Margaret Bonds

1913 - 1972


Margaret Bonds (1913 – 1972),was a composer, pianist, and teacher from Chicago.  Her early studies with her mother, who attended the Chicago Musical College, led to tuition in piano and composition with Florence Price and others in high school, followed by study at Northwester University, where she obtained her BM and MM in music in 1933 and 1934. She also did graduate work at Juilliard, where she returned several times for various courses throughout her life. As a student at Northwestern she encountered significant prejudice and discrimination for the first time, but took comfort from her discovery of the poetry of Langston Hughes.  She later set many of his poems and corresponded with him extensively.  It was around the same time she acquired a young Ned Rorem as a piano student; he later cited her as an important influence and the two remained close.

In the 1940s she moved to New York and remained there until the late 1960s; while there she assumed active leadership roles in numerous church, choral, musical theater, and other musical associations.  She took additional courses in composition and choral conducting at Juilliard and had hoped to study with Nadia Boulanger, but Boulanger told her she had no need to study with anyone. In 1967, after the death of Langston Hughes, she accepted an invitation to join the Los Angeles Inner City Cultural Center and Repertory Theater and spent the last five years of her life there.  Bonds was primarily a vocal composer; her many works for solo voice include both art and popular songs, as well as numerous arrangements of spirituals, which also informed her large-scale works for chorus or voice and orchestra.  These included several cantatas, a Mass, and a Credo. Her dramatic works include incidental music for numerous, stage plays in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, a ballet, and a children's operetta.

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