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home : community : community July 26, 2021

4/10/2021 5:27:00 AM
Gaston College Celebrates Music of Zenobia Perry

Lincoln Herald Staff

Gaston College is celebrating the work of composer, professor and civil rights activist Zenobia Powell Perry.

According to college spokeswoman Stephanie Michael Pickett, Dr. Jessica Lindsey and Judith Porter will perform Perry’s “Sonatine for Clarinet and Piano,” this Monday, April 12th, at 10 a.m. The performance will be broadcast over the internet, available through a link on the Gaston College website. The pre-recorded performance is sponsored by the Gaston College Multicultural Affairs Committee.

As Pickett informed, Perry (1908-2004) was a prolific black pianist and composer, born into a well-educated and middle-class family in Boley, Okla. She studied with such notable musicians as Nathaniel Dett, William Dawson and Darius Milhaud. After graduation from the Tuskegee (Ala.) Institute in 1938, she headed a black teacher-training program. There she met First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who became a life-long friend and adviser. Perry completed her master of arts degree at Colorado State College in 1945, and two years later, she accepted her first university faculty position at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. 

And it was at that school that she formed a piano partnership with Arthur Kelton Lawrence as a way to recruit students. From 1955 to 1982, Perry was a composer-in-residence at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. Her opera, Tawawa House, is based on the history of Wilberforce.

Porter, well known as a pianist, teaches music at Gaston College. Porter explained how Perry’s short piece for clarinet and piano was chosen.

“Dr. Lindsey and I selected the ‘Sonatine for Clarinet and Piano,’ which was composed in 1963 for one of Perry’s students at Central State University for his senior recital,” she said. “This is a classically influenced work that is challenging and features recurring themes, contrapuntal lines, mild dissonances and exciting rhythmic patterns.”

Perry is also recognized for writing songs, piano pieces, chamber works and music for orchestra and symphonic wind band. Viewed as a very modest but creative person, she did not concentrate on her accomplishments but on the quality of her music. Perry has influenced more than a generation of musicians.

There will also be a YouTube link for the performance and another on the Gaston College website, posted under GC News, at The presentation will be aired daily, April 26-May 2, at 1:30, 6 and 8:30 p.m.; and May 3-9 at 3, 7 and 11 p.m. on the Spectrum Cable channel 21 in Gaston County. 

For additional information, email Porter at

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