The Carol Brice Branch of North Carolina was founded in 2012 as a branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians, and has the distinct honor of being the only state-wide branch of NANM.  Our branch is named after the renowned contralto, Carol Brice (1918-1985), a native of Sedalia, North Carolina.  Brice was among the first group of African-American concert artists to gain international acclaim, and helped to break down the racial barriers hindering Black classical artists.

In our short existence, our branch has become a viable presence in the NANM organization.  Our members hold positions on the national board and national planning committee, in addition to having a strong presence at NANM's national and regional conventions.  For three consecutive years, collegiates from our branch have represented our region (Southeastern) and placed in the national scholarship competition.  We work to carry out NANM's mission: to promote, preserve, and support all genres of music created or performed by African Americans.  We also seek to uphold it's objectives: assisting in maintaining a world in which all people may live in peace and harmony; developing world-wide love and appreciation of traditional and contemporary Negro music; fostering a larger public appreciation for education in good music; encouraging the use of Negro Folk Themes as a basis for compositions; encouraging accurate performance of the Negro spirituals; developing higher professional standards through lectures, conferences and conventions; promoting the exchange of ideas and a spirit of fellowship among musicians; discovering, encouraging, and assisting the cultivation of musical gifts among talented, deserving youth through such activities as will extend the influence of music as a necessary and inspiring element in the life of the people, and; establishing and maintaining a fund for scholarships.



Carol Brice was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 16, 1918, the youngest of four children born to Dr. John Brice, a Congregationalist minister, and Ella Hawkins Brice, an educator and musician.  As Ella Brice traveled in pursuit of a singing career, Reverend Brice moved Carol and her siblings to Sedalia, North Carolina, and gave custody of the children to their maternal cousin, Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown.  Brown was the founder and president of the Palmer Memorial Institute, the only finishing school for African Americans in the country.


Carol Brice’s musical studies began at the Palmer Institute.  In 1930, at age thirteen, Brice won an award for the best contralto voice at a North Carolina music festival.  The following year she appeared with the Sedalia Singers, the Palmer Institute’s glee club and major fund-raising arm of the school.  The group performed in such places as Town Hall in New York City, Symphony Hall in Boston, and the White House.  After graduating the from the Palmer Institute, Carol enrolled at Talladega College in Alabama, where she received her Bachelor of Music degree in 1939.  Brice then auditioned for a fellowship at the Julliard Graduate School of Music, which she won for five consecutive years.  


Brice first attracted public acclaim at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 when she performed in the chorus of the all-black musical, “The Hot Mikado,” starring Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.  Her next major public performance came in January of 1941, singing at the third inauguration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of the first times an African-American performed at an inauguration.  In 1943, Brice won the prestigious Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Award for exceptional vocal excellence, becoming the first African-American musician to do so in the twenty-three-year history of the award.  Aside from the national acclaim gained from winning the competition, the prize was a professional solo debut recital at New York’s Town Hall.  Brice’s concert was given two years later, on March 13, 1945, and received high praises from New York critics.


In addition to her personal success, Brice often performed with her brothers Eugene and Jonathan Brice.  Eugene was also a graduate of Juilliard and performed in numerous Broadway productions.  Jonathan, apart from being the accompanist for Brice, sang with the Robert Shaw Chorale and the New York City Opera.  From 1944 until 1977, Brice sang in recitals across the United States, most often accompanied on the piano by her brother, Jonathan.  In 1958, Brice formed a trio with both Jonathan and Eugene.  Together, they called themselves the Brice Trio and performed at Town Hall in 1958.


Beyond concert singing, Brice performed in several Broadway performances, including the roles of Addie in Regina (1959), Maude in Finian's Rainbow (1960), Queenie in Showboat (1961), Harriet Tubman in Gentlemen, Be Seated (1963), and Maria in Porgy and Bess (1961, 1976).  Brice also made numerous critically acclaimed recordings, as she was among the first Black classical artists to record extensively in the United States.  Among her most noted recordings are: Gustav Mahler's "Songs of a Wayfarer," with Fritz Reiner and the Pittsburg Orchestra; Manuel de Falla's El Amor Brujo; The Grass Harp by Claibe Richardson; and her Grammy winning recording of Porgy and Bess with the Houston Grand Opera.


Brice is also a part of the history of racial integration in North Carolina schools.  In the era of Jim Crow, and almost a decade before the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education case, Black Mountain College (near Asheville, NC) became the first all-white institution to enroll an African-American student, Ms. Alma Stone Williams, albeit for the 1944 summer session.  A year later, in 1945, the school continued its desegregation experiments by accepting two students, and inviting Carol Brice and fellow singer, Roland Hayes, to be guest music faculty at the summer session.  During the month-long residency, Brice also gave a concert and made a great impression on Black Mountain community members.  She would return to the college again for four weeks of recitals in the summer of 1947, at which point, the school had been fully integrated.


