March 25, 2006 – A story about V.I. composer, musician, bandleader and community activist Alton Augustus Adams Sr., which began in the 1930s, at long last has a happy ending.
Bandmaster Adams, as he was known back in the day, was named official U.S. Navy bandmaster during the Navy's administration of the Virgin Islands after the transfer in 1917. In that capacity Adams toured the United States with his V.I. band members and quickly came to the attention of renowned U.S. bandleaders John Philip Sousa, Edwin Franko Goldman and Frank Simon.
After successful tours, Adams was proposed for membership in the American Bandmasters Association but, over strong objections from those U.S. bandleaders, he was blackballed in 1936 because of opposition raised by Southern members.
Recently Dr. Samuel L. Floyd Jr. pressed for full installation of Adams in the same organization. Floyd is founding director emeritus of the Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College Chicago; founder of the Alton A. Adams Music Research Institute; and a close personal associate of Adams for many years.
Floyd was successful in his pursuit and on March 3, 2006, Adams was elected to the American Bandmasters Association by unanimous vote of the 132 members – the first posthumous election ever made.
Formal induction is scheduled for May 2006 on St. Thomas. The ceremony will be performed by ABA president Dr. John R. Locke as part of a special concert by the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band of Washington, D.C.
In a special tribute to Adams, the band will perform several of his popular, as well as some lesser known, compositions. The band is appearing on St. Thomas through the efforts of Floyd and Alton Adams Jr., with local funding through public subscription.
Also being finalized is a two-day colloquium sponsored by the St. Thomas institute and the Chicago center, addressing Adams Sr.'s contributions to the Virgin Islands community beyond his lifelong involvement with music. These include co-founding of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association; serving as a dean of the V.I. Press Corps, an Associated Press stringer, and a writer for numerous publications local and stateside; founding the Red Cross in the territory; founding the first public library; and creating the first V.I. public school music curriculum.
The colloquium will take place on May 10 and 11, and the concert is scheduled for the evening of May 12. Both events will be held in the auditorium of the Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School.
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