Jacqueline Hairston

Jacqueline (Jacqui) Hairston is a prolific composer and arranger of a variety of genres encompassing spirituals to contemporary art songs. Among numerous other accolades, she has received two "Living Legend" awards for her work.

Photo: Jacqui Hairston via colorado.edu

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    Jacqueline Hairston is a pianist, composer-arranger, and vocal coach. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Hairston received her musical training at the Juilliard School and Howard University School of Music. She earned a Masters degree in music and music education from Columbia University in New York City. Her works have been recorded by the London Symphony and the Columbia Symphony. Among ensembles and soloists who have performed her works live are the San Francisco Women’s Philharmonic, Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, Kathleen Battle (with the Collegiate Chorale and Pro Arte Chorale at Carnegie Hall), the Metropolitan Opera, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, and the Orlando Opera Chorus and Orchestra. Ms. Hairston received a “Living Legend Award” from the California State University at Dominquez Hills and received Oakland ‘s “Living Legend Award” by the Oakland Alliance of Black Educators.  Her compositions include musical settings for the inspirational words of Howard Thurman, her chaplain at Howard University. In 2001, Ms. Hairston was artist-in-residence at Northern Illinois University. During this time, she conducted classes culminating in a choir concert that commemorated her famed cousin, the late Dr. Jester Hairston, who inspired her mission to create choral arrangements of spirituals. Her recent teaching posts have included Oakland’s New School for the Arts, the University of Creation Spirituality and the University of California at Berkeley’s Young Musicians’ Program.

    Helen Bryant

    This profile was created in 2022 as part of the Song of America Fellowship Program, a project of the Classic Song Research Initiative between the Hampsong Foundation and the University of Michigan, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

    Further Reading:

    -Li, Er-Hsuan, and Alejandro Cremaschi. 2022. “”Great Day” Ode, By Jacqueline Hairston | Hidden Voices: Piano Music By Black Women Composers | University Of Colorado Boulder”. Colorado.Edu. Accessed March 31. https://www.colorado.edu/project/hidden-voices/2021/10/25/great-day-ode-jacqueline-hairston.

    -“Jacqueline Hairston”. 2022. African American Art Song Alliance. Accessed March 31. https://artsongalliance.org/composers/jacqueline-hairston.

    Related Information



    The Reaction

    (Marques L. A. Garrett, Jacqueline Hairston, Eugene Hancock, Lena J. McLin, Robert Owens, Carlos Simon, Howard Swanson and George Walker)


    How Sweet the Sound

    (Margaret Bonds, Henry T. Burleigh, Maria Thompson Corley, Jacqueline Hairston, Moses Hogan, Hall Johnson, Thomas H. Kerr, Betty Jackson King, Robert L. Morris, Hale Smith, Spiritual and George Walker)


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