instrumental numbers that could be marketed as “classic ragtime.”10
Stark was not alone in seeing the classical elements in Joplin’s work. Alfred Ernst and Monroe Rosenfeld saw great potential in Joplin’s early compositions. The St. Louis Globe Democrat reported that Ernst had invited Joplin to accompany him on a European tour so that he could learn more about “compositions of a higher class.” Two years later, Rosenfeld endorsed Joplin as the “King of Ragtime Writers” who eventually would reach his full potential when he turned from popular music to opera.11 John Stark advertised Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag as the product of a composer with “the skill of a Beethoven” combined with the “sentiment of a Black Mamma’s croon.”12 In the two years following Joplin’s New York Age interview, Stark published lengthy advertisements in Christensen’s Ragtime Review that equated ragtime with classical music. As he wrote of Joplin’s compositions in 1915, “We have advertised these as classic rags, and we mean just what we say. . . . They have lifted ragtime from its low estate and lined it up with Beethoven and Bach.”13
Except for these fleeting moments of praise and respect, Joplin never achieved fame as a classical American composer during his lifetime. Clearly, this interview, however much it might have meant to the composer, did nothing to alter the musical hierarchy of 1913. He had written two operas, an ambitious modern ballet, and a score of more accessible pieces ranging in form from waltzes and marches to two-steps and slow drags. Joplin had gathered around him a group of talented students who had collaborated with him and had published compositions of their own. But in New York, he still seemed to be looking for his niche. And whatever he thought Walton might do for him, Joplin knew that his fellow St. Louisan had been fickle up to this point. While The American Musician had published a full-blown review of his opera, Walton had published a disappointing notice under the promising title, “Latest Negro Opera.”14 And although Walton was one of the founding members of the “Frogs,” a social organization of African American performers devoted to preserving the best of African American thought and expression, Joplin never appeared in any of the articles about the group’s activities.
So what might have made Walton “interview” a composer who, for reasons unknown to us today, triggered such ambivalence? Like so much of what we know of both the composer and the critic, Walton’s decision to print an interview with Joplin is shrouded in mystery. Nevertheless, a number of events immediately preceding and following the interview provide a context within which we can speculate. But at this point, we must broaden the frame from Joplin to survey the prevailing conditions for African American artists and performers in 1913. In doing so, we enter Walton’s world.
II. Walton’s World
Few individuals had as great a shaping influence on the world of African American art and performance in the early twentieth century as Lester A. Walton. He occupied a curious insider/outsider position as critic and editor, on one hand, and leader of and participant in the performance community, on the other. At a time when George Jean Nathan, the witty drama critic for H. L. Mencken’s Smart Set, was establishing what would become the standard for American drama criticism, Walton was developing a very different kind of relationship between the critic and the performer. Unlike Nathan and his followers, who took pleasure in withering comments directed at actors, playwrights, and directors and self-aggrandizing displays of knowledge and sophistication, Walton sought the tone of an educator. Make no mistake, Walton could find fault with the best of them, skewering performers for excessive staginess, criticizing singers for ragged entries, and pommeling playwrights for questionable dialogue. But he also always used his columns to comment on the political or social value of the stage in breaking down racial prejudice and misunderstanding. He devoted columns to exploring individual performers’ keys to success, to penning inspiring biographies, and to offering insights into standard business practices to readers who most likely had limited access to education. On occasion, he turned the columns over to performers, professionals in the community, and clergymen so as to give them a platform from which to address a wider audience than they typically reached. And Walton frequently printed excerpts from other newspapers to keep his readers apprised of contemporary (usually white) attitudes toward African American performers and culture.15
In the weeks leading up to Joplin’s interview, Walton devoted much of his attention to the founding of a “colored stock company” at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. Whispers began in late February that plans were in the works, and by early March it looked to be a done deal. Walton discussed the group before it ever appeared on the stage: “The debut of the colored stock company at the Lafayette Theatre is full of significance and means much to the colored theatrical professions, yes far more than it does to the owners of the theatre. It is, therefore, incumbent on all parties concerned to put their shoulder to the wheel to make the company’s appearance a big success.”16 He announced with delight that “Will Marion Cook, the foremost musician of the race” would essentially serve as conductor and musical director of the company. The larger significance of this venture was, for Walton, a re-energizing of African American performance in the wake of the deaths of prominent black stars like Ernest Hogan and George Walker. It was a chance to bring an African American perspective back to the American stage.
