Buckner Gamby

Buckner Gamby

Physical description

The Buckner Gamby Papers consist of .60 lin. ft. or 1 document case and 1 deep lid print box.. The collection contains mostly paper files and a few photographs.

Biographical description:

Professor Emeritus Buckner Gamby, Jr. world-renowned pianist, composer, church musician, and music educator, was born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 30, 1928 to the late Reverend Buckner and Julia Crews Gamby.

Mr. Gamby was educated in the schools of Cleveland and Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from the Boston Public Latin School, the oldest continuous public school in America (founded in 1635) in 1947. Gamby graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Music degree in 1951. Mr. Gamby was heard frequently in solo piano recitals while a student at the Conservatory as well as a piano guest soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra, with Arthur Fiedler conducting, as well as with other conductors and orchestras.  He was recognized by the Boston-Bay State Banner for his inspirational performances for the Roxbury community (the “H” Block) with Gene Walcott, now known as Louis Farrakhan, who was a concert classical violinist.

Upon relocating to Petersburg, VA, Buckner and his beloved mother joined with the First Baptist Church, Harrison Street, where he served as Minister of Music and organist and founding director of the famous First Baptist Male Chorus for over 40 years, and director of the Chancel and Cathedral Choirs. He combined his work with the Male Chorus after he became the Minister of Music at Zion Baptist Church and founded the Petersburg Male Chorus, and was organist and director of the J. B. Brown Memorial Choir.  Mr. Gamby was very active in the Tri-Cities area as a piano teacher, organist, adjudicator, performer, choral director, clinician, lecturer, music educator and arranger. He also lent his talent as director of the Community Choir of the Bethany Baptist Association for many years. Area churches and many organizations bestowed numerous honors upon him for his tireless work and contributions to religious and classical music, education, and culture in the Tri-Cities.

Gamby served his country during the Korean War where his primary duty was drum major for the Army Band and pianist with the jazz ensemble. After his tenure in the Army, Gamby returned to the Conservatory to earn a Master of Music degree (1955), and then subsequently the distinguished Artist’s Diploma in piano performance in 1956. Since 1978, the NEC Alumni Council has honored the outstanding achievements of alumni who have distinguished themselves as performers, composers, conductors, music educators, administrators, scholars, and community leaders. As the Class of 1951 reunited in 2001, the Alumni council granted that Outstanding Alumni distinction to Buckner Gamby, who proudly led the processional during the Conservatory’s 2001 Commencement Exercises.

Gamby was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship for Foreign Study and as a Frank Huntington Beebe Fellow, studied privately at the Academy of Music in Vienna, Austria. He traveled in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland as one of a duo-piano team and established himself on the world concert scene following his debut recital in Vienna. He performed widely in the Eastern and Midwestern United States, with debuts in Boston, New York, on university campuses, in other US cities, as well as in China. He was invited by the Foreign Affairs Office of the city of Sharguan, Guongdong Province in South China to be its guest performer and teach master piano classes. He was a member of the first music delegation to China in 1988, sponsored by the People-to-People Citizen Ambassadors, to study minorities music in China, and was also a member of a delegation in 1990 to Indonesia for the same purpose.

Gamby taught for several years at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, before coming to Virginia State University in 1962. Gamby served as Associate Professor of music for over three decades. He retired from VSU in 1992, with the distinction of Professor Emeritus, but continued to accompany his beloved Concert Choir, under the direction of his dear friend and colleague, Johnnella Lucas Edmonds. He was a founding member of the Undine Moore Scholarship Committee and served as a performer at its presentations. Moore had been Gamby's neighbor, friend, and colleague at Virginia State University. He volunteered his services in music to the university and also served many times as an adjunct instructor.

Gamby, feeling that our youth need mentoring for better lives, co-founded the Petersburg Boys Choir in 1992 with the late Sandra Taylor.  Under his direction, the PBC performed for Governors and other dignitaries, throughout Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, and boasts outstanding musical alumni as a result of Gamby’s training and leadership.  Still desiring to give back to the community, Gamby served at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School from the year it opened its doors in 1999, where he taught piano and directed the Concert Choir, until his retirement in June 2016.