Brice received numerous awards for her pioneering spirit and commitment to singing.  In 1948, she was honored as an outstanding "Negro Woman Musician" by the National Council of Negro Women, and in 1954, she was chosen as one of Long Island, New York's, "Women of the Year."  In 1955, her alma mater, Talladega College, awarded her with an honorary doctor of humane letters. In 1963, she was presented the Emancipation Proclamation Award by the National Association of Negro Musicians, and in 1965, she and her two brothers were honored at the Fifth Annual Founder's Day Program of the National Association of Negro Musicians’ Eastern Region.

In her post-performing years, Brice taught at the University of Oklahoma faculty as an associate professor of music starting in 1973.  In 1974, Brice and her second husband, Thomas Carey, founded the Cimarron Circuit Opera Company, which prospered under their leadership.


Carol Brice died of cancer on February 14, 1985 in Norman, Oklahoma at the age of 66.


The National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc. is this country’s oldest organization dedicated to the preservation, encouragement, and advocacy of all genres of the music of African-Americans.  NANM had its beginning on May 3, 1919 in Washington, D.C. at a temporary initial conference of “Negro” musicians under the leadership of Henry Grant and Nora Holt.  Its first national convention was held in Chicago, Illinois in the same year.  Our organization is supported by people of strong cultural ideals and high musical standards, all of whom care deeply for the fine art of music, and for an inclusive musical culture throughout the country.  Within NANM, members lend their

NANM members at the 3rd annual convention in July, 1921.

support and influence—educators and professional musicians share their musical knowledge, amateurs and enthusiasts grow in their musical enjoyment, and people of all ages come together to participate in one of the most powerful forces of spiritual and cultural development, and the total human experience that is music.

Since its inception, NANM has provided encouragement and support to thousands of African American musicians, many of whom have become widely respected figures in music and have contributed significantly to American culture and music history.  The organization has awarded scholarships to scores of talented young musicians throughout the country.  A list of them would include such luminaries as Marian Anderson (first scholarship award recipient in 1919), William L. Dawson, Florence B. Price, Margaret Bonds, Warren George Wilson, James Frazier, Julia Perry, Grace Bumbry, Leon Bates, Joseph Joubert, Awadagin Pratt, and many, many others.

Over the years, many international personalities have been presented in performance, including  Lena Horne, Todd Duncan, John W. Work, R. Nathaniel Dett, Marian Anderson, Edward Boatner, Camille Nickerson, Clarence Cameron White, Margaret Bonds, Florence B. Price, Etta Moten, Betty Allen, Natalie Hinderas, Adele Addison, Kermit Moore, Simon Estes, George Shirley, Robert McFerrin, Shirley Verrett, Jessye Norman, Sanford Allen, Derek Lee Ragin, the Uptown String Quartet, Esther Hinds, Ruby Hinds, Wilhelmina Fernandez, the Hinds Sisters, William Warfield, Benjamin Matthews, the Albert McNeil Jubilee Singers, Harolyn Blackwell, Billy Taylor, Delphin and Romain, Gregory Hopkins, and Martina Arroyo.

Clinicians and lecturers of note include Carl Diton, Warner Lawson, Frederick Hall, Kemper Harreld, Wendell Whalum, Eileen Southern, Doris McGinty, Alain Locke, Grace Bumbry, Sylvia Olden Lee, James Cleveland, Raoul Abdul, Geneva Handy Southall, Sowah Mensah, Robert Ray, Willis Patterson, Roland Carter, Brazeal Dennard, Robert Harris, and Shirley Verrett.  These notables constitute only a fraction of the many musicians, educators, scholars, and lovers of music, who constitute the musical fabric of this organization.


Foremost amongst NANM programs are our programs and activities which involve our youth membership. These include NANM’s national Junior and Youth Divisions, and Campus Branches comprised of collegiate young artists from colleges and universities all over the country. These young people participate in workshops and are presented in performances throughout each annual convention week.  NANM holds a national convention in a different city each year, offering our membership an opportunity to participate in workshops, seminars, lectures, masterclasses, and performances.


NANM provides assistance, performance opportunities, and black cultural awareness to the musical public. We are concerned with all aspects of performance and education in diverse musical genres, arts management, and the varied musical interests of our members.

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© 2019 by the Carol Brice Music Association • P.O. Box 843 • Elon, NC 27244