The Life of HELEN HAGAN
Helen Eugenia Hagan – Concert Pianist, Composer, Teacher – 1891 - 1964 Helen Eugenia Hagan was the first in many things during her lifetime - the first female African-American student to graduate from the Yale School of Music in 1912; the first African-American female pianist to perform a solo recital at a New York venue, and the first African-American woman to be appointed to the Chamber of Commerce in Morristown, New Jersey. In 1919, Hagan became the only African-American female to entertain the American Expeditionary Forces in WWI. Hagan was born in Portsmouth New Hampshire in January of 1891. She was the daughter of John Avery and Mary Estella Neal Hagan. Her mother was a pianist and her father was a baritone singer. She hailed from a musical family and Helen studied piano with her mother. After her family moved to New Haven CT, Hagan received a musical education in the public school system. She was an organist for the Dixwell Congregational Church by the age of nine. Helen Eugenia Hagan received the Julia Abigail Lockwood Scholarship to attend the Yale School of Music and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in 1912. She also received the Samuel Simmons Stanford fellowship for her proficiency in composition and piano, which allowed her to study abroad in Paris France for two years. She graduated from the Schola Cantorum in 1914. In 1920 Hagan was married to John Taylor Williams of Morristown, N.J., but she continued her concert career. She was the first African-American to teach music in Chicago's downtown district at the Mendelssohn Conservatory of Music. Hagan pursued and received a Masters of Arts degree from the Teacher's College of Columbia University. She became the Dean of Music at Bishop College in Marshall, Texas and continued to work as a choir director and church organist. Helen Eugenia Hagan is resting at Evergreen.
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Helen Eugenia Hagan (1891-1864) was the only black performing artist to be sent to WWI France. She played for black servicemen in the American Expeditionary Force (an audience estimated at 100,000-275,000). A 1912 Yale graduate, she became in 1921 the first black pianist to perform in a solo recital in a New York concert hall. Her Piano Concerto in C Minor (1912) is her only surviving composition. Excerpt from Piano Concerto in C Minor: https://youtu.be/EtXnYOJgFdc Blog post on Hagan: http://wp.me/p6na5R-js
- Elizabeth F