The School, an independent non-profit corporation, was named for its founder Dr. Rachel Eubanks (1922-Apr 8, 2006) who maintained close ties with the majority African American community, general Los Angeles population, and students from other parts of the world including East and Southeast Asia.
Rachel’s biography is included in the International Dictionary of Black Composers (1996). Born in San Jose, she has lived in San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. New York, Albany Georgia, Wilberforce and Columbus Ohio. She received her B.A. degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1945. She was married to Reverend ―Mac‖ MacDonald, a Baptist minister who wanted her to be a pastor’s wife. But that’s not what she envisioned and so their 1950 marriage ended 1 ½ later in 1952. For she had already received her M.A. from Columbia University in 1947. Later she also attended the Eastman School of Music, Universityof Southern California, Westminster Choir College, and the American Conservatory in France where she studied with Nadia Boulanger during the summer of 1977. She obtained her D.M.A. from Pacific Western University in California in 1980. Travel accounts of a family missionary friend who lived in India inspired Rachel’s first serious composition, ―Waters of the Ganges‖ for solo piano (1935) at age 14.In fact she was already composing when she was 11 and 12, two of which are entitled ―Just You and I‖ and ―Memories of Mother of Mine‖ accompanied by her own comments.
Here is a rare insight into the mind of an 11 year-old girl after she composed her first piece in 1932. She writes: ―One afternoon during school I thought of the coming of Mother’s Day and how nice it would be to write a poem for this day. I succeeded all right but somehow or other I wasn’t satisfied with the poem alone. After a while thought, ―why couldn’t I put these words to music, other people do, why can’t I? I had to study quite hard on this piece being it is my first one I had ever tried to write, I soon had it though. How thrilled I was at the thought of having composed a piece‖.
At Columbia University she studied ethnomusicology and subsequently traveled widely, collecting musical instruments and artifacts and recording music. These experiences gave her the knowledge and insight to compose in a variety of styles, over 52 works reflecting her activities as a musician, educator, scholar and administrator and include sacred and secular works in many genres; songs, choral music, solo instrumental works, music for instrumental ensemble, cantatas, and orchestral works. She wrote a 2-volume textbook titled Musicianship (1956, 1976, Eubanks: Los Angeles). At the University of California at Berkeley, Eubanks studied undergraduate composition and orchestration with Charles Cushing, studied for her master’s degree at Columbia University with Otto Luening, Douglas Moore, Seth Bingham, Randolph Thomas, and Normand Lockwood; and later returned to UC Berkeley to study with Roger Sessions and Cushing.
It was her tenures as music department chair at Albany State College in Georgia and Wilberforce University in Ohio that gave her the determination to start her own independent school in California.
This independent school was founded in 1951, grew from a studio in her living room into a substantial institution offering state-approved bachelor and master degrees in music and faculty drawn from the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and jazz musicians of the area. Eubanks was willing to explore uncharted musical territory and was responsive to specific needs of the students and the communities from which they came. Curriculum emphasized an integrated approach using critical analysis and analytical methodologies to gain knowledge and understanding of the essential nature and history of society. Its museum containing musical instruments were collected during Eubanks’ travels. Her willingness to explore the unknown and responding to specific needs is illustrated by her settings of Vietnamese folksongs for violin and cello with piano accompaniment, composed for three of her Vietnamese students.
Also as a child she gained a lifelong affinity for Chinese operas from attending live performance in the Chinatowns of San Francisco, Chicago, New York and later resulted in her tone poems ―Heavy Snow‖ and ―By the Riverside‖ set to Chinese poetry by Yan Chen for piano and solo baritone/bass (1984). Later, in March 2003 while in Japan at a Piano conference, she had the pleasure of meeting Professor Yang Ming of the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and head of the Piano Department and she fondly remembered that time, however brief, talking with him about music in 1980.
Read a full Los Angeles Times article about Dr. Rachel Eubanks ands The Eubanks Conservatory of Music and Arts here.
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