Mr. Gamby's membership in professional societies and organizations included the American Guild of Organists, the American College of Musicians, Kappa Gamma Psi Music Fraternity, the honorary music society of Pi Kappa Lambda and honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity from whom he received several awards for distinction in education and performance. He was also a member of the Center for Black Music Research.

A loving father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Buckner Gamby is survived by his devoted son and daughter-in-law, Alvin K. Gamby, Sr. and Sharon Gamby; three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Gamby was predeceased by his wife, the late Ruby Robinson Gamby, whose four beloved daughters he cherished as his own.

Source: https://www.jmwilkersonsince1874.com/obituary/6721008  Accessed November 5, 2020


The Buckner Gamby Papers were donated to the NEC Archives by the Gamby family through Buckner Gamby's friend and former student, Dr. Roy Belfield, in 2019 and 2021. Mr. Gamby's son and daughter-in-law, Alvin and Sharon Gamby allowed Mr. Belfield access to the Gamby home for over a year so that he had ample time in which to sort through Mr. Gamby's papers and music. Initially this collection included several grade books from Virginia State University and Southern University that were returned to Mr. Belfield to be given to those institutions. Additional papers belonging to Mr. Gamby were donated to Virginia State University.


Access to the Buckner Gamby papers can be arranged by making an appointment with the Archivist. There are no access restrictions pertaining to this collection.


Copyrights to the Buckner Gamby papers are owned by NEC. Permission to publish comes from the NEC Archivist.  Citations of this collection should read: NECA 18.36. Buckner Gamby Papers, New England Conservatory Archives, Boston, MA.

Scope and Content:

The Buckner Gamby Papers are organized into the following six series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Press/Publicity
  3. Programs
  4. Teaching materials
  5. Photographs
  6. Music

The first series, Correspondence, consists of only one folder.  It spans the years 1971-2010 and includes letters from Gunther Schuller, Virginia State College, Talledega College, and Dominique-René De Lerma,

The Press/Publicity series contains 4 folders. The first folder contains a few items of biographical information, some press comments and a certificate of appreciation from the Delta Omega Chapter of the Sigma Psi Phi fraternity. The newspaper articles date from 1979-2007 and include concert reviews and announcements of Gamby’s piano recitals, articles about the Peterburg Boys Choir, the Appomattox Regional Governors School Choir, an article written by Gamby for the Zion Herald News, and two articles about black woman composer, Undine Moore.  Flyers dating from 1971-2000 publicize recitals to be given by Gamby, including one at NEC in 1971. Also included are flyers for the Petersburg Boys Choir concerts, and the Tourgee Debose National Piano Competition. The posters dating from 1987-2001 advertise performances with the Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, Gamby soloist; Mary Easter (daughter of Undine Moore), and the Petersburg Boys Choir.

The third series consists of Programs dating from 1947-2017 including performances at Southern University, Virginia State College, First Baptist Church (with Undine Moore’s music), and Zion Baptist Church. In this series there are also programs from performances by the Petersburg Boys Choir, Petersburg Male Chorus, Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, the Bethany Baptist Association and Allied Bodies Choir, St. Paul's College, and Appomattox Regional Governors School Concert Choir (as accompanist for Mrs. Johnnella Edmonds) and Buckner Gamby's students. The following additional programs are of particular interest: Boston Latin School, Class day 1947; concert with Dr. Roy Belfield Jr. at Ebeneezer Baptist Church, August 2017; a 50th anniversary of Gamby’s Debut Recital on Sept 16. 2007 at the Musikverein, Vienna, Austria; a Black American Music Symposium at the University of Michigan, August 1985; the 2004 and 2008 Community Wide Black History Month Celebrations at First Baptist Church; and NEC's Wind Music Across the Century, 2001. Additionally, there are several programs from funerals and memorial services including those for Undine Moore, Cleo Marie Wynn Bolling, Professor Clarence Earl Whiteman, Bernice Ridley Morgan, J. Harold Montague, Dr. F. Nathaniel Gatlin and Mr. Gamby himself (at First Baptist Church and Virginia State University).

The fourth series, teaching materials, includes a notebook, loose notes, syllabi, and teaching schedules, as well as information about the Undine Smith Moore Scholarship fund.

