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Oral history interview with Linda Tillery, 1999 May 25, 2003

Identifier: M450.05.00010


Linda Tillery recounts remembrances of growing up in a family environment imbued with African American music. In spite of this early exposure, however, it was not until she was 41 years old, after her parents died in 1990, that her interest in understanding African American folk music and spirituals deepened. At this time she embarked on an oral history project to study spirituals by researching written and recorded sources found in key U.S. archives and by interviewing primarily older African Americans whom she considered to be the "elders of folk music". While already established as a jazz and blues singer, she changed direction to pursue the quest of understanding and performing the African American art form of spirituals. She discusses how passing the spiritual from generation to generation attains preservation of this music, and believes that the senior members of the African American community who learned it as children from their parents play an important role in the education and preservation of African American folk music. She contends that concertized spirituals, if performed authentically by maintaining their original simplicity, metered hymns, and much of the music performed by quartets, are also in the same vein as spirituals.


  • 1999 May 25
  • Issued: 2003


Digital Repository

Oral history interview with Linda Tillery

Biographical / Historical

Born in San Francisco, Linda Tillery (1948-) established herself as a vocalist, percussionist, producer, vocal coach and cultural historian. She has appeared in over 50 recordings, worked in radio, film, and theater, and served on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1992 her interests as a researcher, teacher and performer of African American oral music, including spirituals, led her to form a 5 member vocal ensemble, the Cultural Heritage Choir, that continues to perform both in the United States and internationally. As a vocal coach and lecturer she has conducted workshops for many different associations, including St. Mary's College, the Muse Choir of Cincinnati, the Oakland Symphony Chorus, the Oakland Youth Chorus, and the MIT Concert Choir.


1 Items ; 117 minutes

Scope and Contents

From the Collection: This collection is divided into 4 series. Series 1: Correspondence and Reports; Series 2: Programs; Series 3: Posters; Series 4: Memorabilia.


Conducted May 25, 1999, in Oakland, California.


Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

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