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Walter Henri Dyett Papers

Finding Aid: Walter Henri Dyett Papers
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Walter Henri Dyett PapersWalter Henri Dyett, known as "Captain Dyett" to his many students and admirers, was a band instructor, music educator, and influential figure in fostering the development of jazz and black music in Chicago. Born in 1901 in Missouri, Dyett would eventually settle in Chicago in the 1920s. At Wendell Phillips and later the DuSable High School, Dyett worked as a band instructor and music educator, organizing the annual "Hi-Jinks" revue and teaching an astonishing number of accomplished and well known performers, including Nat "King" Cole, Dorothy Donegan, Johnny Griffin, Von Freeman, and Joseph Jarman. In addition to his work as an educator, Dyett was a major figure in promoting the work of professional and high school musicians, from his annual concert series to his involvement with musicians' local 10-208, and his service with the Eighth Regiment Infantry Band.

The Walter Dyett Papers include family history material, programs from his time at DuSable High School, and around 500 photographs documenting band performances, family outings, and vacations from the 1920s to the 1950s. Other highlights of the collection include his masters thesis, "Development of Rhythm Mastery," family material related to his father's immigration from the West Indies and employment with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, and "Hi-Jinks" concert programs.

Materials about Dyett can also be found in the papers of Charles Walton and Charles Stone.

Selected Artifacts

Walter H. Dyett conducts at the Illinois Research Hospital in 1952. Dyett with his younger sister Annie Dyett, c. 1904. Dyett and his violin in Pasadena, Calif in 1915. A 1940 program of Serenade Romantique reveals not only the kinds of productions created by Dyett - complete with military marches, spirituals, twirling majorettes - but also his notes on the production. He writes: 'Stressing of Large Principles really helps in all phases. More relaxation throughout. A good program according to reports. Part II not needed so much.  Nee more Parent work.' A 1940 program for the Hi-Jinks. Dyett's masters thesis, 'Development of Rhythm Mastery' was completed in 1942 as part of his degree in music from Chicago Musical College. The thesis addresses the problem of teaching rhythmic response even in what Dyett refers to as a 'racial group that is commonly considered to be by nature very rhythmical in feeling and execution.'

Images and credits.