In the photograph series there are four photos, three of which are black and white, 5 x 7 size and one is 8 x 10 in color. The three 5 x 7s portray: Gamby at the piano; a group including Mr. Gamby with Dr. Nathaniel Gatlin, Ms. Johnnella Jackson and Dr. Undine Smith Moore (1960s); another group consisting of Gamby with Ms. Elizabeth Eccles, Dr. Carl G. Harris Jr., and Dr. Roy L. Belfield Jr. (2005); and lastly the 8 x 10 photo is a press photo of Gamby with the First Baptist Church Choir (1990).

The sixth and largest series contains music which is organized into three types: 1. Music written or arranged by Buckner Gamby (photocopies); 2. Music written by Undine Moore (photocopies); 3. Music scores that Gamby owned which contain his own markings.

Finally, the seventh series includes a few writings which were owned by Gamby. The first is an essay written by W. E. Burghardt Du Bois entitled "What is Africa to Me?" The second items is a script from a discussion regarding the book Our Drums and Drummers by J. H. Kwabena Nketia. Lastly, there is a "List of Composers Entered in Research for Black Music Now, compiled by the Black Music Committee at Indiana University School of Music.

Container list:

Box 1

Series 1: Correspondence

Folder 1 – Correspondence

Series 2: Press/Publicity

Folder 2 – Biographical Information

Folder 3 – Newspaper articles

Folder 4 – Flyers

Folder 5 – Posters (oversize  - stored in Box 2)

Series 3: Programs

Folder 6 – Programs, 1947. 1950, 1958, 1969

Folder 7 – Programs, 1970s

Folder 8 – Programs, 1980s

Folder 9 – Programs. 1990s

Folder 10 – Programs, 2000s

Folder 11 – Other

Series 4: Teaching Materials

Folder 12 – Teaching materials

Series 5: Photographs

Folder 13 – Photographs

Series 6: Music

Folder 14 – Music by or arranged by Buckner Gamby:

At the cross/Jesus paid it all

Ezekial saw the wheel, arr., July 1989

This little light of mine, arr

Softly and tenderly for Zion Baptist Church Male Chorus, July 1989

Plenty Good Room, arr., August 1989

I must tell you, arr.

I am bound for the promised land, improvised on Sunday November 4, 1984; and written from a tape for Roy Belfield, my colleague and friend, 9/1/94

Folder 15 – Music by or arranged by Undine Moore (1):

Be Strong! I will fill this house with Glory; SATB with organ, copy, c1979

Perhaps; Before I’d be a Slave

Fare you Well, transcribed Undine Moore from a traditional negro spiritual, New York: M. Whitmark, 1951.

Glory to God: A Christmas Cantata for male chorus with narrator; optional tenor and bass soli; piano, organ flute, optional brass Quartet, written for First Baptist Church.

Folder 16 – Music by or arranged by Undine Moore (2):

I, Too, written for Winston-Salem Univerity Choir, North Carolina, Photocopy.

Mother to Son, pub. By Warner Bros; copyright M. Witmark, 1955.

O Come, Let us sing unto the lord, for the First Baptist Church and Buckner Gamby, 1976.

Organ Variations on Nettleton (Come, thou fount of every blessing (Hymnal 686, Nettleton)

Rise up Shepherd and follow, for male chorus,  arr. for the First Baptist Church, 1970.

Tambourines to Glory, for SATB chorus a capella. Warner Bros., 1973.

A Time for Remembering, in memory of the late Dr. C. J. Hesch, 1975?

Box 2

Music in Buckner Gamby's library:

Sonate (nach dem Quintett) / Johannes Brahms

Ballades / Frédéric Chopin

Scherzos / Frédéric Chopin

Préludes / Claude Debussy

Chariot Jubilee / R. Nathaniel Dett

French Composers: Album of Piano Pieces

Piano Sonata no. 1, for Natalie Hinderas / Adolphus Hailstork

Suite for Violin and Piano / Adolphus Hailstork

Barcarolle / Altona Trent-Johns

Four Inventions / Ulysses Kay

Sonatas and Fantasies / W. A. Mozart

Sonata in e minor / Florence B. Price

Gaspard de la nuit / Maurice Ravel, ed. by Harold Bauer

Sonata for Violin and Piano / William Grant Still

Scenes from an Imaginary Ballet / S. Coleridge Taylor

Scuppernong / John W. Work

Series 7: Writings

Folder 1