(No. 20 of the Black Composers series)
Basile Barès (1845-1902) was an American composer, born in New Orleans. His mother was enslaved by a man who owned a music and piano store. Young Basile grew up working in this store, where he took the initiative to teach himself piano and composition. He eventually started taking lessons and showed great skill at a young age. In fact, "Grande Polka des Chasseurs à Pied" was written when Basile was only 16. Even more astonishing is the fact that this is the only piece by an enslaved American that was ever published and copyrighted. After emancipation in 1865, Barès continued to work in the same music store, and even traveled to Paris to perform and conduct business for the store at the International Exposition in 1867. Barès used his position as a well-regarded figure in the New Orleans music scene to advocate for the desegregation of music venues in the city.