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This Week in Texas Music History: Iola Bowden Chambers

by Stephen Becker 16 Dec 2011 3:14 PM

This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll meet a woman who used music to break down the barriers of racial segregation.


Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman remembers a woman who used music to break down the barriers of racial segregation.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.

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Iola Bowden Chambers died on Dec. 14, 1978. Born in Holder, Texas, on Oct. 18, 1904, Chambers graduated from Daniel Baker College in Brownwood and went on to study piano at the Washington Conservatory of Music. After returning to Texas, she began teaching piano at Southwestern University in Georgetown in 1933. An early white proponent of African-American education, Iola Chambers helped found the Negro Fine Arts School in 1941. For the next 25 years, Chambers and her students from Southwestern University gave piano lessons to scores of local African-American children, helping many of them earn scholarships to attend college. One of her pupils, Charles Miller, became the first black student ever to enroll at Southwestern University.

Iola Bowden Chambers devoted the remainder of her life to promoting equal educational opportunities for all Texas children.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll remember a talented musician who traded in the nightclubs for the classroom.