Music, School of


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Copyright (c) 2016 Peter M. Lefferts

This document is one in a series---"Chronology and Itinerary of the Career of"---devoted to a small number of African American musicians active ca. 1900-1950. They are fallout from my work on a pair of essays, "US Army Black Regimental Bands and The Appointments of Their First Black Bandmasters" (2013) and "Black US Army Bands and Their Bandmasters in World War I" (2012). In all cases I have put into some kind of order a number of biographical research notes, principally drawing upon newspaper and genealogy databases. None of them is any kind of finished, polished document; all represent work in progress, complete with missing data and the occasional typographical error. I invite queries, amplifications, and corrections, which may be directed to The present document is a first draft of July 2016.


Great recent correction and clarification to the biography of N. Clark Smith has been made in four publications by Marian M. Ohman---three detailed and resourcefully-researched articles and an encyclopedia entry: Ohman (2003), Ohman (2004), Ohman (2008), and Ohman (2009). This document does not attempt to reproduce all of the information she has published. The primary contribution here is in new details that can be pulled from on-line, searchable newspapers and genealogy databases, with an emphasis on the early years and on the chronology of his compositions.

N. CLARK SMITH (1866-1935) Musician: violinist, cornettist, tenor singer, pianist; band master, choral conductor, music educator, vocal teacher, composer and arranger; newspaperman, music publisher, community organizer (esp. YMCA band work, and in Baptist and AME churches). The obit in the KC Plaindealer, October 11, 1935, p. 1 calls him "band director, composer, and one of America's most colorful characters." 2 He was also a bit of a fabulist. Smith had a career along several tracks, none of which he ever fully relinquished. Publishing and music are the two most important. Within music, he is above all a conductor of boys bands, and his teaching at the adult, college, and high school levels relates to his work with amateur boys bands; he works more often with this age level than with adult professionals. The steadiest paycheck is his school teaching, mostly at the high school level, in Kansas City, Chicago, and St. Louis, and at Tuskegee. The high school and college jobs are as much about being commandant/drill/JROTC as they are about rehearsing and concertizing band and choral music, and he rose over the years in the JROTC to the rank of Major. He was never in the regular army, but his ties to the US military may go back to his father, and certainly go back to music instruction with Gungl at Fort Leavenworth---that is credible, for sure. His three years leading the band of the 8th Illinois NG are his closest to professional soldiering. He is also a composer and a productive, award-winning arranger of African American folksong.

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