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Sun, 08.02.1931

Prodigy Philippa Schuyler, composer and humanist

Philippa Schuyler

On this date, Philippa D. Schuyler was born in 1931. She was a Black concert pianist.

Born in New York, her father, George S. Schuyler, was a well-known Black writer. Her mother, Josephine Cogdell, came from a wealthy white-Texas ranching and finance family. Schuyler was raised in an environment that stressed the importance of intelligence, education, and artistic expression. In her early years, newspaper and other articles wrote about her prodigal development as she crawled at four weeks, walked at eight months, read at two years, and played the piano at age three. At age four, Schuyler could spell four-letter words and was playing piano (her own compositions) on the radio.

She had a measured IQ of 180 at age seven, graduated from elementary school at age ten, had written over 100 compositions by thirteen, and for that birthday, completed "Manhattan Nocturne," her first orchestra work, scored for 100 instruments. The New York Philharmonic performed this piece during the last performance of the Young People's Concert season (1944-45).

After high school graduation at age fifteen, Schuyler wrote "The Rhapsody of Youth" in honor of the inauguration of Haitian president Paul Magloire. She was knighted for this and gave command performances for Ethiopia’s Halie Selassie and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium.

She was a devoted Catholic, fluent in several languages, and a writer of several books. She began a career in journalism as a news correspondent just before her death. Philippa Schuyler died on May 9, 1967, in a helicopter crash in Da Hang during the Vietnam War. She was trying to help remove Catholic schoolchildren from the fighting.

Reference:
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

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