Friday, July 16, 2021 Meet Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s daughter Avril, a trailblazing conductor, composer and pianist in her own right

Avril Coleridge-Taylor (1903-1998)

Classic FM

15 July 2021, 16:54 | Updated: 16 July 2021, 17:07

By Rosie Pentreath

Did you know, the daughter of British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was herself a brilliant composer and groundbreaking conductor?

Avril Coleridge-Taylor, born Gwendolyn Avril, was an English pianist, conductor and composer, and the daughter of composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Avril was born in 1903 and her mother was Coleridge-Taylor’s wife, Jessie Walmisley.

Born into a musical family, Avril followed in her father’s music-writing footsteps, and in 1915 obtained a scholarship to study composition and piano at what is now Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, in London.


Coleridge-Taylor went down in history when she became the first woman to ever conduct the HMS Royal Marines band, and she regularly conducted top orchestras, including London Symphony Orchestra.

In 1933, she made her conducting debut at London’s famous Royal Albert Hall. And in 1938, the Birmingham Daily Gazette reported on the fact she was “shortly to leave for America to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra”, something historic given her status as a woman, and not only a woman but a mixed-race woman.

The history-making conductor also founded and conducted the Coleridge-Taylor Symphony Orchestra, which had an adjoined musical society, and the Malcolm Sargent Symphony Orchestra. 

Composer and pianist

Her works include The Rustling of Grass, a reflective and nostalgic song written for voice and piano. And Ceremonial March, which is an orchestral work composed to celebrate Ghana’s independence.


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