William B. Bradbury, one of the pioneer American musicians, to whom we owe much, was born at York, Maine, [United States], in 1816. He descended from a good family, his grandfather being an old revolutionary soldier who was highly esteemed. Both his father and his mother had a local reputation as musicians, his father being a choir leader and singing master. Young Bradbury thus inherited a taste for music which early manifested itself. He was employed on his father's farm, but spent all his spare time in diligently practicing on such musical instruments as came within his reach, becoming quite proficient on some of them.
In 1830 his parents removed to Boston, where he saw and heard for the first time a piano and organ, as well as various other instruments. The effect was to lead him to devote his life to the service of music. Accordingly he took lessons upon the organ, and as early as 1834 had achieved some reputation as an organist. He commenced his career as a teacher in New York, in 1840, and as a composer about the same time, meeting with the trials and discouragements which usually fall to the lot of young and unknown musicians.
In 1847 Mr. Bradbury and family went to Europe, traveling in Germany and Switzerland. At Leipsic he studied for some time under the best masters, gaining a deeper insight into music. After his return home, in 1849, he devoted his entire time to teaching, composing, and editing various collections of music. He was also called to various parts of the country to conduct musical conventions, then just beginning to be held. In 1854, he, in conjunction with his brother, E. G. Bradbury, commenced the business of manufacturing pianos, and the Bradbury instruments were at one time quite popular. The business is now carried on by Freeborn G. Smith.
Mr. Bradbury was one of the great trio (the other two being Dr. Lowell Mason and Dr. George F. Root) to which church and vocal music in this country owe so much. His music, though not classical, is far from being puerile, and was exactly fitted to the needs of the time. He was unceasingly active, having edited more than twenty collections of music, a large part of which was his own. His most popular collection was "The Jubilee," published in 1858, which attained a sale of over 200,000 copies. Of his other collections we have space to mention only a few, viz; "The Young Choir" (1841), "The School Singer" (1843), "Social Singing Glee Book" (1844), "Psalmodist" (1844), "Young Melodist" (1845), "The Choralist" (1847), "Musical Gems for School and Home" (1849), "Mendelssohn Collection" (1849), "Sabbath-School Melodies" (1850), "Alpine Glee Singer" (1850), "Metropolitan Glee Book" (1852), "Psalmista" (1851), "The Shawm" (1853), "New York Glee and Chorus Book" (1855), and "Sabbath-School Choir" (1856). He also composed several cantatas, one of which is "Esther," produced in 1856, and assisted in composing others.
Mr. Bradbury died at his residence, Montclair, N. J., Jan. 8, 1868, leaving a widow, four daughters, two of whom are married, and a son. He will always occupy a prominent place in American musical history.
From A Handbook of American Music and Musicians... edited by F. O. Jones. Canaseraga, N.Y.: Published by F. O. Jones, ©1886.
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