Decolonise the Music Curriculum – Part 1

Resources for black ‘classical’ composers

This round up of some of the key black ‘classical’ composers is by no means a comprehensive list: but a starting point for music teachers and lecturers who want to know more about European and North American black classical composers. This is by no means a quick fix – the work of decolonising the curriculum is a big project that requires white people to think about how they have participated in structural racism and white supremacy. I have been asked by a couple of people to put together a starting point over a few categories: black ‘classical’ composers, black modernist composers, women composers, and a broader list of musical theatre composers. Over the next couple of weeks I will be sharing these resources and pointing you in the direction of key antiracist campaigns, particularly the work of teacher and anti-racism activist, Pran Patel, and musician and activist Nate Holder.

Joseph Bologne Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-99)

Read more: 

Saint-Georges [Saint-George], Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de

Get To Know Joseph Bologne, Chevalier …


Spotify artist page

Samuel Coleridge Taylor – British composer (1875–1912)

Born in Croydon, this composer was hugely celebrated during his lifetime in the UK. He also met and wrote with key black American figures such as Paul Dunbar. His daughter Avril Coleridge-Taylor became a conductor and composer. 


Spotify composer page

Read more:

British Library guide: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 –1912)

‘The black Dvorak’ | Classical music 

Harry T Burleigh – (1866 – 1949)

Read more:

Harry T. Burleigh Society

Harry Thacker Burleigh Biography 

Henry Thacker Burleigh Biography – Selected works …

Listen and Learn:

Spotify Artist’s Page

A Library of Congress Lecture: Harry T. Burleigh: From the Spiritual to the Harlem Renaissance 

Will Marion Cook – (1869-1944)

Read more:

Swing Along: The Musical Life of Will Marion Cook Marva Carter

Will Marion Cook (1869-1944) • The Black Past




Scott Joplin (1868-1917)

(often known for work like Entertainer/Maple Leaf Rag, he also wrote operas)

Read more: 

Scott Joplin, Treemonisha and American Opera

Biographies Scott Joplin, 1868-1917 

[Learn about] Ragtime composer, Scott Joplin



Spotify Artist Page

Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869 – 1954)

particularly his opera Voodoo

Read more:

Harry Lawrence Freeman – US Opera

Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869-1954) • – Blackpast

Harry Lawrence Freeman: Pioneering the African … –


Voodoo Queen aria

a picture of the composer Florence Price
Florence Price

Florence Price (1887 – 1953) 

Read more:

New Sounds from a Familiar Face: Florence B. Price’s Violin Concerto No. 2

Home / | musicherstories 

The Rediscovery of Florence Price 

Florence Price


Florence Price’s Spotify Artist Page 

FLORENCE B. PRICE: Piano Concerto in One Movement (1934) – First Section    

My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord & The Bells: A Florence Price & Margaret Bonds Medley 

Naxos recordings: PRICE, FB: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 (Fort Smith Symphony, Jeter) – 8.559827

Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882 – 1943) 

Read more: 

Biographies R. Nathaniel Dett (1882-1943) 

Robert Nathaniel Dett Biography 


R. Nathaniel Dett: MY CUP RUNNETH OVER – Clipper Erickson 

R Nathaniel Dett: The Ordering of Moses (1937)

William Grant Still – (1895-1978)


Listening Guide: William Grant Still

Website dedicated to his work:

Library of Congress: Biographies William Grant Still, 1895-1978

Naxos catalogue page: William Grant Still- Naxos Classical Music.


Spotify Artist’s Page for Grant Still

Margaret Bonds (1913-1972)

Read more:

Margaret Bonds Biography | Afrocentric Voices 

Margaret Bonds – Song of America

Learn and listen:

Four Women pianist Samantha Ege on Margaret Bonds 

J Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954)

Read more:

Biographies J. Rosamond Johnson (John Rosamond), 1873-1954

J. Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) • 


Spotify link

Rosamund Johnson “Lift Every Voice And Sing”


Ten black composers whose works deserve to be heard more often 

General Spotify Playlists:

General Resources and Overviews 

Educator and activist Pran Pratel’s works extensively in this area as a campaigner and trainer. You can see his TedEx talk here: Decolonise the Curriculum | Pran Patel | TEDxNorwichED 

Educator Nathan Holder’s talk on the music curriculum here:

General blogs

Michelle McCauley: Giving Cultural Context to Teaching Native American Music 

Collated by Sarah Whitfield @sarahinthepark under open source creative commons attribution sharealike 4.0 license.

1 thought on “Decolonise the Music Curriculum – Part 1”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s