Vincent Persichetti born in Philadelphia in 1915 began his musical life at age five and at age 16, he was appointed organist and choir director for the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, a post he held for nearly 20 years. A virtuoso pianist and organist, he combined extraordinary versatility with an osmotic musical mind, and his earliest published works, written when the composer was 14, exhibit mastery of form, medium and style.
Concurrent with these early activities, Persichetti was a student in the Philadelphia public schools and received a thorough musical education at the Combs College of Music, where he earned a Mus. B. degree in 1935 under Russel King Miller, his principal composition teacher. From the age of 20, he was simultaneously head of the theory and composition departments at the Combs College, a conducting major with Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute and piano major with Olga Samaroff at the Philadelphia Conservatory, in addition to studying composition with a number of important American composers. He received a Diploma in Conducting from the Curtis Institute and Mus. M. and Mus. D. degrees from the Philadelphia Conservatory. In 1941 Persichetti was appointed head of the theory and composition departments at the Philadelphia Conservatory. In 1947 he joined the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music, assuming chairmanship of the Composition Department in 1963. Persichetti was appointed Editorial Director of the music publishing firm of Elkan-Vogel, Inc. in 1952.
He appeared as guest conductor, lecturer and composer at over 200 universities. Wide coverage by the major TV and news media of the premiere of his A Lincoln Address helped to focus worldwide attention on his music. Persichetti composed for nearly every musical medium. More than 120 of his works are published and many of these are available on commercial recordings.
Undine Smith Moore, composer, educator and lecturer, was the recipient of many honors, including citations from Fisk University, Atlanta University, Virginia State College, the National Association of Negro Musicians and the City of New York. She was named Music Laureate by the Virginia Cultural Laureate Center in 1977 and received honorary doctoral degrees from Virginia State College (1972) and Indiana University (1976).
A granddaughter of slaves, Moore was born in Jarratt, Virginia in 1904. She attended high school in Petersburg, Virginia and went on to the preparatory academy of Fisk University in Nashville. A graduate of Fisk University in 1926, Dr. Moore received the first Fisk scholarship to study (piano) at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and earned her master’s degree from Columbia University in 1931. From 1927 to 1972 Dr. Moore taught piano, organ and music theory at Virginia State College (now Virginia State University), where she was co-founder of the Black Music Center. She also served as Senior Advisor to the Afro-American Arts Institute at Indiana University.
In a 1972 tribute to her accomplishments, Dr. Moore’s music was presented in concert at Town Hall. Among pieces performed on this program were such choral works as Daniel, Daniel, Servant of the Lord and settings of Langston Hughes’ Mother to Son and When Susanna Jones Wore Red. Her other compositions include Afro-American Suite for Flute, Violoncello and Piano which represented Virginia at the Kennedy Center during the nation’s Bicentennial, Love, Let the Wind Cry How I Adore Thee, sung at the New York Philharmonic’s Celebration of Music of Black Composers, plus many more works, both sacred and secular. Dr. Moore’s Scenes from the Life of a Martyr, a 16-part oratorio on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, for chorus, orchestra, solo voices and narrator was premiered at Carnegie Hall and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
Dr. Moore once said “Art preserves life in a very special way. Our memories die with us, but art preserves the values and experiences.”