Margaret Bonds

The first black guest to play with the Chicago Symphony, Margaret Bonds was an accomplished pianist as well as composer and teacher.

Photo: Margaret Bonds, photograph by Carl van Vechten, 1956, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

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Born in Chicago, Margaret Bonds grew up in a musical household, studying music first with her mother, Estelle C. Bonds, who was an organist. Musical life in the city of Chicago was also very rich, and Bonds had the chance to study piano and composition with Florence Price while she was in high school. Bonds earned her BM and MM from Northwestern University and earned her first prize for composition in 1932 (the Wanamaker Prize for her song “Sea Ghost”). In 1933, Bonds performed Price’s piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Also, before leaving Chicago, Bonds opened the Allied Arts Academy.

In 1939, Bonds moved to New York, marrying Lawrence Richardson and attending Juilliard Graduate School the following year. In New York, Bonds (who kept her mother’s maiden name as her own for life) worked to advance black musicians and composers and organized a chamber society dedicated to supporting the work of black composers and musicians.

Bonds’ output consists mainly of vocal music, though she also wrote several large-scale musical theatre works, including Shakespeare in Harlem (1959). Leontyne Price commissioned and recorded several spirituals arranged by Bonds.

–Christie Finn

Related Information



Songs from Chicago

(Ernst Bacon, Margaret Bonds, John Alden Carpenter, Louis Campbell-Tipton and Florence Price)


View recording

I, Too

(H. Leslie Adams, Margaret Bonds, Undine Smith Moore, Florence Price and Hall Johnson)


De Toda la Eternidad

(Margaret Bonds, Libby Larsen, Louise Talma and Gabriela Lena Frank)


Ride On, King Jesus

(Margaret Bonds, William Grant Still, Francis B. Johnson and R. Nathaniel Dett)


Dreamer - A Portrait of Langston Hughes

(Margaret Bonds, William Grant Still, Kurt Weill, Henry Burleigh, Robert Owens, John Musto, Ricky Ian Gordon, Howard Swanson, Jean Berger, Erik Santos and Florence Price)


Ah! Love, But A Day

(Amy Marcy Beach, Margaret Bonds, Libby Larsen, Margaret Ruthven Lang, Undine Smith Moore, Florence Price, Gladys Rich, Traditional and Gwyneth Van Anden Walker)






    Sheet Music

    Art Songs and Spirituals by African-American Women Composers

    Composer(s): Margaret Bonds, Betty Jackson King, Dorothy Rudd Moore, Undine Smith Moore, Julia Perry, Zenobia Powell Perry, Florence Price

    Buy via Hildegard Publishing Company

    Anthology of Art Songs by Black American Composers, Compiled by Willis C. Patterson

    Composer(s): H. Leslie Adams, David Baker, Margaret Bonds, Charles Brown, Cecil Cohen, Noel de Costa, Mark Fax, Adolphus C. Hailstork, Eugene Hancock, Thomas Kerr, Jr., Charles Lloyd, Jr., Wendell Logan, Maurice McCall, Dorothy Rudd Moore, Undine Smith Moore, Robert Owens, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Florence Price, Hale Smith, William Grant Still, Howard Swanson, George Walker, Olly Wilson, John Work, Jr.

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

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