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Undine Anna Smith Moore (1904 - 1989)

MOOREUndine_ 041476_01(Tracy-Atkinson).jpg




Educator and Composer


Born in Jarratt, Undine Smith Moore (August 25, 1904–February 6, 1989) grew up in Petersburg, where she began piano lessons at about age seven. Juilliard Graduate School recognized her talent, awarding her its first scholarship to complete her study of music at Fisk University, from which she graduated with honors in 1926. She taught music in public schools at Goldsboro, North Carolina, and in 1927 joined the faculty of Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (later Virginia State University), where she remained until retiring in 1972. Her many notable students included jazz pianist Billy Taylor, opera singer Camilla Williams, and songwriter Phil Medley. In 1931 Moore received a master's degree from Columbia University. Shortly before her retirement she cofounded and codirected Virginia State's Black Music Center, which brought leading African American composers and artists to the Ettrick campus.

Moore began composing while at Fisk University and is best known for her choral works, including Scenes from the Life of a Martyr, based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. More than two dozen of her works were published and several have appeared in anthologies. Moore credited her family and the close-knit African American communities in Jarratt and Petersburg for nurturing her love of music. She received numerous awards throughout her career, including the National Association of Negro Musicians' Distinguished Achievement Award in 1975 and the Governor's Award for the Arts in Virginia in 1985. In 1977 Moore was named music laureate of Virginia.

2017 Virginia Women in History honoree, Library of Virginia.

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Image Courtesy of Tracy Atkinson.