Wednesday, February 17, 2021 Clarence Cameron White: Concert Violinist and Composer 1880-1960

Clarksville, Tennessee

By: KaSandra Stone

Clarence Cameron White was born in Clarksville [Tennessee] on August 10, 1880 to James, W. White, a doctor and school principal, and Jennie Scott White, a violinist. His father died when White was only two years old, and White’s mother relocated her two sons to Oberlin, Ohio, where she had studied music. His grandfather gave him his first violin when he was six years old.

In 1890, White’s mother remarried, and they moved as a family to Washington D.C., where the music scene was rich and active among black communities. There, White met Will Marion Cook, who offered to give him violin lessons in the summer of 1892. White marked the lessons during that summer as the time he set his mind on being a violinist. He was only 12 years old.  

White continued to receive private lessons in 1894 with Joseph Douglass, another notable black violinist and the grandson of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. From 1896-1901, White attended Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where his mother studied music. He studied under Frederick Doolittle, who taught Cook (the violinist who inspired White to pursue the instrument seriously). Unfortunately, White left before graduating to accept a teaching position in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. The position fell through after only one month, and White won a violin scholarship shortly after to the Hartford School of Music where he was a protégé of Emma Azalia Hackley, who raised money for a scholarship so that White could study in Europe, where he had studied in first London and then Paris.

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