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NOVEMBER 13, 1898 - JUNE 16, 1981

Born in New Orleans, Edward Boatner was the son of an itinerant minister who moved frequently with his family during Edward’s childhood. Boatner began performing spirituals at an early age, collecting them for his own use as he sang in church. After attending public schools in St. Louis and Kansas City, he attended Western University in Quindaro, KS for a year, studying piano and voice. Todd Duncan encouraged him to move to Boston and he did so, studying for a brief period with instructors at the New England Conservatory. After a brief enrollment at the Longy School of Music and stuy 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, gave piano and voice lessons, and worked with aspiring singers and actors, 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 on stage with the National Negro Opera Company and the American Negro Opera Company. He published more than 300 arrangements of spirituals, performed by singers such as Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson, Leontyne Price and Marian Anderson. He also composed original works, including one unpublished opera, and plays titled the Man from Nazareth and The Origin of the Spirituals. He wrote textbooks in music theory, composition, pedagogy and piano technique. He was also an essayist; his writings centered o issues of race and racism: Great Achievements in Black and White, The Damaging Results of Racism, and Black Humor. His sole noved was entitled One Drop of Blood.


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.


Video Credit: WOSU Public Media

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