Black History Month: Francis B. Johnson

Born in 1792, black trumpeter Francis (Frank) Johnson led an amazing career centered in Philadelphia. With more than 300 compositions to his credit, most of them published, he was the most popular black composer before the Civil War. His band was in great demand for cotillion balls and marches. In fact, just about everything he did was very successful. When he wasn’t playing the keyed bugle, the band leader was playing the violin.

Johnson’s band frequently had to deal with racial issues, such as, when on tour in Missouri, a new state that supported slavery, they were all arrested and fined. A particularly violent incident occurred near Pittsburgh:

At the close of the concert the mob followed Mr. Johnson and his company shouting “n____” and other opprobrious epithets, and hurling brick-bats, stones and rotten eggs in great profusion upon the unfortunate performers. One poor fellow was severely, it is feared dangerously, wounded in the head, and others were more or less hurt. No thanks to the mobocrats that life was not taken, for they hurled their missiles with murderous recklessness if not with murderous intention.

——The Tribune [NY], May 23, 1843.

Here’s Ralph Dudgeon talking about Frank Johnson’s instrument, the keyed bugle, and toward the end of this short video, he demonstrates a piece written by Johnson.

Johnson wrote  “Honor To The Brave: Gen. Lafayette’s Grand March,” which became a popular tribute to the French military leader who helped the United States win its freedom from Great Britain. He performed this march and other music to support an American tour for General Lafayette in 1824.

In 1837, Johnson and some members of his band became the first African American musicians to travel to Europe to perform.  Returning in 1838, the band soared in popularity, performing much in-demand outdoor “Promenade Concerts” throughout the Northeast.

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Black History Month: a Tudor African trumpeter

John Blanke, a successful black trumpeter under Henry VII and VII

February is Black History Month, and I wanted to feature black trumpeters this month. Black trumpeters are particularly under-represented in bands and orchestras, so I would like to start with a historic African trumpeter, who was successful in Tudor England.

Henry VII and VIII employed a black trumpeter named John Blanke. The speculation is that he came to England as one of the African attendants of Catherine of Aragon in 1501. He was paid 20 shillings a month and successfully petitioned Henry VIII for a raise with a confidently-penned letter. Henry VIII even sent John a wedding present when he later married.

Black trumpeters and drummers are recorded in other cities of the time. For instance, there was a black trumpeter on the royal ship Barcha in Naples in 1470, and a black trumpeter recorded as galley slave of Cosimo de’ Medici in 1555.



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What do you do with core values and a purpose statement?

If you have worked alongside me in getting a purpose statement and core values that describe yourself, then congratulations! You probably know a little more about yourself than you did before. You know what makes you tick. Now–what do you do with them?

Put them places. 

You can tape them onto your desk, computer, trumpet case, music stand, mirror, hallway or ceiling. Any place that you think you might need a little reminder about WHY you’re doing all this hard work. Put it on your computer desktop or phone lock-screen. Commit your core values and purpose statement to memory, so that you can confidently convey the real you in an elevator statement (a short statement that can be easily finished during an elevator ride).

Do you need to tell people your actual core values and purpose statement? I don’t think so. These are for you. What you tell others about yourself is INFORMED by your values and statement, but they can remain secret–a guiding principle in your trumpet journey that only you have to know.

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More on purpose statements

A couple of days ago I blogged about making a purpose statement. I came up with “I want to inspire others to be the best version of themselves by sharing my most authentic, creative work.” I like this statement, but the whole process of thinking about core values and purpose statements has me thinking deeper about what fundamentally motivates me. Just like the core values that I reworked yesterday, I wanted a chance to re-visit the purpose statement. Here are some of my drafts for a new and improved purpose statement. I’m not sure which one I like the best–maybe I can keep them all on rotation!

  1. To make it easier for everyone to learn trumpet and music.
  2. Increase opportunities for children (of all ages and backgrounds) to learn the trumpet.
  3. Inspire others with the wonder of music.
  4. To have a beautiful heart and see it in others.
  5. Heal souls with music.
  6. To be the most inspiring teacher I can be.
  7. To inspire with achievement, adventure, authenticity, wonder and happiness.
  8. To heal and inspire souls with a sense of wonder and beauty.


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Tweaking core values

I hoped you were inspired to make your own purpose statement and core values after reading yesterday’s post. I was so inspired, I re-did my core values after just one day! Remember, you can re-do these whenever you want!

I really wanted to get my core values right, so I thought more about my big list of core values and re-grouped them into five themes. Yesterday’s list of my core values was achievement, authenticity, creativity, learning, forgiveness, happiness, and patience.  I added to that adventure, wonder, curiosity, daring, diversity, resilience, reliability, vulnerability, focus, joy, diversity, gratitude, inspiration, honesty, humility, vulnerability, teachingquality and healing. Here are my five groups. I made the most compelling core value bold:

  1. achievement, resilience, reliability, quality, focus
  2. creativity, adventure, daring
  3. authenticity, honesty, humility, vulnerability
  4. learning, curiosity, teaching, inspiration, wonder
  5. happiness, forgiveness, gratitude, patience, joy, diversity, healing

Thus, my core values now are just a little different, and I think a little more compelling to me:

  1. Achievement is still important because it gives a sense of importance to the actual “products” I want to give to others in life. I want to give the very best version of myself. I want to give the very best music. The very best teaching. The very best engagement.
  2. Adventure is more interesting to me than just creativity, because it implies horizons to aim for, not only in artistic and musical things, but also in travel, personal development and philosophy.
  3. Authenticity remains a key core value, because I am drawn to what is the most “real”–be it in music, the facts of history, or the myths of the mind.
  4. Instead of “learning,” I focused on the idea of wonder, adding an element of enthusiasm and emotion to the process of gathering and sharing experiences, facts and ideas.
  5. Happiness remained a key word to describe the mood I want to be in and convey to others. That’s why I am taking a whole year to write about happiness.


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