R. Nathaniel Dett - Arts and Culture Wall of Fame
Nathaniel Dett was born in Drummondville (now Niagara Falls) on October 11,1882. When he was a
small boy he learned to play the piano by ear while listening to his older brothers take lessons. Upon
hearing him play, teacher offered to teach him for free.
The family moved to Niagara Falls, New York where Nathaniel attended the Oberlin Conservatory of
music, graduating with a Bachelor of Music degree with honours in 1908. He later studied in France at
the Fontaine Bleu School of Music.
Throughout his life Nathaniel taught music at various musical institutions and created many poems and
musical compositions. He conducted chorals and performed many concerts in Canada and the United
States, where they were heard on CBS and NBC.
Nathaniel was presented with honorary doctorates from Harvard University and Oberlin. He also received
many gold medals and various prizes from different foundations and associations.
As a composer, Nathaniel Dett was known for his work on African American spirituals, as a teacher for
nurturing many musical students, and as an outstanding soloist performer.
Nathaniel Dett died in 1943 and is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Niagara Falls. The music of Nathaniel
Dett is still performed today. Canada’s Nathaniel Dett Chorale bears his namesake and performs his