Nathaniel Dett


Image: Nathaniel Dett (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/nlc-8931)


Nathaniel Dett was born in Drummondville, Ontario, the child of freedom seekers—those who came to Canada on the Underground Railroad. He began piano lessons in 1901, attending Oberlin Conservatory by 1904. Dett was awarded a Bachelor of Music degree with honors. He studied at Harvard, the American Conservatory (Fontainebleau) and the Eastman School of Music (Rochester) earning a Master of Music degree by 1932.

Dett's choral training at a Black college in Hampton, Virginia, in 1913 seems to have most influenced his musical career, which was marked by many performances at several prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Hall and the Philadelphia Academy of Music. He taught at the Hampton Institute 1913-32 and became the institute's Director of Music by 1926. He was the first Black person to gain this position and was the first African-American to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music by Oberlin Conservatory. His Hampton Choir performed at the Library of Congress and for American president Herbert Hoover. Among Dett's compositions for the Hampton Choir are "Listen to the Lambs" (1914) and "Don't be Weary, Traveler," the winner of the 1920 Francis Boott Prize at Harvard University.

Me and the City That’s Never Happened Before
About the Black experience in inner city Toronto. From the website for "Canadian Poetry Press."

Norval Johnson Heritage Library
The website for the Norval Johnson Heritage Library, an extensive collection of resources that documents Black history of the Niagara region and the rest of Canada. Also includes profiles of community leaders, information about the Nathaniel Dett Memorial Chapel, online newsletters, and more.

Nathaniel Dett
Biography of celebrated musician Nathaniel Dett. From the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.

Nathaniel Dett Chorale
The website for Canada’s celebrated Nathaniel Dett Chorale. Check out the biographies, videos of their performances, and much more.

Carry Me Home: The Story of Nathaniel Dett Chorale
Video clip from the documentary Carry Me Home: The Story & Music of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale.