top of page


NOVEMBER 13, 1898 - JUNE 16, 1981

Born in New Orleans, Edward Boatner began performing spirituals at an early age, collecting them for his own use in church. He attended Western University in Quindaro, KS for a year, studying piano and voice, then moved to Boston at the urging of Todd Duncan, He studied for a brief period at the New England Conservatory and later with R. Nathaniel Dett. He moved to Chicago in 1925 and attended the Chicago College of Music, receiving his Bachelor of Music in 1932. In 1933 he became director of the school of music at Samuel Huston College in Austin, TX, and later became Dean of Music at Wiley College in Marshall, TX.

Boatner settled in New York City in the late 1930s. He focused on performance, composition and teaching, opening his own studio. He trained choral groups and taught private lessons, coaching individuals including George Shirley, Josephine Baker, and Clifton Webb. In addition to directing the choir at the Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn, he performed recitals and appeared with the National Negro Opera Company and the American Negro Opera Company. He published more than 300 widely performed arrangements of spirituals sung by Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson, Leontyne Price and Marian Anderson, among many others. He also composed original works, including one unpublished opera, and several essays centered around racism in American society.


Boatner was honored by the National Federation of Music Clubs, the National Association of Negro Musicians,the Brooklyn Lyceum, the Detroit Association of Musicians, and the New York Uptown Musicians.


1050 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste. 500

Washington, DC 20035

1740 Broadway, 15th floor

NYC, NY 10019


© 2023 The Denyce Graves Foundation

  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Instagram

Our Federal tax ID is 86-2276658. 

The Denyce Graves Foundation is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. 



DGF is focused on the intersection of social justice, American history, and the arts. Deeply inspired by the achievements of America’s hidden musical figures, the foundation is invested in doing research and educating the public about their remarkable stories of courage and persistence. From enriching our musical heritage to preparing the diverse pool of tomorrow’s vocal stars, DGF will positively impact how artists are valued in this nation, encouraging inclusive opportunity, access, and advocacy for the next generation. Join our change-making efforts by supporting DGF with a donation today.

bottom of page