Impromptu and Presentiment
Ralph Ricardo Simpson, distinguished musician, scholar, and lecturer is a native of Birmingham, Alabama. He began his musical training at an early age, and when a mere lad, served as organist of several leading churches. He graduated from Alabama State University with a major in organ. Under the tutelage of Julius Carroll he achieved a high degree of excellence as a performer; this and his outstanding academic record led to a teaching appointment at his alma mater. He received the Master of Arts degree from Columbia University where he studied under Thomas Richner, Henry Cowell, and Norman Coke-Jephcott. Military service took him to Europe where he studied under several French and German masters. The first African American to earn the Ph.D. in music from Michigan State University, his doctoral dissertation was a study of the music of the noted composer William Grant Still. Upon completing the doctorate he joined the faculty of Dillard University.
Dr. Simpson has appeared in concerts in Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Michigan, Kentucky, the Bahamas, Virgin Islands and as organist with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in Gustav Holst’s The Planets. He has also performed in solo recitals at Fisk and Tennessee State Universities, Scarritt College, Concordia Lutheran Church, and at the First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, all of Nashville, Tennessee.
A composer of organ and chorus, organ, piano and violin, and piano, he has been commissioned at various times by Spelman College, Grambling State University, and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. In 1976 his Overture was premiered by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Everette Lee.
An active organ recitalist, Dr Simpson is presently professor of music, university organist, and chairman of the Department of Music at Tennessee State University. He is also organist for the First Church of Christ, Scientist of Nashville. He is married to the former Grennetta Ross, who also holds a doctorate and is an associate professor at Tennessee State University. They have one child, Erika Andrea.
He holds membership in Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the American Guild of Organists, Phi Delta Kappa, Kappa Delta Pi, and in the National Education Association. A member of the board of Directors of the John W. Work, III Memorial Foundation, he served as coordinator of the panel of judges to select recipients of the Annual Award for Young Composers for the Foundation from 1976-1991.