Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson

1932 - 2004


Colerigde-Taylor Perkinson (1932-2004) born in New York, New York, is an African American conductor and composer whose work and influence coexist in popular and classical music. Encouraged by his musically talented mother, Perkinson musical talent showed it first fruits in high school where he met Igor Stravinsky, won the High School for Music and Art Choral competition with his composition And Behold, and won the La Guardia Prize for Music all under the tutelage of his teacher Hugh Ross. Originally focused on having a teaching career, he went to New York University for in, but transferred to Manhattan School of Music, where he would earn his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Music, for to pursue composing and conducting in 1951. In this new environment, Charles Millis and Vittorio Giannini groomed Perkinson in composition, Jonel Perlea trained him in conducting, and he cultivated his personal interest in jazz, which would lead him to work with popular artist such as Barbara McNair and Marvin Gaye.  After graduating, he continued to study conducting in Princeton and the Netherlands in the early 1960’s. In 1965, Perkinson co-founded the Symphony of the New World and conducted the group for five years and directed a season in 1972. During the thick of his career, he supported himself by assisting conductors, conducting choirs and orchestras, directing music and dance theaters, and performing as a pianist. These various positions encourage him to compose ballet, film scores, theme songs for shows such as Room 222 and Got Christie Love. Toward the end of his career, Perkinson worked as teacher at Indiana University and coordinator of the Center for Black Music Research.