“A Colored Orchestra” – Under Instruction of Prof. W. J. Nickerson, 1899

The French man of letters Jean Cocteau once wrote, “Good music stirs by its mysterious resemblance to the objects and feelings which motivated it.” Following Monsieur Cocteau’s reasoning, it is no wonder that gay old New Orleans has always inspired such lyrical songs and masterful musicians.

The Daily Picayune of 2 May 1899, reported the concert and impending Northern tour of the Students’ Orchestra under the instruction of the renowned Professor William J. Nickerson. The orchestra’s concert which was held at the old Globe Hall alongside the Old Basin Canal was attended by many of the city’s colored elite, including the Honorable James Madison Vance, attorney and political leader, who served as master of ceremonies.

The musicians engaged in a wide range of numbers, including dramatic, comedic, and patriotic pieces. The members of the orchestra, who reflected many of the city’s finest Creole families, were as follows: Emma Williams, Marie Sullivan, Emma Perkins, Valena MacArthur, Louise Hardy, Florence Lewis, Maxie Pessau, Camille Nickerson, Julia Ellen Lewis, Rosa Fleming, Mrs. M. Lastrapes, Mrs. E. C. Harris, Morris Lewis, Henry Nickerson, Wendell McNeil, Paul Dominguez, Edward Bowman, Theogene V. Baquet, James A. Porter, and J. M. McMurray.


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