CAROL LEMS-DWORKIN, AN INFORMAL BIOGRAPHY

 

 

Carol Lems-Dworkin was born in Chicago and has always lived in or near her place of birth, even though her professional pursuits have carried her to far-distant lands.

 

 

Early private piano lessons with master teachers, including the famed French pianist, Robert Casadesus, prepared her for a career as a concert pianist. In this capacity, she won six piano competitions as a young girl, one to select "The Outstanding Young Pianist of the Midwest." She also concertized extensively in the United States, including appearances on radio and television. Somehow, during an active music career, she was able to attend Northwestern University on a part-time basis, and eventually received a Bachelor of Science Degree "with honors and distinction." That same year she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, became an "Honorary Member" of an honorary music society, Sigma Alpha Iota, and was elected to an honorary science society, Sigma Xi. (Except for publishing a scientific paper and editing a botanical bibliography, however, she has never made professional use of her scientific studies.)

 

Some time later, as the single mother of two small children, Carol Lems-Dworkin returned to Northwestern University to obtain the advanced music degree that would open up the academic world to her. While a graduate student, she was elected to an honorary music society, Pi Kappa Lambda. Immediately, upon receiving her degree, she joined the faculty of Kendall College, Evanston, Illinois. At Kendall she taught for fourteen years, was tenured during this time, and headed the Music Department for eight of these years.

 

As an adjunct teacher, she was also a part-time faculty member of the Piano Department of Northwestern University, and taught courses at Chicago State University, National Louis University, and Chicago Conservatory College. At Barat College she was a member of the Afro-American Studies Department. During these academic years she made six piano recordings of Bach on the EDUCO Label - one, a lecture-demonstration on how to play Bach's ornaments correctly.

 

Along with her interest in Western art music and science, Lems-Dworkin has had a lifelong dedication to the study of African music and African cultural retentions in the New World, starting with her early admiration for the great African American singer, Paul Robeson, and manifested by her youthful fascination with black piano music, particularly ragtime and boogie-woogie.

 

At Northwestern University, she was privileged to study with Melville J. Herskovits, foremost anthropologist and founder at Northwestern of its now famous Africana library. Additional studies at Northwestern were with Richard Waterman, a trail-blazing ethnomusicologist whose significant research and publications focused on African-influenced musics of the New World.

 

As a college teacher, Lems-Dworkin has attended numerous meetings of the Society for Ethnomusicology, as well as conferences on black music at Indiana University and Virginia State University. She has presented papers at annual and regional meetings of the African Studies Association, and continues to be active in Program of African Studies events at Northwestern University.

 

In 1971, she initiated at Kendall College, and continued to teach for four years, a course entitled, "Introduction to African Music." She believes this to have been the first course dealing exclusively with African music to be taught in the Midwest - if not in the entire United States.

 

In 1973, during her sabbatical year from Kendall College, Lems-Dworkin received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities which subsidized further study of black music, as well as trips to West Africa, Trinidad, other Caribbean islands, and to key cities in the United States. From these travels she has acquired what she calls a "world view of the African diaspora."

 

Lems-Dworkin founded in 1976 a not-for-profit educational corporation called World Music Center, Inc., which she still heads. The organization is concerned with the performance and preservation of ethnic music, particularly those forms that grew out of the black experience in the New World. World Music Center first published her African and New World Black Music Bibliography, which was subsequently reprinted as part of its reprint series by the Program of African Studies of Northwestern University, and disseminated throughout Africa. In 1984, the Program presented Lems-Dworkin with an Honorary Graduate Certificate in African Studies, a document that hangs on her living room wall, and which she says is her most prized possession.

 

From 1989 through 1990, Lems-Dworkin was awarded "Visiting Scholar" status by Northwestern's Program of African Studies, during which time she completed a 400-page book entitled, African Music: a Pan-African Annotated Bibliography. Initially published by Hans Zell of Oxford, England in 1991, Lems-Dworkin was subsequently granted all publication rights to this book, and went on to publish, via her own imprint, Africa in Scott Joplin's Music (1991) and Videos of African and African-Related Performance: an Annotated Bibliography, (1996).

 

As an Independent Scholar, Lems-Dworkin continues to write, to research, to lecture on African and African-related music and culture, to teach piano, to perform, and to give lecture-demonstrations on the clavichord and harpsichord - instruments in which she has particular interest. In more recent times she has specialized in the life and music of Scott Joplin, "King of Ragtime," and in 1988 performed Joplin's rags in key cities of the former USSR in conjunction with a Volga River cruise that featured musicians from both countries. Lems-Dworkin has given lecture-performances countless times during Black History Month at the Daley Center in downtown Chicago. She is currently at work on a new book: We Are African, We Are Family.

 

 

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