In 1953, Loretta Catherine Cessor Manggrum became the first African American to receive a degree from CCM. On Sunday, Dec. 12, the Loretta Manggrum Chorale under the direction of Eric B. Oliver will honor her legacy with a presentation of A Christmas Cantata (one of Manggrum’s compositions) at Union Baptist Church in Cincinnati. This event begins at 5 p.m. on Dec. 12 and is open to the general public.
Loretta Catherine Cessor Manggrum (1896-1992) began playing the piano at the age of six. A native of Gallipolis, Ohio, she moved to Cincinnati with her husband William Langston Manggrum in 1926. At age 49, Manggrum received her high school diploma from Hughes High School and went on to study at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee; Capital University in Columbus, Ohio; Chicago Conservatory; Royal Conservatory of Toronto, Canada and Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
She received a bachelor of music from the Ohio State University in 1951 at the age of 55. That same year, Manggrum became the first African American admitted to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (which would merge with the College of Music of Cincinnati to form CCM in 1955), receiving her master of music in composition two years later.
Manggrum began teaching in the Cincinnati Public School System in the 1960s. After 10 years at Garfield Elementary School, she retired to begin work on her doctorate. During this time, she also served as choir director and organist at Gaines United Methodist Church. In 1985, at the age of 88, Manggrum received her doctorate degree in music composition and theory.
Manggrum has written numerous compositions for voice and piano, including seven cantatas; the U.S. Library of Congress requested that she submit all of her compositions to the Library for infinite preservation.
Manggrum is remembered and respected with love and appreciation for her accomplishments as a composer, organist, pianist, music director and educator.