Eileen Southern

Biography of Eileen Southern

Eileen Jackson Southern (1920 – October 13, 2002) was an African American musicologist, researcher, author and teacher.

She attended public schools in her hometown, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In childhood, as she developed as a pianist, young Eileen was introduced to and became partial to the music of those she calls the "piano composers," including Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Claude Debussy. In addition, her piano teachers, mostly white, were concerned that she would know music by black composers and introduced her to R. Nathaniel Dett's In the Bottoms, among other such compositions.

Southern majored in commercial art at Chicago's Lindblom High School. During the same period she won piano-performance and essay competitions, taught piano lessons, and directed musical activities at the Lincoln Community Center. She gave her first piano recital at the age of twelve and made her debut in Chicago Orchestra Hall at age eighteen, playing a Mozart concerto with the symphony orchestra of the Chicago Musical College.

She attended and received degrees from the University of Chicago (B.A., 1940, and M. A., 1941) and New York University (Ph.D., 1961). Her relationship with Cecil Smith encouraged her to further develop her interest in Negro folk music and he advised for her master's thesis. Southern also studied piano privately at Chicago Musical College, the Juilliard School of Music, and Boston University.

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