Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson

1932-2004

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Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson (June 14, 1932, Manhattan, New York City or possibly (unconfirmed) Winston-Salem, North Carolina – March 9, 2004, Chicago) was an innovative American composer whose interests spanned the worlds of jazz, dance, pop, film, television, and classical music.

Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson was Afro-American. He was named after Afro-British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875–1912). Perkinson's mother was active in music and the arts as a piano teacher, church organist, and director of a theater company.

Perkinson attended the High School of Music and Art in New York City. After graduating from high school, he attended New York University. He later transferred to the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied composition with Vittorio Giannini and Charles Mills. He received bachelor's and master's degrees from the Manhattan School of Music. He also studied with Earl Kim at Princeton University. He was on the faculty of Brooklyn College (1959–1962) and studied conducting in the summers of 1960, 1962, and 1963 in the Netherlands with Franco Ferrara and Dean Dixon and also learned conducting in 1960 at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

Perkinson cofounded the Symphony of the New World in New York in 1965 and later became its Music Director. He was also Music Director of Jerome Robbins's American Theater Lab and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Perkinson composed a ballet for Ailey entitled For Bird, With Love inspired by the music of jazz great Charlie Parker.

Perkinson wrote a great deal of classical music, but was equally well-versed in jazz and popular music. He served briefly as pianist for drummer Max Roach’s quartet and wrote arrangements for Roach, Marvin Gaye, and Harry Belafonte. He also composed music for films such as The McMasters (1970), Together for Days (1972), A Warm December (1973) starring Sidney Poitier, Thomasine & Bushrod (1974), The Education of Sonny Carson (1974), Amazing Grace (1974), Mean Johnny Barrows (1976), and the documentary Montgomery to Memphis (1970) about Martin Luther King. In 1970 he wrote incidental music for at least one episode of the US tv show Room 222.

Perkinson's music has a blend of Baroque counterpoint; American Romanticism; elements of the blues, spirituals, and black folk music; and rhythmic ingenuity.

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