But as Walton well knew, racial discrimination on the stage in the United States meant that African American actors were left to their own devices to learn how to act or sing or dance or write stage plays. The deeper significance of the stock company was to provide experience for talented performers that they would never get in mainstream theaters. He let Cook himself explain how this issue animated the company: “The founders of this organization aim to put into characteristic, a musical and dramatic form, real pictures of Negro life both of city and plantation. The authors of the playlets will at first treat of the lighter humorous characteristics of their people until Negro actors shall have obtained a surer stage technique. The Negro talent for music and dramatic expression is now unquestioned. The Negro Players hope to aid in the development and perfection of this talent.”17 No one understood the importance of this experience better than Cook. He had studied at the Oberlin Conservatory as a teenager, spent two years studying with a violin master in Berlin, and eventually entered the National Conservatory of Music in Washington, D. C., where he coincided with Antonin Dvořák. Cook was one of the students who influenced the great composer to interweave African American motifs into his New World Symphony. In spite of having earned stellar credentials like these, Cook could not find steady employment as a musician in organizations that were dominated by whites. Although he had enjoyed the benefits of instruction from some of the finest musicians of his day, Cook recognized that being barred from white orchestras, ensembles, and stages meant that continued development would depend on a community of artists and performers who, though extremely talented, did not enjoy the imprimatur of the so-called legitimate stage.18
Before the month of March was out, the Negro Players had made a successful debut, enjoyed a one-week run, and disbanded. Walton opined that the problem was that the lack of business managers in the Black community meant that the actors and musicians tried to do everything—including making decisions they were not qualified to make. Without saying so explicitly, Walton pointed to the impact of racial discrimination on the efforts of black performers to succeed. The simple fact remained that there was not enough money in African American theater to support the hiring of business managers.19 Thus, by the time Joplin’s interview appeared in the newspaper, Walton had been thinking a great deal about the future prospects of African American talent in the United States. After being in the thick of things in Harlem for five years, Walton had to have been discouraged by the outcomes even as he could see the talent all around him. The problem did not lie in meager ability; rather, obstacles structured by racism thwarted African American endeavors.
It was in this context that Walton launched what ended up being a decades-long campaign to standardize the capitalization of Negro in the American press. He sent a letter to the members of the Associated Press on March 21, 1913, asking that this group consider treating Negro not as a color but as a racial designation on a par with Indian, Japanese, or Italian and capitalizing it as a symbol of equality and respect. No term in current use, he argued captured the sense of peoplehood felt by African Americans—they were not the only “colored” people; they were not all “black;” those living in the United States were not “African.” Yet as a group they wanted a descriptor that represented an identity of which to be proud. “Why not refer to the term ‘Negro’ as a race of people and not with regard to the color of one’s skin?” he asked.20 The request was, not surprisingly, denied, but, undaunted, Walton began writing letters to the editor of the New York Times to expose the faulty logic of racism. He also initiated a behind-the-scenes effort to persuade influential editors, one at a time, to drop the use of insulting terms like “darkey” and quietly introduce the practice of capitalizing Negro. The New York World under the editorial leadership of Herbert Bayard Swope was one of the first to adopt the practice, but it would not be until sometime during World War II that it was considered standard practice among American newspapermen.21 In 1913, the recent inauguration of Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States lent a sense of urgency to Walton’s campaign. For now, in March 1913, the man who held the highest office in the land had begun the work of segregating the nation’s capital. Few presidents since Lincoln had done that much for the cause of racial equality, but Wilson’s actions threatened to erase even the small gains that had been made since the end of Reconstruction.22
