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NOVEMBER 13, 1898 - JANUARY 25, 1974

Nora Holt was a writer, pianist/singer, composer, socialite, and noted music critic through the 1920s-1960s. Born in Kansas City, Kansas, she moved to Chicago after having graduated as valedictorian of her class at Western University in Quindaro, Kansas (around 1915). She was the first African American woman to earn a Master of Music (Chicago Musical College, 1918). She was a co-founder of the National Association of Negro Musicians (1919) and became the music critic for the Chicago Defender (1917-1921). She left the paper after marrying, and traveled extensively in Europe and Asia, reportedly often performing as a cabaret singer. She also composed during that time. She is thought to have written more than 200 compositions, but most were lost when her stored possessions were looted and scattered during her travels. She returned to New York City and became the classical music critic for the New York Amsterdam News (1943-1964).


Ms. Holt was an important observer of the Black classical concert scene. She reported on events and issues that would have been completely erased from the narrative without her reporting, and as a commentator she offered critical analyses of the performers and composers active in the United States. She did not hesitate to offer opinions on the artists and their activities, both supportive and critical, and hers was an important voice in promoting concert music during this time. She was a confident of Carl Van Vechten, both working to document the Black performers and ensembles active particularly in the New York area.


In addition to her written works, she hosted “Nora Holt’s Concert Showcase WLIB” (1953-1964), providing an important radio forum for the works of Black Composers.

She was a member of the Music Critics Circle of New York.


Video Credit: Samantha Ege

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