What do you feel should be the requirements for a composer to be included in the Grove? Alvin Singleton



Photo by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

Well, I wasn’t in the Grove Dictionary and it didn’t bother me, and then I went to Europe and I became part of a group that is always interesting to the people who write these things, and then I was in the Grove. I knew I was in the American Grove but I didn’t realize I was in the other one until you told me.

As for your question, I would suppose that it would be based upon somebody’s body of work. Ultimately I don’t think it’s really that important. I mean it’s important for posterity and it’s important for just basic PR. Every time your name appears somebody sees it and whether they know what you actually do or how well you do it is probably less important. But at least from my political point of view, I don’t think it means that one composer is better than another. I think it’s a lot of things that come together over a period of time, like these coincidences that put one person in the limelight rather than another. Like the one I just mentioned about being in Europe. And it is a British publication, right? I think it was important that they put out the American Grove, because we are a separate entity, we are our own country. Perhaps we should do one ourselves. For instance, the Center for Black Music in Chicago put out an International Dictionary of Black Composers and that’s not exhaustive either. When I looked at it I noticed basic people who were missing, so I think in the long run it has more to do with tastes or knowledge or lack of knowledge. Anytime human beings do things, you know, it’s not perfect and I don’t think if your name is not in Grove that you should give up your career. You should just remember why you do what you do and keep on moving. People might say to me, ‘Oh, I saw you in Grove,’ but I don’t take it seriously because I’ve still got the next tune to finish.