So when Walton decided to publish an interview with Scott Joplin, he was thinking a great deal about the social diminishment of African-descended people in the United States. Perhaps Walton decided it was time to give Joplin his due as a serious composer, because in spite of the positive review in The American Musician Joplin still lacked the support needed to stage his opera. Walton had written in late October 1912 that since “the race question is only incidental to our white writers,” it fell to “writers of color” to speak up for the artists of the race.23 If he, Walton, did not give Joplin a platform for expressing his ideas about his compositions, who would?
Nevertheless, in spite of giving Joplin a chance to speak to the readers of the Age, Walton could do little to get his opera on the stage. Four years later—almost to the day—Joplin died in a ward for the mentally ill, never having succeeded in bringing Treemonisha to the world with proper sets, costumes, and musical accompaniment. Although his death made the front page of the New York Age, it was not long before Joplin faded from the memory of Americans—black and white. Indeed, he was unfortunately mis-remembered as the composer of dance-hall music by James Weldon Johnson and completely ignored by W. E. B. Du Bois in his Gift of the Black Folk, which catalogued the intellectual and artistic contributions to American life made by African Americans. His wife, Lottie Stokes Joplin, lobbied the African American entertainment community unsuccessfully for years to raise money to buy a headstone to mark his grave. But Joplin remained in obscurity for more than five decades after his death and even when his work resurfaced, it took time for his musical genius to be fully appreciated. It is to the high cost of this forgetting that I would like now to turn.
III. The High Price of Forgetting
Now that Scott Joplin has been remembered as the King of Ragtime and many of his compositions are immediately recognizable, it is easy to trick ourselves into believing that Americans always recognized his genius. It reminds me of what Nikhil Pal Singh wrote of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his magisterial work, Black Is a Country: “The triumph of the civil rights movement under King’s leadership is now said to reveal certain truths about the nation and how its values of tolerance and inclusive boundaries have been reconstituted in our own time. . . . As a new founding father, the mythic King allowed Americans not only to celebrate their progress into a more inclusive and tolerant people, but also to tell themselves that this is who they always were.”24 The trick is to suppress the most radical aspects of King’s vision and to ignore the violence of his contemporaries’ response to even his most modest demands for equal treatment and respect. One of the musicians responsible for the Joplin revival in the 1970s, T. J. Anderson reported with refreshing honesty in 1973 that he had not always taken the author of Treemonisha seriously. He writes: “My attitude toward Joplin is not the same as it was thirty years ago. We see him now as one of the most important creators of his generation, certainly comparable to Schoenberg. Yet most people knew nothing about Joplin when he was alive—other than as a composer of rags.”25
So, in point of fact, Americans have not always recognized Joplin’s musical gifts, and as a society we have paid a high price for that failure. If it were only Joplin who had slipped through the cracks of our collective memory—tragic though that would be—the loss would not have been so keenly felt. But you probably noticed that in the space of this short lecture, I have mentioned several individuals whose talents were not used to the fullest. Will Marion Cook languished in third-rate venues in spite of his first-rate training and ability. Lester A. Walton carved out a socially responsible form of drama criticism that was ignored by the mainstream of drama critics. His great campaign to get U.S. newspapers to capitalize the word “Negro” eventually succeeded but the accomplishment was attributed incorrectly to “Lester Watson.”26 Joplin, Cook, and Walton represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg of African-descended Americans whose talents their countrymen squandered because of racial discrimination in the form of personal bigotry and institutional racism.
Today, leaders at most American universities and corporations wring their hands over the matter of diversity and inclusion. Their goal is to create an environment in which everyone is welcome and respected, and they periodically have to shake their heads in disbelief when this ideal is shattered—once again—by overt signs of disrespect and exclusion. I doubt that there is a single institution in the United States that has succeeded in reaching this goal. At my home institution, Purdue University, the campus community is frequently rocked by incidents such as the defacement of a memorial portrait of an African American professor in the Business school just last year. “How can incidents like these still happen?” they ask. “Haven’t we gotten past such racist displays?”
I’d like to suggest that our nation’s on-going struggle with race is another part of the high price we pay for our history of forgetting or only partially remembering the extraordinary men and women whose desire to be “co-workers in the kingdom of culture,” as W. E. B. Du Bois so eloquently put it, was spurned by the mainstream majority. The reason it is important to review Scott Joplin’s interview a century later is to listen—carefully—to what he had to say and to think—carefully—about what we obviously missed in the first instance. Indeed, instead of thinking of Joplin as being just like his contemporaries, I propose that we recognize that he was attempting to write music that exceeded the conventions for serious composition.
