Obituary: Frances Walker-Slocum, pioneering pianist and Oberlin professor, 94

Posted on: June 21, 2018

“Frances Walker-Slocum, who overcame childhood burns that left her arm impaired to become a pioneering classical pianist and the first black female tenured professor at Oberlin College and Conservatory, died on June 9,” writes Sam Roberts in Wednesday’s (6/20) New York Times. “Her performance at a bicentennial concert at Oberlin in 1976 was so impressive that she was immediately hired to teach there.” She retired in 1991. “She became an outspoken champion of black composers … and waged a continuing campaign for gender pay equality among the faculty…. The younger sister of [composer] George Walker … Walker-Slocum was … ‘a tough teacher, but one who knew how to tap into every student’s motivation,’ said Lee Koonce, a senior adviser to the dean of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and a former student.… Frances Walker was … the granddaughter of a slave and the daughter of Dr. George Walker, an immigrant from Jamaica, and Rosa (King) Walker, who worked for the Government Printing Office…. She met Henry Chester Slocum Jr., a white Oberlin alumnus, in Mississippi. They got married in New York City because interracial marriage was banned in Mississippi…. Her career soared after … a [1975] performance at Carnegie Recital Hall, ‘Bicentennial Program: The Music of Black American Composers.’ ” Said Walker-Slocum, “I didn’t want anybody to … do it before I did.”

Posted June 21, 2018