Yale Goes to War: Helen Hagan

Helen Hagan was the first African American performer to entertain African American U.S. troops. Helen was a pianist who graduated from the Yale School of Music in 1912 with Bachelor of Music: a degree Yale no longer offers. Since the School of Music has always accepted students based only on talent, she was able to come study at Yale even though the University did not admit women at the time. She is believed to be the first female African American to have attended the School of Music as well as the University as a whole. Not only was she a gifted pianist, but also a talented composer who premiered her work (Piano concerto in c minor) while at Yale and performed her own piece with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. She became the first black musician to give a solo recital in NY and despite a thriving career, gave up a summer to travel to France to entertain WWI troops.

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Part of the In Focus Collection: Yale remembers World War I

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