At the heart of Joplin’s message is his laying claim to the status of a serious composer. His point of reference was Ludwig van Beethoven, not Louis Hirsch or Irving Berlin. His contemporaries found it hard to register Joplin’s music as “serious,” because he wasn’t using meter, melody, and rhythm the way white serious composers used them. Nor did he experiment with musical conventions in the way such serious renegades as Arnold Schoenberg did with atonality and dissonance. In other words the canon and the standards of value did not accommodate the avant garde conceptions of opera and ballet offered by Joplin.
The same might well be said of other African American or non-white artists, intellectuals, poets, performers, writers, and educators. For example, at the moment that George Jean Nathan and Lester Walton set out to establish particular traditions of drama criticism, no such standards yet existed. It quickly became clear that Nathan’s approach—wicked, witty, and world-weary—would emerge as the standard by which all criticism should be judged. As a recent biographer put it: “Nathan was more than a recorder of Broadway’s brilliance; he was himself one of its baubles. Nathan came to personify the Broadway critic: elegantly dressed, escorting a fetching ingénue toward two on the aisle, row E seats; midnight suppers at the Stork Club; playwrights and directors breathlessly watching his every sneer or smile; gossip columnists eagerly relating his latest bon mots and evening escapades. Nathan flourished during Broadway’s most glamorous era.”27 I probably needn’t mention that no matter whether Walton had wanted to emulate Nathan, he never could have purchased “two on the aisle, Row E seats” nor could he have gained admission to the Stork Club. But even that raw racial discrimination is not the point; the point is that there was but one way of measuring excellence in the field of drama criticism, and it was a standard of measurement established by a white Broadway insider and maintained for decades by those who strove to perform their work in exactly that way.
The problem with most institutional efforts to foster diversity and inclusion is that they leave untouched the standard for measuring excellence. At the same time as institutions roll out new plans and policies to instill diversity, they continue to measure individuals against a standard of achievement established decades earlier by people who frankly didn’t care a whit about inclusiveness. In graduate programs, for example, the Graduate Record exam continues to be used as a standard way of measuring student potential. Its use is defended as the only way to judge merit from students coming from widely divergent undergraduate program. Scholarship over the past twenty years, however, has shown that the GRE is more accurate at predicting success at taking standardized tests than on succeeding in graduate education. Yet, it continues to be used to the benefit of students privileged by class and/or race. Likewise standards for promotion in law, business, and higher education were established by past professionals who were part of homogenous professional fraternities. But even raising a question about what it means to be a diverse institution raises hackles and prompts harrumphs about “lowering standards.” As Michèle Lamont recently observed, “Diversity and excellence are often pitted against one another in American higher education. Those who oppose taking diversity into consideration in university admission or other forms of academic selection argue that some ‘get in’ because of their skin color or gender while others ‘get in’ because of their achievement and analytical skills.”28 Failing to maintain standards, defenders of the status quo often say, will mean losing our high standing among our competitors.
Joplin’s second assertion answers this point—he believed his work had been unfairly damned by association with vulgarity. Instead of taking his work of art on its own terms, the single-standard-for-excellence mentality of the 1910s made a series of associations—between Joplin’s race, racial stereotype, and Joplin’s music—that led to the conclusion that Joplin’s compositions were tasteless and vulgar. Twenty-first-century Americans may not be quite so blatant as that, but the tacit message embedded in the defense of “excellence” is that difference equates with inferiority. Of course, we then cringe when the coming generation sneers at those who think, perform, and create differently from the accepted norm, and we continue to wring our hands when lack of respect for difference leads to racist acts. But the brave new world of diverse, inclusive institutional life demands that we display the courage to expand the ways of recognizing outstanding achievement, both inside and outside of the mainstream.
In 1913, Joplin spoke and Walton gave him a platform to reach the readers of the New York Age. His words still resonate today. Joplin challenges those of us who hear him to consider with a fresh perspective what it means to be excellent; what it means to be co-workers in the kingdom of culture; and how we might compose a new legacy of respect for the future.

