Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: The Sacred Music of the African American Diaspora

Hansonia Caldwell

Dr. Hansonia Caldwell is professor emeritus of music at California State University Dominguez Hills, with academic specialties in music, African American music history, piano, choral conducting and humanities. She was a faculty member at CSUDH for more than 40 years and founded the CSUDH Jubilee Choir and the African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians program. Dr. Caldwell was born in 1944 in Washington D.C. and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. Her father was a carpenter and her mother was an elementary school teacher, and principal. Caldwell began piano lessons at the age of four with one of only two African American piano teachers in Baltimore. She attended Eastern High School, a racially integrated, all girls high school. Upon graduation she enrolled at Boston University, where she received a Bachelor of Music degree. While at Boston University, she joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and has remained active in that organization throughout her life. After graduation, Caldwell briefly worked in the check claims office at the United States Department of Treasury, before applying to the Master’s program at the University of Southern California. She went on to receive her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Musicology from the University of Southern California. She has taught at USC, at CSU Long Beach, and Santa Monica City College. She joined the faculty of CSUDH in 1972, teaching courses in African American music, Music History, and the humanities. Also in 1972, she married Charles L. Harriford. The two were married for over 40 years until Harriford’s passing in 2018.

At CSUDH, Dr. Caldwell was an Assistant Professor of Music from 1972 to 1976, then became the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research. In 1981, she bacame the Dean of the School of Humanities and Fine Arts, a position she held until 1992. She then taught as a Professor of Music until her retirement in 2011. Dr. Caldwell, an accomplished piano accompanist and church organist, is the founding conductor of the Dominguez Hills Jubilee Choir, a university ensemble that specializes in the performance of music from African American culture. She also created the Jubilee Creative Arts Summer Camp. An active researcher and scholar, Caldwell has published two books – African American Music, a Chronology, and African American Music: Spirituals. Dr. Caldwell is the Founding Director of the Program for the Study of African Diaspora Sacred Music and Musicians (ADSMM), an organization whose primary mission is the study of the life and work of African Diaspora musicians in the field of sacred music and the preservation and performance of their music. From 2003 to 2011, she coordinated the ADSMM Living Legends Festival Concert, celebrating the musical masters of African Diaspora sacred music with performances that brought distinguished conductors and composers to the university.

Dr. Caldwell has also been very active in community and philanthropic groups. She has served on boards and committees for international professional music fraternity Mu Phi Epsilon, the Board of Directors of the Public Corporation for the Arts, the Long Beach Regional Arts Council, the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, the Afro American Chamber Music Society, the Southeast Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the National Association of Negro Musicians (Georgia Laster Branch). Though now retired, Dr. Caldwell is still active with the ADSMM and the Fannie Lou Hamer Queen Mothers. Learn more about Dr. Caldwell, the ADSMM Living Legends program, and the CSUDH Jubilee Choir.

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