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Black History Month: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

This week, Polly Jones, your Vice President Academic Experience, has chosen to discuss Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge Taylor was a musical composer and political activist of mixed race heritage. Born in 1875, to Alice Hare Martin, an English woman, and Dr. Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, his father, who came from sierra leone to Britain’s capital in order to study medicine. Taylor was bought up in Croydon, Surrey, surrounded by numerous musicians on his mother’s side, and from this was taught to play the violin. His ability was recognised, and his grandfather started to pay for his violin lessons. The extended family then paid for Taylor to study at the Royal College of Music, of which he changed from performing on the violin to composing, and after completing his degree, he became conductor of the Croydon Conservatoire. By 1896, he had earned a solid reputation as a composer, being later helped by names like Edward Elgar, through recommendation to the Three Choirs Festival, to showcase his work. 

Coleridge-Taylor’s compositions drew from the traditional African Music to integrate it into the classical tradition, and he became increasingly interested in his paternal racial heritage. He participated as the youngest delegate at the 1900 First Pan-African Conference, held In London, and met leading Americans through this, including poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. From this, he set some of his poems (African Romances) to music, and in 1897, the two men gave joint performances.  

From success in his compositions, Coleridge-Taylor toured the united states, in which he was received by President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. 

Coleridge-Taylor died at the age of 37 of Pneumonia. 

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