1 For information about the relationship between Scott Joplin and Lester Walton, see Susan Curtis, Colored Memories: A Biographer’s Quest for the Elusive Lester A. Walton (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008), 11-16; 130-31. For information about Scott Joplin’s early career, see Susan Curtis, Dancing to a Black Man’s Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1994).

2 For more on the C.V.B.A. and on Joplin’s involvement in the organization, see “Motto of the C.V.B.A.,” New York Age, January 6, 1910, 6, col. 4; “Colored Vaudevillians Organize,” New York Age, June 10, 1909, 6, col. 1-3; “New C.V.B.A. Committees,” New York Age, June 6, 1912, 6, col. 3; and “C.V.B.A. Entertainment,” New York Age, August 17, 1911, 6, col. 1-2. Walton published the following preliminary history of the organization: “Club Elects Officers,” New York Age, May 26, 1910, 6, col. 1-2.

3 Lester A. Walton, “Detriment to Ragtime,” New York Age, April 3, 1913, 6, col. 1.

4 “Questions and Answers,” The Etude 18 (February 1900): 52; and J. A. Fuller Maitland, ed., Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (New York: Macmillan, 1908), Vol. 4, 16.

5 Carl Van Vechten, “The Great American Composer: His Grandfathers are the Present Writers of Our Popular Ragtime Songs,” Vanity Fair 8 (April 1917): 75, 140.

6 “Our Musical Condition,” The Negro Music Journal 1 (March 1903): 137-39. This piece and others in this journal reflected the desire to claim middle-class respectability along the lines believed to be articulated by white middle-class Americans. For a larger context for this impulse, see Kevin Gaines, Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

7 “Detriment to Ragtime.”

8 The review appeared in the June 24, 1911, issue of The American Musician, major excerpts of which can be found in James Haskin and Kathleen Benson, eds., Scott Joplin (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1978), 177-79.

9 One of the performers, Arthur Marshall, was a protégé of Joplin. His memories of the opera are recorded in Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis, They All Played Ragtime: The True Story of an American Music (New York: A. A. Knopf, 1950), 71, and in Vera Brodsky Lawrence, ed., Collected Works of Scott Joplin (New York: The New York Public Library, 1971), 1:xxvi-xxvii. The latter source includes a full discussion of Joplin’s first opera and its uncertain fate. For references to the preparations being made for staging the opera, see “Scott Joplin’s Opera,” Sedalia Weekly Conservator, August 22, 1903, 2, col. 3.

10 To see the sheet music score for The Ragtime Dance and to read a discussion of Stark’s initial objection to publishing it, see Lawrence, Collected Works of Scott Joplin, 1:xxii-xxiv, 293-301. See also “Our Trip to the World’s Fair City,” Sedalia Times, April 26, 1902, 1, col. 1.

11 “To Play Ragtime in Europe,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 28, 1901, 3, col. 2-3; and “The King of Rag-Time Composers Is Scott Joplin, A Colored St. Louisan, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 7, 1903, Sporting Section, 5, col. 1-3.

12 The copy of Maple Leaf Rag is Item 4 in the Joplin File, Starr Music Collection, Lilly Library, Bloomington, Indiana. The advertisement appears on page 6.

13 Christensen’s Ragtime Review 1 (January 1915): 23; and “Can You Imagine This?” Christensen’s Ragtime Review 1 (December 1914): 2.

14 Lester A. Walton, “Latest Negro Opera,” New York Age, May 25, 1911, 6, col. 3.

15 For a fuller discussion of Walton’s style as a critic, see Curtis, Colored Memories, 11-32.

16 Quoted material is from Lester A. Walton, “Lafayette Theatre to Have Colored Stock Co.,” New York Age, March 6, 1913, 6, col. 1. For earlier mention, see “Lafayette Theatre,” New York Age, February 27, 1913, 6, col. 2.

17 “Stock Co. at the Lafayette,” New York Age, March 13, 1913, 6, col. 2.

18 For a good biographical sketch of Cook, see Eileen Southern, ed., Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982), 76-77.

19 Lester A. Walton, “ ‘The Traitor’ Presented,” New York Age, March 20, 1913, 6, col. 1; “Negro Players Disband,” New York Age, March 27, 1913, 6, col. 2.

20 Walton to the Associated Press, March 21, 1913, Lester A. Walton Papers, Schomburg Center for Research on Black Culture, New York, NY (hereinafter LAWPA), Box 7, File 1.

21 “‘World’ Discontinues Use of ‘Darkies,’” New York Age, June 29, 1918, 1, col. 5.

22 For a full discussion of Walton’s campaign to get the word Negro capitalized, see Curtis, Colored Memories, 84-90.

23 “The ‘Follies of 1912,’” New York Age, October 24, 1912, 6, col. 1.

24 Nikhil Pal Singh, Black Is A Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 4.

25 Anderson is quoted in Dominique-Rene de Lerma, Reflections on Afro-American Music (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1973), 74, 85.

26 See Walton to Charles Merz, January 12, 1945, LAWPA, Box 16, File 18, a letter in which Walton asks the editor of the New York Times to correct the error, a correction that was made about two decades later in Walton’s obituary.

27 Thomas F. Connolly, George Jean Nathan and the Making of Modern American Drama Criticism (Danvers, Mass.: Associated University Presses, Inc., 2000), 13.

28 Michèle Lamont, “Diversity and Excellence in Higher Education: Not Alternatives but Additives,” Huff Post, April 24, 2009. See also Lamont’s counterargument in How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Evaluation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009).