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The Coleman Library has a significant amount of materials in the area of music biography, including books, articles, and online resources. Below is a partial list of available resources. If you have any questions or cannot find information on your subject, ask a librarian at the Reference Desk or email us via Ask a Librarian on the library homepage (www.pvamu edu/library).

We also have many specialized books devoted to musicians within specific genres (e.g., gospel, jazz, rock), so it’s a good idea to look through the M (music) section in the reference shelves for more materials that aren’t on this list.

Use the online catalog ( to locate books in the library. You might want to start with general subject terms such as:

Arrangement (Music)
Chamber music
Composition (Music)
Instrumentation and orchestration

You can also look under various composers, such as:

Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750.
Chopin, Freìdeìric, 1810-1849
Davis, Miles
Shakur, Tupac, 1971-

Or genres:

Gospel music
Gregorian chants History and criticism

Contemporary Musicians
Ref ML 385 C615
Good source for living pop, rap, reggae, and other active singers and instrumentalists

New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
Ref ML 100 N48 2001
This 29 volume set primarily covers classical and jazz musicians; good source for dead classical composers

Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Ref ML102 P66 G84 1995
Excellent 8 volume source for obscure and/or forgotten popular performers and groups in the 20th Century

International Dictionary of Black Composers
Ref ML 390 I58 1999
Best source for biographical information on African American and other black composers

Current Biography
Ref CT 100 C8
Articles and photos on international celebrities active from 1945 to the present; good source for personal data (e.g., family, hobbies)


Blues / Dick Weissman ; foreword by Craig Morrison.   New York, NY : Facts On File, c2006.
Location: Reference      
Call Number: ML102.B6 W45 2006
Jazz / Thom Holmes ; foreword by William Duckworth.   New York, NY : Facts On File, c2006.  
Location: Reference      
Call Number: ML102.J3 H65 2006
Free jazz and free improvisation : an encyclopedia / Todd S. Jenkins.   Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2004.
Location: Reference      
Call Number: ML102.J3 J46 2004
Caribbean popular music : an encyclopedia of reggae, mento, ska, rock steady, and dancehall / David V. Moskowitz.   Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2006.  
Location: Reference      
Call Number: ML102.P66 M67 2005
Encyclopedia of rap and hip-hop culture / Yvonne Bynoe.   Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2006.  
Location: Reference      
Call Number: ML102.R27 B96 2006
Baker’s biographical dictionary of popular musicians since 1990 / 2004
Library Location: Reference
Call Number: ML102.P66 B35 2004
Baker’s biographical dictionary of musicians. 2000
Library Location: Reference
Call Number: ML 105 B16 2001
Ref ML106.U3 B87 2005 Dictionary of American classical composers / Neil Butterworth.
Ref ML102.M88 G3 2001 Encyclopedia of the musical theatre / Kurt Gänzl.
Ref ML128.P63 B55 2001 American song : the complete companion to Tin Pan Alley song / Ken Bloom.


JStor – Short for “Journal Storage,” this database indexes many periodicals all the way back to their first issue. Contains such journals as Callaloo, Journal of Black Studies, African American Review and Transition

International Index to Black Periodicals – draws its content from 150+ international scholarly and popular periodicals in black studies; 40 core journals are full text

African American Biographical Database – photos and full text sketches of famous and obscure African Americans in all fields living from 1790-1950

Online Collections and Web Sites
Archives of African American Music and Culture
The “links” page is a good starting point for all genres of music, from classical to hip-hop

Afrocentric Voices in “Classical” Music

Website devoted to African American performers and composers and on the vocal music forms they influenced, especially opera, art songs, and concert-performance spirituals

African American Sheet Music, 1850-1920
Part of the Library of Congress’ American Memory Project, this collection features 1305 reproductions of sheet music by African American composers of the period; the section of the development of the African American musical theatre is particularly interesting


“Singingfish is the premier audio/video search engine, and is the place for consumers to find, explore, and experience the universe of free media” Search for both contemporary and classical musicians and songs.

Internet Search Engines


Subject Content by Christine Moore, Music Librarian
Maintained by Karl Henson, Library Webmaster
Updated 1/10/2013 


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