Dan Desdune – “Father of Negro Music of Omaha”

 Dan Desdune – “Father of Negro Music of Omaha”

Dan Desdune – “Father of Negro Music of Omaha”

By: UNO Student, A Student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha as part of Heather Nelson’s Service Learning Academy class.

A bit of swing and blue notes, the perfect blend of European harmony and African rhythmic. Or we often call it as Jazz.

Omaha Jazz History

Around 1960, while New York, Chicago, and Kansas City were the major leagues of jazz. If an artist wanted to make it to these big cities, they must come to Omaha. Due to a tradition many do not know of. Omaha’s black bandleaders are well known for producing prominent musicians. Who came from all over the country.

Young Desdunes

Born in 1870 in a strong Creole family in New Orleans. Desdunes family was high respected in the community. This father, Randolphe Desdunes, was an author. He founded the Comite des Citoyens, or Citizens’ Committee.

Desdunes music interest started when he went to Straight University and studied music. Here he learned to play all type of instruments. From violin, cornet, to trombone and trap drums.

As a member of the Comite des Citoyens. Desdunes was also a civil rights fighter. He took part in the first lawsuit challenging the segregation laws in the United States.

The young Desdunes music career started in 1897 when he got recruited to be the orchestra leader and a member of the parade band P.T. Wright’s Nashville Students. Playing music with Laura Prampin. An African American woman who was known to be the only female trap drummer in the United States.

Moving to the Big O

Desdunes first working as a janitor in Omaha in 1904. Then he became the manager of the billiards room in the Omaha Chamber of Commerce building. From there he began his conducting career in the Big O. At last, Desdunes became the director of the Colored Knights of Pythias.

Dan Desdunes, “The Man”

Nurturing and producing prominent musicians was a long-standing tradition from the Omaha’s black bandleaders. And Dan Desdunes can be seen as the creations of this tradition. Who was described as the “father of negro musicians of Omaha”. For more than 20 years, Desdunes was the leader of Omaha’s powerhouse music scene.

Before Desdunes came to Omaha, there was no music groups in the Omaha’s African American community. Desdunes successfully produces many brilliant music products such as “Forty Years of Freedom”, “Lady Minstrels”, and “Buster Brown”.

Desdunes also played at Black formal events, Black parades and pageants, and Black athletic competitions throughout North Omaha.

Boys Town Band

One of Desdunes biggest legacies was the Boys Town Band. Desdunes was hired as a conductor for the Boys Town Marching Band. Where he led them to many national tours to perform in major cities. They got to perform for Philip Sousa when he visited Omaha.

A biography of North Omaha’s Dan Desdunes. North Omaha History. (n.d.). Retrieved April 14, 2023, from https://northomahahistory.com/2015/11/16/a-biography-of-north-omahas-dan-desdunes/

Daniel Desdunes, Musician born. African American Registry. (1873, May 3). Retrieved April 14, 2023, from https://aaregistry.org/story/daniel-desdunes-born/

Evolempirecreative. (n.d.). Dan desdunes: New Orleans Civil Rights activist and “the father of negro musicians of Omaha”. History Nebraska. Retrieved April 14, 2023, from https://history.nebraska.gov/dan-desdunes-new-orleans-civil-rights-activist-and-the-father-of-negro-musicians-of-omaha/

About Freedomtainment Links to an external site.:

Freedomtainment is a 501c3 non-profit organization located in Omaha, Nebraska established to educate, empower and entertain the Omaha Nebraska community about North Omaha Culture while bringing awareness to local, social and business resources.  It hosts the Omaha Freedom Festival to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday and the Level Up Career & Housing Fair on Labor Day Weekend.

About Omaha Freedom Festival Links to an external site.:

The 2023 Omaha Freedom Festival is taking place on June 17th at the Malcolm X Outside Event Plaza to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday from 12noon – 12midnight to honor the emancipation of those enslaved in the United States.  See website for event schedule and how to obtain tickets.