Julia Perry

1924 - 1979


Julia Perry (1924-1979) born in Lexington, Kentucky, is an African American female composer whose career is often referenced in discussions of concerning Black and American composers and their success in Europe. Perry was the daughter of Dr. Abe Perry, who once accompanied Roland Hayes on tour. From a young age, musical talent was encouraged, however she did not settle to study the piano until after two years of violin lessons. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at Westminster Choir College and produced the secular cantata, Chicago, for her thesis in 1948. She continued to study at institutions such as Julliard School of Music and Berkshire Music Center, producing her most famous work Stabat Mater three years later. Between 1952 and 1957, Perry studied abroad in Europe under Nadia Boulanger in France, winning the Boulanger Grand Prix, and Luigi Dallapiccola with two Guggenheim Fellowships in Italy. During this time, she produced her opera, the Cask of Amontillado. After returning home in 1960, she composed Homonculus C.F. and took a position on the faculty of Florida A & M College. Later into the decade, Perry receive wide acclaim in the United States and was performed by many notable orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, leading the classical record label, Classical Recordings, to lease some of her compositions in 1969. Having two strokes that affected her ability to compose, Julia Perry died in 1979 at the age of 55, having composed twelve symphonies, two concertos, three operas, and various smaller pieces during her career.

(sources: http://www.darryltaylor.com/alliance/composers/julia-amanda-perry, http://www.blackpast.org/aah/perry-julia-amanda-1924-1979 )