Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson

Composer and conductor Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson was born on June 14, 1932.  Prior to his entrance in New York’s High School of Music and Art in 1945, he exhibited an interest in dance, studying with Pearl Primus and Ismay Andrews. Mentored in high school by his teacher Hugh Ross, he came to meet Igor Stravinsky. By the time of his graduation in 1949, when he won the LaGuardia Prize for music, he had begun composing. He majored in education for two years at New York University (1949-1951), then transferred to the Manhattan School of Music in 1951 (B.M., 1953; M.M., composition, 1954) where he was a composition major under Charles Mills and Vittorio Giannini, and conducting with Jonel Perlea. His interest in jazz was stimulated while enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music in association with classmates Julius Watkins, Herbie Mann, Donald Byrd, and Max Roach. In the summer of 1954 he studied conducting at the Berkshire Music Center. This was supplemented with additional study with Earl Kim at Princeton University from about 1959 to 1962. His ballet scores include works for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey, and the Eleo Pomare Dance Company. He has composed and conducted scores for numerous award-winning theatrical, television, and documentary films and has arranged for jazz and popular artists including Harry Belefonte and Marvin Gaye. He conducted orchestras all over the world and served as music director or composer-in-residence for the Negro Ensemble Company, Alvin Ailey Dance Company, Dance Theatre of Harlem and various theatre groups. From 1998 until his death in 2004, Perkinson was affiliated with the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago. He was appointed Coordinator of Performance Activities at the Center for Black Music Research in 1998 (advisor to Ensemble Stop-Time, then in 1999 as music director of the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble which offered 34 concerts in Chicago, in Washington for Congress, in New York, and for the première of Wendell Logan’s opera, “The Doxology”, and composer-in-residence for the Ritz Chamber Players of Jacksonville. He also served as guest conductor of the Antara Ensemble of the Graduate Center, City University of New York.