Paul Archibald Brent, 70, taught music in city schools

March 21, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Paul Archibald Brent grew up in a rowhouse on Harlem Avenue in West Baltimore surrounded by music. His father, Howard Dulaney Brent, directed several dramatic groups and the choir at Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church. His mother also played the piano and sang.

"Music was very much a part of our growing up and it had a profound effect on what he did with his life," said his sister, Charlotte Brent of Baltimore.

Mr. Brent, a West Baltimore resident and retired music teacher in city public schools, died of a cerebral hemorrhage March 11 at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. He had celebrated his 70th birthday March 4.

As a youngster, Mr. Brent had chronic asthma and the doctors gave him little chance of survival.

"They told my mother if he lived until he was 5 years old, then he would make it," recalled Miss Brent. "By the time he was 5, he was playing the piano and I guess was somewhat of a prodigy. It was also at that time that it was determined that Paul had perfect pitch."

After graduating from Douglass High School in 1946, where he wrote the class song, Mr. Brent enlisted in the Army. He served with the occupation forces in Okinawa and later directed the 227th Army Ground Force Band.

He was discharged in 1949, came home and applied to the Peabody Conservatory of Music, which in those days was segregated.

"The director at the time was Reginald Stewart, who very much wanted to abolish the color bar because not only had Peabody faculty been teaching African-Americans students for years under the table, [but] some of these black students were among the best musicians in the city, including Ann Brown, the first Bess in 'Porgy and Bess,' " said Anne Garside, Peabody's public information director.

Mr. Stewart used Mr. Brent's application as a test case and after the board of trustees agreed to admit blacks, Mr. Brent became the first to be admitted to Peabody.

"I don't think he ever showed any bitterness about it," said his brother, William A. Brent of Baltimore. "All he wanted to do was go to the finest institution he could and get on with his music."

Paul Brent graduated with honors with a certificate in piano teaching in 1953. He later earned a bachelor's degree in music from then-Morgan State College.

He gave private piano and voice lessons and in 1965 joined the city public school system. He retired in 1989.

Mr. Brent also was associated with musical groups throughout the city.

"We have lost an important person," Dorothy Lofton Jones of Baltimore, a mezzo-soprano who has performed with the Baltimore Opera Company and who heads the Municipal Opera Company of Baltimore.

Ms. Jones will sing at the memorial service for Mr. Brent at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Allen AME Church, 1130 W. Lexington St.

Other survivors include two other sisters, Emily Colburn and Mary McPherson, both of Baltimore; a niece and several nephews.

Pub Date: 3/21/97

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