Louis Moreau Gottschalk - pianist, composer (May 8, 1829 - Dec. 18, 1869)
Traditionally, Gottschalk is remembered as a virtuoso, as well as a prolific composer of popular music. While there may be some truth in this statement, it is our belief that there is more to Gottschalk and his music than just that. Gottschalk was also the first and, one might well argue, possibly the last Pan-American composer and artist. Not only did he travel frequently outside the United States, as did, by necessity, most virtuoso pianists at the time; he also lived in South America and the Caribbean for extended periods of time, incorporating, without prejudice but with critical judgment, many local influences and musical traditions. His influence on New Orleans music is undeniable, consequently leading into jazz and its origins.
Born in New Orleans in 1829, Louis Moreau Gottschalk grew up in a neighborhood where he was exposed to the Creole music with its African-Caribbean rhythms and the melodious folk songs that would later become a characteristic ingredient of much of his own music. The house where he was born still stands at the southwest corner of Esplanade and Royal streets in New Orleans, and it was from this rather unassuming place that his brilliant career started -- a career that would eventually spur him on to international fame.
The general musical climate of New Orleans may have played its role during Gottschalk’s childhood, but he was exposed to the music also within the household; via his Grandmother Buslé and his nurse Sally, both of whom were natives of Saint-Domingue.