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Featured Composer: R. Nathaniel Dett

Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882–1943) is perhaps best remembered today for his stylistic approach, blending African American spirituals into the European classical style—an idea he shared with several of his contemporaries, including Harry T. Burleigh and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Born in Canada, Dett's family moved to the United States when he was 11. His musical studies led him to graduate from Oberlin Conservatory with a degree in both composition and piano. Dett was a lifelong student of music, continuing his studies at prestigious institutions such as the American Conservatory of Music, Fontainebleu (with Nadia Boulanger), and Eastman School of Music. It is believed that Dett created the first every piano rolls by a Black musician, recording Magnolia Suite in 1912. He was also a lifelong proponent of Black music, founding numerous musical organizations dedicated to the cause. His most well-known piano work is almost certainly In the Bottoms, though he also wrote numerous other piano works, choral works, spiritual arrangements, and orchestral pieces.


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