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Margaret Bonds



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Margaret Allison Bonds (March 3, 1913 – April 26, 1972)[1] was an American composer and pianist. One of the first black composers and performers to gain recognition in the United States, she is best remembered today for her frequent collaborations with Langston Hughes.

A native of Chicago, Bonds grew up in a home visited by many of the leading black intellectuals of the era; among houseguests were soprano Abbie Mitchell and composers Florence Price and Will Marion Cook. Bonds showed an early aptitude for composition, writing her first work, Marquette Street Blues, at the age of five. Her first study in music came when she took piano lessons from her mother. While still in school, she studied composition with Price and with William Dawson. Bonds worked as an accompanist for dances and singers in various shows and supper clubs around Chicago; she also copied music parts for other composers, and became involved with the National Association of Negro Musicians.

Upon her high school graduation, Bonds became one of the few black students at Northwestern University. Her song “Sea-Ghost” won a Wanamaker Award in 1932; two years later, at the age of 21, she left Northwestern with a bachelor’s and master’s degree, both in music. She opened a short-lived school, the Allied Arts Academy, at which she taught art, music, and ballet. She performed as a pianist with numerous local organizations, appearing in 1933 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and performing Florence Price’s piano concerto with the Women’s Symphony Orchestra of Chicago the following year. In 1939 she moved to New York City; there, she edited music for a living and collaborated on several popular songs.

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