May 17, 1866 - Erik Satie was born in Honfleur, France. He was an influential 20th century pianist and composer known for his minimalist music. One of his major works is his pieces for the piano titled "Trois gymnopedies."
May 18 - On this day, three major names in music died within a year of each other. The composer and pianist Isaac Albeniz died in Cambo-les-Bains, France in 1909. The highly regarded mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot died in 1910 in Paris, France. And the well-respected composer/conductor Gustav Mahler died in Vienna in 1911 due to bacterial endocarditis.
May 19, 1954 - Charles Ives, innovative composer of the 20th century, died in new York City. He was one of the influences and mentors of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Elliot Carter.
May 20, 1896 - Clara Wieck Schumann, piano virtuoso and female composer of the 19th century, died in Frankfurt am Main. She was married to composer Robert Schumann.
May 21, 1904 - Fats Waller was born in Waverly, New York. He was a jazz organist, pianist, singer, composer and bandleader of small bands during the 1930s. He was one of those rare gems who was more than a musician, he was a total entertainer. His unique style of playing combined with his wit and humor made him a pleasure to watch.
May 22, 1813 - Richard Wagner was born in Leipzig, Germany. He was a composer and librettist famous for his operas. Among his operas are Tannhäuser, Der Ring des Nibelungen, Tristan und Isolde and Parsifal.
May 23, 1964 - Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of "Can't Buy Me Love" by the Beatles entered the UK charts. Her wide vocal range enabled her to sing different music genres including jazz and ballads. This is one of the reasons why she is known as "The First Lady of Song."
May 24 - On this day in 1867, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov's "Fantasy on Serbian Themes" premiered in St. Petersburg. Also on this day in 1974, Duke Ellington passed away in New York. And on this day in 1941, Bob Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota.
May 25 - On this day in 1934, Gustav Holst died in London. He was a composer and influential music educator of the 20th century. His most famous work is "The Planets," an orchestral suite consisting of seven movements, each named after a planet and their respective character in Roman mythology. Also on this day in 1929, Beverly Sills was born in Brooklyn, New York. She was an opera singer known for her roles as coloratura soprano in the 1960s and 70s. She was referred to as "America's Queen of Opera."
May 26 - On this day in 1880, John Curwen died in Manchester. He was a British educator especially noted for developing a system of musical notation known as the tonic sol-fa. Also, on this day in 1920, singer Peggy Lee was born in Jamestown, North Dakota. Her sultry, purring voice has made numerous hits including the song "Fever."
May 27 - On this day in 1840, the 19th century composer and virtuoso violinist Niccolò Paganini died in Nice, France due to cancer of the larynx. Also on this day in 2003, the composer, conductor, theorist and educator Luciano Berio died in Rome.
May 28, 1923 - Composer Gyorgy Ligeti was born in Tîrnãveni, Transylvania, Romania. he developed a music style called "micropolyphony" or sound clusters.
May 29, 1860 - The composer and pianist Isaac Albéniz was born in Camprodón, Spain.
May 30, 1909 - Jazz trumpeter and improviser Benny Goodman was born in Chicago, Illinois.
May 31, 1809 - Composer Franz Joseph Haydn died in Vienna due to old age. He wrote over 100 symphonies, that's why he is known as the "Father of the Symphony."
Special Celebrations in May
National Dance Day - May 1
Tuba Day - first Friday of May (see Profile of the Tuba)
World Belly Dance Day - second Saturday of the month
The Stars and Stripes Forever Day - May 14 (see "The Stars and Stripes Forever")
Old-time Player Piano Day - May 25
International Jazz Day - May 26