would probably think that New Jerseyans, being so close to
the music capital New York City, wouldn't have much music of
their own. Think again! New Jersey musicians have had an impact
on the music world since colonial days. A number of American
musical firsts happened right here in the Garden State.
first American composers were from New Jersey. In 1759, Francis
Hopkinson, a Bordentown resident, wrote "My Days Have
Been So Wondrous Free." Also in 1759, James Lyon, a
Newark minister, wrote an ode for his college graduation.
Hopkinson did not write the date on his song, so we don't
know which one came first.
who went on to fame as the man recognized as the designer
of the American flag, had another national musical first
in 1788. His book Seven Songs for Harpsichord or Forte-Piano is
believed to be the first music book published in the United
1796, William Dunlap of Perth Amboy wrote The Archers,
the first professional opera in the United States.
Jerseyan Lowell Mason became the first American to earn a
doctorate degree in music. Mason earned his Ph.D. from New
York University in 1855. Known as the "father of American
church music," he started the movement to add music
to school curriculum in 1853.
artist Willie "The Lion" Smith of
Newark was the first African-American recording artist. He
played piano for the song "Crazy Blues" by Mamie
Smith's Jazz Hounds in 1920.