Undine Smith Moore
On this day in 1904, Undine Smith Moore, the “Dean of Black Women Composers,” was born in Jarratt, Virginia!
Moore, the granddaughter of slaves, began studying piano at the age of seven with Lillian Allen Darden. She attended Fisk University, where she studied piano with Alice M. Grass and first began to compose. In 1924, at the age of 20, she became the first graduate of Fisk to receive a scholarship to Juilliard. She graduated cum laude in 1926, and soon after became the supervisor of music for the Goldsboro, NC public school system. She began teaching piano, organ, and music theory at Virginia State College (now Virginia State University) in 1927, where she remained on faculty until her retirement in 1972. She commuted to Columbia University in New York City between 1929 and 1931 and received her Master of Arts in Teaching.
Moore traveled extensively as a professor, conducting workshops and lecturing on Black composers. Among her many awards were the National Association of Negro Musicians Distinguished Achievement Award in 1975, the Virginia Governor’s Award in the Arts in 1985, and a Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1984. She was also awarded honorary Doctor of Music degrees by Virginia State University in 1972 and Indiana University in 1976, and in 1977 was named music laureate of Virginia.
Known to some as the “Dean of Black Women Composers,” Moore is most widely known for her choral works, though she also wrote for piano and various instrumental ensembles. Her Scenes from the Life of a Martyr is a 16-part oratorio on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1981.
Thank your for sharing this article…. Undine Smith Moore was the best women composer..
Dear Dr. Hill:
I have had the honor of recording Dr. Moore’s Introduction and Allegro for clarinet and piano on my CD, But Not Forgotten: Music by African American Composers (Sono Luminus DSL-92156). This composition and others on the CD have received excellent reviews. If you like, I can send a copy to you.
Hello Mr. Eley,
Thank you so much for this kind offer. MBC would love to have a copy of your CD! Please get in touch with me at email@example.com. 🙂
Have you any leads on where to get scores of USM’s solo piano music? (other than the Hildegard anthology) Many thanks.
No, unfortunately we have not heard anything new about scores of Ms. Moore. Best of luck in yours search!
My full name is Robert (“Bobby” Jarratt Spiers, Jr. My late father and his two brothers were also born in Jarratt, VA. As a kid and later as an adult, I remember visiting my relatives at this southside community near the NC border. I have fond memories about my many visits to Jarratt and nearby Stony Creek.