On September 10, 1942 Eddie Green, my father, opened a dramatic training school in this building at 2352 Seventh Avenue, New York City. The school, called Sepia Artists offered services and classes for both amateurs and professionals. The Pittsburgh-Courier newspaper referred to Eddie in it’s article about the school as a comedian of radio and stage fame. I think it was a short-lived endeavor because in 1943 Eddie filed for bankruptcy. Before this from 1939 through 1941 Eddie was making movies and planning plans, so he had some money.
In fact, there must have been enough money to hire this gentleman, Chauncey Northern. According to an article just before Christmas of 1939, Mr. Northern a recognized voice specialist and coach joined Eddie’s motion picture company as head of it’s music department. In this capacity he would have charge of the arranging of voices for Eddie’s Sepia-Art Pictures choir which would be a permanent feature of the organization, New York Age, December 23, 1939. The article goes on to say that Mr. Northern’s studio was located in Carnegie Hall and that his studio was the mecca of many of the great artists of today.
In researching Chauncey Northern I learned that he was one of the first black opera singers (a tenor) to appear on the Italian stage, making his debut in the 1920’s at the Teatro Politeana in Naples and that he studied at the Juliard School of Music. I did not spend much time trying to find info on Mr. Northern while I was writing the book about my father, but today while trying to come up with a blog post I decided to dig a little further.
it’s amazing what can be found if you are really paying attention. I learned that in 1924 he wrote the music for the University of Hampton’s Alma Mater, one of the top historically black universities in the world.
An interesting fact is that this tree, The Emancipation Oak, stands near the entrance of the Hampton University campus and is a lasting symbol of the university’s rich heritage and perseverance. The peaceful shade of the young oak served as the first classroom for newly freed men and women, eager for an education. Mrs. Mary Peake, daughter of a freed colored woman and a Frenchman, conducted the first lessons taught under the oak located on the University’s campus. Classes continued with the The Butler School, which was constructed in 1863 next to the oak. One day in 1863, the members of the Virginia Peninsula’s black community gathered to hear a prayer answered. The Emancipation Oak was the site of the first Southern reading of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, an act which accelerated the demand for African-American education. And Chauncey Northern was a part of this history. And Eddie was a part of his history. And I am a part of their history. Awesome.
After Mr, Northern’s debut in Naples, he remained in Europe until 1937, when he returned to the United States and established the Northern Vocal Arts School at Carnegie Hall, where he taught until his death in 1992. The main hall of Carnegie Hall was home to the performances of the New York Philharmonic from 1892 until 1962. The building also contains the Carnegie Hall Archives, established in 1986, and the Rose Museum, which opened in 1991. Until 2009 studios above the Hall contained working spaces for artists in the performing and graphic arts including music, drama, dance, as well as architects, playwrights, literary agents, photographers and painters. The spaces were unusual in being purpose-designed for artistic work, with very high ceilings, skylights and large windows for natural light. In 1906 both Mark Twain and Booker T. Washington spoke here. Chauncey Northern had his studio here!
Today a person has to dig to find out information on Mr. Northern, just like I had to dig to get my information on Eddie, even though he was a major player in entertainment. Most of the information of pioneering Black people can only be found in Black newspaper archives. However, I did find a Facebook page for a woman who knew Mr. Northern and who is still active today. Hopefully she will “friend” me. If not, she has a web site. History is fascinating. I love research. I can go back in time to 1939 and I can travel the world, visit universities and meet new people right here with my laptop.
Hey, thanks, for stopping by.
Info on Chauncey Northern and Carnegie Hall courtesy of the World Wide Web
For the Biography of Eddie Green Visit t hen click “Shop Now”: https://www.facebook.com/elvagreenbookpage/