Composer, educator, choral director, and ethnomusicologist John Wesley Work III was born on June 15, 1901, in Tullahoma, Tennessee, to a family of professional musicians. His grandfather, John Wesley Work, was a church choir director in Nashville, where he wrote and arranged music for his choirs. Some of his choristers were members of the original Fisk Jubilee Singers. His father, John Wesley Work Jr., was a singer, folksong collector and professor of music, Latin, and history at Fisk, and his mother, Agnes Haynes Work, was a singer who helped train the Fisk group. His uncle, Frederick Jerome Work, also collected and arranged folksongs, and his brother, Julian, became a professional musician and composer.
John Wesley was well-educated and intensely fascinated by all aspects of human existence. While his thoughts were normally occupied with matters of divine importance, we find scattered throughout his writings glimpses of well-defined opinions on a variety of other topics. Although his brother Charles was the true musician of the family, John wrote a number of songs and was a great appreciater of good music. The singing of hymns was a regular part of their worship services. However, the value of any musical piece was for him based primarily on its effectiveness as a means of communicating the things of God to the soul of the believer.
The article John Wesley and church music Work highlights his musical training at the Fisk University Laboratory School, moving on to the Fisk High School and then the university, where he received a B.A. degree in 1923. After graduation, he attended the Institute of Musical Art in New York City (now the Julliard School of Music), where he studied with Gardner Lamson. He returned to Fisk and began teaching in 1927, spending summers in New York studying with Howard Talley and Samuel Gardner. In 1930 he received an M.A. degree from Columbia University with his thesis American Negro Songs and Spirituals. He was awarded two Julius Rosenwald Foundation Fellowships for the years 1931 to 1933 and, using these to take two years leave from Fisk, he obtained a B.Mus. degree from Yale University in 1933.
The Work of the article John Wesley and church music remainds his career at Fisk, until his retirement in 1966. He served in a variety of positions, notably as a teacher, chairman of the Fisk University Department of Music, and director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers from 1947 until 1956. He published articles in professional journals and dictionaries over a span of more than thirty years. His best known articles were "Plantation Meistersingers" in The Musical Quarterly (Jan. 1940), and "Changing Patterns in Negro Folksongs" in the Journal of American Folklore (Oct. 1940).
Article Work began composing while still in high school and continued throughout his career, completing over one hundred compositions in a variety of musical forms -- for full orchestra, piano, chamber ensemble, violin and organ -- but his largest output was in choral and solo-voice ...