Born in London in 1875 to an African father and an English mother, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor showed musical talent at an early age. He studied violin and composition (under Charles Villiers Stanford) at the Royal College of Music, where his classmates included Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. The spectacular success of his cantata, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast (1898), brought him prominence in British musical circles. Two more cantatas, The Death of Minnehaha and Hiawatha's Departure, cemented his fame, matched in his time in England only by Elgar.
A popular composer in England, Coleridge-Taylor soon became a cultural hero in the African-American community. Coleridge-Taylor societies were organized to perform his music, and he visited the United States three times, conducting the New York Philharmonic on the last trip (1910). Two schools in the US are named for him, in Baltimore, MD and Louisville, KY.
Coleridge-Taylor's music remained popular for a quarter-century after his untimely death at age 37—the Hiawatha trilogy, for example, was performed annually between the World Wars. He slipped into obscurity by the middle of the century, but has been rediscovered in recent years; his Violin Concerto, for example, has been recorded three times since 1994.
On the centennial of his death, the University of Houston Moores School of Music is pleased to celebrate Coleridge-Taylor's life and music in two concerts, along with scholarly discussions of his life, work, and influence.