Mr. Kemper Harreld (1885 ~ 1971)
Kemper Harreld was born and educated through his high school years in Muncie, Indiana. His musical tutors there were respected and well trained musicians who invested in the gifted boy the amount of time and loving attention needed to give him a proper launching. A type of versatility that would be extremely important to him during later years was fostered by these early teachers - Vida Cassidy, a young violin teacher just out of Berlin Conservatory training, and Birt Summers, an able musician who taught the boy to play the organ and piano, trained him as his apprentice in organ tuning and repairing, and who furnished him with an excellent background in theoretical subjects. An old German band musician living near the Harreld home taught him to play the flute.
Far-seeing parents sent him to Chicago where he enrolled at Chicago Musical College. Chicago was at the time a flourishing musical capital that attracted numerous young people because of its good opportunities for instruction and for general enrichment. The young musician seized upon every opportunity for development. He was an avid concert-goer and increased his musical knowledge in numerous self enriching ways. He became a member of the music college's orchestra and appeared as performer and conductor with choral and instrumental groups in the city. However, substantial permanent posts and apprenticeships or teaching positions were unattainable for the Black aspirant in the Chicago of that day. He decided therefore, to join musical friends in New York, who were hoping to carve a niche in the entertainment field. Again, there was challenge, but limited opportunity.
A telegram from his mother early in October, 1911 urged him to get in touch with John Hope, president of Morehouse College in Atlanta. Mr. Hope offered him the position of Director of Music at the college. He accepted with the mental reservation that he would remain only until the end of the term. Teaching young men to perform music and to love and appreciate it became an exciting and wonderful career. The city of Atlanta recognized his exceptional ability and welcomed him with open arms. He was given freedom by the college to continue his activities as a concert violinist. Through these tours and those made with his various college music organizations, he was able to introduce fine programs to many audiences and communities.
Back in Atlanta, he became involved in a multitude of assignments: studio teaching, a community orchestra, intercollegiate concerts, choral conducting, and the organization of a Fine Arts Study Club. Of vital importance was the encouragement of other concert artists for whom he arranged tours and to whom he offered hope and appreciation.
In 1927, he joined the faculty of Spelman College and became joint head of the Morehouse and Spelman music departments. In 1929, he became the solid link that welded together musical forces at the newly created Atlanta University Center as the person in charge of all music activities. In this capacity, he helped to strengthen the concept of the enlarged and self nourishing academic community. The thousands of young people trained or influenced by Kemper Harreld during a period of seventy years, long settled in all parts of the United States, and many traveled much beyond. From their various positions, they are in turn contributing to a functioning and vital national culture.
Kemper Harreld left the Atlanta schools in 1956 and went to live in Detroit, Michigan. He continued to teach and to influence young people, helping them to further plans, to implement programs, and to give meaningful expression to their abilities up to the time of his death in 1971. He belonged to a group of rare individuals - vigorous in advanced years, who accepted life as being continuously zestful, rich, and fruitful, and who were unflagging in the power to view the time ahead as hopeful. Josephine Harreld Love
© All Rights Reserved 1996 - 2021
BACK TO MCGC HOME PAGE