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Margaret Bonds

Margaret Bonds (1913-1972)

Margarent Bonds, an American composer, pianist, and teacher, was one of the first Black composers and performers to gain recognition in the United States. Bonds grew up surrounded by many of the leading Black writers, artists, and musicians of the era, including Florence Price and Will Marion Cook. She showed an early aptitude for composition, and studied composition and piano at Julliard.

Bonds met Langston Hughes in 1936, and the two became close friends and collaborators. Bonds set much of Hughes' poetry to music, and his work served as inspiration throughout her life. Best known for her settings of spirituals, Bonds also composed for piano, and wrote several large-scale compositions for stage and for orchestra.

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Billy Strayhorn

Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967)

Billy Strayhorn was an American Jazz composer, pianist, and arranger who closely collaborated with Duke Ellington for several decades. As a child, Strayhorn took private lessons and also played in the school band, and later studied classical music for a time at the Pittsburgh Music Institute. However, societal prejudice at the time prevented him from pursuing a career as a classical composer.

When Strayhorn met Duke Ellington in 1938, he caught Ellington's attention by demonstrating how he would have arranged one of Ellington's own pieces. This was the beginning of a long collaboration between the two, which lasted until Strayhorn's death. Their relationship was somewhat murky; Ellington mentored Strayhorn, both while working as a team and encouraging him to write on his own, however Ellington also took credit for much of Strayhorn's work. Among Strayhorn's best-known charts are "Take the 'A' Train", "Chelsea Bridge", and "Lush Life".

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