Undine Smith Moore


Honorary Degree (1976)
Doctor of Music
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John William Ryan


A native of Virginia, Undine Smith Moore left home at the urging of her parents to enter Fisk University where she distinguished herself in all subjects; enough so that in her senior year she was the top ranking student in her class. Graduating with honors in piano, music history, and music theory, Mrs. Moore was, in addition, the recipient of the first scholarship in the Juilliard School of Music ever awarded at Fisk. She completed her formal education at Columbia University Teachers College, where she received her master's degree and professional diploma in 1931. In 1927, Undine Moore had joined the faculty of Virginia State University.

In addition to teaching and performing activities at Virginia State that spanned almost half a century, Mrs. Moore helped establish the Black Music Center there in 1970 and then served as co-director of the center. The collection at that center is an invaluable resource for the study of Black music, and the activities of the center reach a wide audience of persons from all races and cultures. In spite of Mrs. Moore's claim that she is "a teacher who composes rather than a composer who teaches," her own compositions have been commissioned by well-known college and university groups, as well as individuals and ensembles of national reputation. Her works have been heard at innumerable concerts, including performances at Indiana University, and forthcoming, some of her compositions will be featured in performances at Washington's Kennedy Center.

A complete list of Mrs. Moore's professional and personal accomplishments is inexhaustible. Yet, she has never allowed her successes to stifle her innovativeness as a composer or her humility as a person. Frequently, she has written excellent scores for churches and rural high school choral groups, as well as for her own students. She is a teacher first. Upon her retirement from Virginia State in 1972, the respect, admiration, and appreciation of her former students was symbolized in a concert in her honor at Town Hall in New York City. There, former students - some of the most outstanding musicians in the nation - gathered to perform and listen to her original compositions. On this gala occasion, Mrs. Moore received an honorary Doctorate of Music from Virginia State University in recognition of her exceptional work in music pedagogy.

Dr. Moore continues to remain active in music. She currently teaches music theory at Virginia Union University on a part-time basis and occasionally serves as visiting professor at several other colleges. She also serves as the senior adviser to the Afro-American Arts Institute at Indiana University, where she has previously served as chairperson of the National Honorary Advisory Committee for the Black Music Center.