Sons of Jefferson were Black fiddle masters

Among this country’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson was the best-known musician. He played the violin, amassed a large collection of scores, many acquired during his years as US Minister to France, and presided over family musicales at Monticello, his estate near Charlottesville.

Now, from research by the baroque violinist David McCormick, we learn that the sons of Jefferson and his enslaved concubine Sally Hemings, as well as other relatives of Hemings, also were accomplished musicians.

McCormick, a Shenandoah University alumnus, founding artistic director of the Charlottesville baroque ensemble Three Notch’d Road and executive director of Early Music America, writes for EMA’s magazine about the family fiddle bands organized by the sons of Jefferson and Hemings, and their cousins in the Scott family, much in demand to play for dances and other social gatherings in 19th-century Virginia and Ohio:

McCormick has produced a multimedia project, “Monticello’s Black Fiddlers,” accessible in March via Several events stemming from his research are planned in coming months at Monticello (


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