The Negro Music Journal
Prepared by Richard Kitson
1 volume* (2003)
The Negro Music Journal: A Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Educational Interest of the Negro Race in Music was published in fifteen monthly issues from September 1902 to November 1903 in Washington, D. C. Volume I, No. 1 through No. 3 was published by T. Edward Clifford. Thereafter, a publisher is not identified. Despite optimistic comments about future issues, and offers of premiums for subscribers, the journal ceased publication without warning in November 1903.
J. Hillary Taylor, the journal’s founder and only editor, was a pianist, a teacher of pianoforte and music history, and was associated with the Washington Conservatory of Music, founded in the autumn of 1903. Taylor was an extremely conservative musician who extolled the moral virtues of progress in music performance and knowledge through disciplined practice of the repertory of the European tradition. In fact, in an editorial, the journal cautions readers against the derogatory effects of listening to “coon songs” and “ragtime” and outlines steps for self-improvement in music for Negroes. Agnes Carrol, a music educator and a frequent contributor served as Assistant Editor. Like Taylor, Carrol also based her views about the study of music for Negro students on European traditions.
The journal’s first four issues consist of a string of articles on musical topics without a pre-determined order of presentation. However, beginning with Vol. I, No. 5, a regular order is instituted and maintained until the final issue. First appear three articles on a variety of musical topics. These are followed by three different sets of ongoing articles, all dealing with aspects of musical study and performance; namely, the “Piano Department” by J. Hillary Taylor, the “Violin Department” by Clarence C. White, and the “Club Department” by Agnes Carrol. These departments present methods for the study of piano, violin, music theory and music history. Interspersed between the Departments’ series are articles about Negro musicians, and poems. An editorial dealing with current issues and “Musical Notes”—a calendar of local and out-of-town musical performances by Negro musicians—conclude each issue. Most of the articles are informative and explore practical matters of performance.
Biographical sketches of important and successful Negro musicians, including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912), composer of the Hiawatha Trilogy and other large-scale choral works, are featured in several issues. Pride in Coleridge-Taylor’s accomplishments led to the naming of a Washington, D.C. choral group after him, and to a full performance of Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha in Baltimore, Maryland in 1903. Agnes Carrol recounts the singing career of the contralto Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield in Europe and America, and the support she received from the Buffalo Musical Association and from Harriet Beecher Stowe in her efforts to receive recognition. The Negro violinist Clarence Cameron White contributed a two-part article dealing with the musical lives of several Negro singers including Rachel Walker, Azalia Hackley, Annie Cook, Thomas Wiggins—better known as “Blind Tom,” a mid nineteenth-century virtuoso pianist of outstanding ability—and the Jubilee Singers of Fiske University. Several other established Negro musicians and organizations are featured in articles concerning the nature of their successes.
Considerable attention is given to the efforts of baritone Theodore Drury to establish an American Negro opera company in New York, and to secure a theater for opera performances by Negro singers. A successful English-language performance of Verdi’s Aida by Drury’s company (almost entirely made up of Negro performers and artists) at the Lexington Theater in New York City receives ample space in the journal’s pages with reviews reprinted from The Colored American and the New York Herald. Performances by American Negro singers are a regular feature of the journal’s reviews. There are also reviews of concerts given by several Negro instrumentalists and of recitals by young musicians studying at the Washington Conservatory of Music. The specifications of organs, and performances by organists are also reported in the journal.
Several photographs of active Negro musicians—Clarence Cameron White (violinist), W. Thomas Adams (writer, orator and musician), Azalia Hackley (singer and teacher), and J. Hillary Taylor (pianist and teacher, editor)—and the recently established Washington Conservatory of Music are included in the journal.
*Hard Bound with
Musical Mercury (New York, 1934-1939)
Pro-Musica Quarterly (New York, 1923-1929)