L. Viola Kinney

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
L. Viola Kinney
L. Viola Kinney.jpg
Portrait on the cover of Mother's Sacrifice, 1909
Lady Viola Kinney

c.1890 (1890)
Sedalia, Missouri
  • composer
  • educator
  • pianist

L. Viola Kinney (c.1890 – 1945) was an American composer, pianist, and teacher active during the first half of the twentieth century. Her piano piece Mother's Sacrifice was published in 1909 and recorded by Albany Records in 2005.


Born Lady Viola Kinney in Sedalia, Missouri, she was one of the five children of Patrick and Lillian Kinney. Her father was a cook and her mother worked in the shops of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Kinney studied music at Western University, a historically black college in Quindaro, Kansas, where she participated in the harmony class and the choral society under the tutorship of Robert G. Jackson, Director of the music department. After she completed her college education she moved back to Sedalia where in 1911 she began a 35-year career as a teacher of music and English at the segregated secondary school, Lincoln High School. She became head of the school's music department and also gave piano recitals in Sedalia and surrounding towns. She had married Frederick Ferguson, an undertaker in 1918, but the couple separated in 1925. After the separation Kinney lived in her widowed mother's house and later reverted to her maiden name.[1][2]

Kinney died in 1945 and was buried in Crown Hill cemetery in Sedalia. Her composition for solo piano, Mother's Sacrifice, is the only score that has been found, although she registered the copyrights for at least two other compositions: Show Me, set to a text by Fredericka Douglass Perry[a] (1941) and Time Out for Love (1943).[4][5][6]

Mother's Sacrifice[edit]

Inside back cover of the sheet music for Mother's Sacrifice, published in 1909

Kinney's Mother’s Sacrifice is a solo piano piece for which she won second prize in the Inter-State Literary Society Original Music Contest held at Omaha, Nebraska in 1908. (The first prize was won by Claude Minor of Lawrence, Kansas, also a student of the Western University harmony class.) One year later it was published by the Twentieth Century Commercial Society of Western University. The score was republished in Black women composers: a century of piano music (1893-1990) in 1992.[7]

When asked why should the music composed by Western University students be purchased, Viola Kinney, then a student at the university wrote:

1.Students should purchase it because it is a product of our Alma Mater by our fellow students.

2.White people should purchase it because they ought to see what the colored youth is doing, and has done during the few years of liberty of mind as well as body.

3.Negroes should purchase because the composers are of their own race, and their children should have such encouragement.

4.Because they have been prize-winners of every Inter-state Literary Session in which they have entered.

5.Because it shows the Negro in his great Musical Metamorphis from the rag-time to the nobler, higher tones.[8]

Mother's Sacrifice was recorded in 2005 and appears on the CD Soulscapes, an anthology of piano music by African-American women released on the Albany Records label. In 2009, the 100th anniversary of its publication, Mother's Sacrifice was performed in a concert at the University of West Georgia.[9][10][11]


  1. ^ Fredericka Douglass Perry (1872–1943) was the granddaughter of Frederick Douglass and a pioneer of child welfare work in Kansas City, Missouri.[3]


  1. ^ Walker-Hill, Helen (1992). "Music by Black Women Composers at the AMRC". American Music Research Center Journal, Vol. 2, pp.32-33. University of Colorado. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  2. ^ Walker-Hill, Helen (2007). From spirituals to symphonies: African-American women composers and their music, p. 18. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252074548
  3. ^ Social Welfare History Project (2011). "Fredericka Douglass Sprague Perry (1872-1943): Child welfare pioneer". Virginia Commonwealth University. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  4. ^ The Sedalia Democrat (26 September 1945). "Funeral services for Miss L. Viola Kinney, teacher of music and English", p. 4
  5. ^ Library of Congress (1941). Catalog of Copyright Entries: Musical compositions, Part 3, p. 1170.
  6. ^ Library of Congress (1943). Catalog of Copyright Entries: Musical compositions, Part 3. P. 79
  7. ^ Walker-Hill, Helen (1995). Music by Black Women Composers: A Bibliography of Available Scores, p. 12. Center for Black Music Research. ISBN 0929911040
  8. ^ Kinney, Viola L. (1909). Mother's Sacrifice, inside back cover. Twentieth Century Commercial Society, Western University
  9. ^ Center for Black Music Research. Discography of Music by Black Composers. Columbia College Chicago
  10. ^ Schmidt, Abigail (23 December 2016). "“Mother’s Sacrifice” by L. Viola Kinney". Tufts University Marginalized Music Project. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  11. ^ University of West Georgia (6 January 2009). "Music Department Hosts Wright Scholars Concert". US Federal News Service. Retrieved via HighBeam Research 15 December 2017 (subscription required).

External links[edit]