Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dominique-René de Lerma: Antoniette Handy-Miller, flutist and administrator

Dorothy Antoinette Handy-Miller(Notable Black American Women, Book 2,
dited by Jessie Carney Smith, P. 277)

Dominique-René de Lerma:
ANTOINETTE HANDY-MILLER, flutist and administrator

We were blessed by the life of Dorothy Antoinette Handy (1930-2002).  She was born in New Orleans into a distinguished family.  Her great-great grandfather was Emmanuel Handy, a Mississippi legislator in the days following the Civil War.  Her father was Rev. William Talbot Handy, Sr., who had a career of almost 60 years as community leader in New Orleans.   Her mother, Dorothy Pauline Pleasant Handy (also from Hazelhurt MS), saw to it that her children were studying violin and piano by the time they were six -- and Antoinette's sister, Dr. Geneva Handy Southall, became a notable pianist, author of a three-volume set on Blind Tom, and head of Black studies at the University of Minnesota. 
While in her last two years of high school, Antoinette played with the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra.  She began her university studies at Spelman College (meeting Calvin Montgomery Miller, a student at Morehouse College, then husband in 1959) earning her B.M. degree from the New England Conservatory in 1952 as a flute major, with a master's degree from Northwestern the following year, during which time she was a member of the Chicago Civic Orchestra. In 1954 joined the Orchestre International in Paris, receiving an artist's diploma from the Conservatoire in 1955. The next year she was in Geneva's Music Viva Orchestra and undertook a tour in Germany as flutist within a trio, sponsored by the United States Information Office.   Returning to the United States in 1956, she was engaged first as a travel agent and then, a union member, she was affiliated with Toscanini's Symphony of the Air conducted by Leonard Bernstein, the Orchestra of America (1960-1962), the Radio City Music Hall Orchestra, and the Richmond Symphony (1966-1976), during which period she wrote for the Afro-American,  presented three programs at the Smithsonian Institution, and was commentator on Richmond radio.  From 1968 to 1971, she was in New York, a member of the Symphony of the New World.  She also appeared in California with the Bach Festival Orchestra in Carmel.  She dedicated much of her time then to the Trio Pro Viva, an ensemble with piano and cello, whose membership varied, but which was dedicated to the performance of works by Black composers.
I met Antoinette when she attended the week-long symposium we held in Baltimore in 1972 (she was soloist with the Baltimore Symphony in a concert Paul Freeman conducted at Goucher College).  I remember quite well when she phoned me in 1984 to let me know she had been appointed assistant director of the music program at the National Endowment for the Arts, and then the program's director in 1990.   This was a significant step in providing focus on Black music and musicians.   Although her previous attention had been mainly directed to classical music, she founded NEA's National Jazz Service Organization and National Jazz Network, retiring in 1993.
Like her sister, she was also dedicated to the documentation of women in music, as shown in her publications: Black women in American bands and orchestras (1998), The International Sweethearts of Rhythm (1983); jazz man's journey; a biography of Louis Ellis Marsalis, Jr.(1999), and Black conductors (1995).
She held various teaching positions: Florida A&M University for one semester, New York College of Music (1956-1957), Metropolitan Music School (1956-1963), Harlem YMCA (1957-1959), and even as music therapist at the Alfred Alder Mental Hygiene Clinic and Music Rehabilitation Center.  With the arrival of the Civil Rights Movement, she and her husband joined the faculty at the Tuskegee Institute (1963-1964), then Jackson State University (1964-1966), Virginia State (1966-1971), and Southern University (1966).  She was also artist-in-residence for the school system in Richmond from 1978-1980.  As a Ford Foundation Fellow in 1971, she was engaged in research in Durham and Chapel Hill NC, publishing the results in Black music; Opinions and reviews in 1974 and various journals.  She then returned to Virginia State, directing the Office of Education's Special Student Services.
She was named an outstanding graduate of Northwestern University in 1992 and awarded an honorary doctorate by the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1993.  The National Association of Negro Musicians presented her with their Distinguished Service to Music Award, with other awards and citations coming from the National Black Music Caucus, the National Endowment for the Arts.  She was even featured on the 1994 Aetna Life Insurance calendar.
She died of liver cancer, survived by her husband, political science Professor Calvin Miller, and three children.
The Trio Pro Viva included in its repertoire the E-flat trio sonata (after the sonata for flute and harp) by Saint-Georges, performed both in Petersburg VA and with Geneva Southall and Anthony Elliott in Minneapolis.  The trio had issued an LP, containing music by Undine Smith Moore and others, several on her impetus.  Her solo album of 2 LPs, Black images for the flute, was issued on Eastern ERS-513.

A flutist also of historical and musical significance was Harold Jones, whose career  will be posted on the necrology for 2015.

Jazz figures who doubled on flute include:

Adams, George Rufus, 1940-1992
Carver, Wayman, 1905-1967
Caymmi, Danilo Candido Tostes, 1948-
Coltrane, John, 1926-1967
Dolphy, Eric, 1928-1964
Fortune, Sonny, 1939-
Hancock, Herbie, 1940-
Humphrey, Bobbi, 1950-
Jaspar, Bobby, 1926-1963
Kirk, Rasaan Roland, 1935-1977
Lateef, Jusef, 1920-2013
Laws, Hubert, 1939-
Lloyd, Charles, 1938-
Rivers, Sam, 1923-2011
Sanders, Pharoah, 1940-
Sihab, Shihab, 1925-1989
Wess, Frank, 1922-2013

Dominique-René de Lerma

Comments by email:
1)  Hi,  Interesting.... also interesting list of flute players but one gap! See
Danilo Lozano, an incredible Cuban born virtuoso flutist who straddled the jazz/latin/classical boundaries. The late Ed Bland introduced me to him after producing ‘Dancing Through the Walls’. Incredible technique and musicality! Mike [Michael S. Wright]

2) Forthcoming:  Very expansive register of all concert instrumentalists.  First draft will be ready this week.Dominique-René de Lerma

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