About Edmund Dede:
On November 20, 1827, Edmund Dédé was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was a musician and composer. His parents were free Creoles of color from the French West Indies who moved to New Orleans around 1809. Dédé’s first music lessons came from his father, who was the leader of a military band in the area.
After studying violin with Italian-born composer and theater orchestra conductor Ludovico Gabici and New Orleans Free Creoles of Color Philharmonic Society conductor Christian Debergue, Dédé became a violin prodigy very quickly.
Dédé learned more about technique in New Orleans from French-born Eugene Prevost, winner of the Prix de Rome in 1831, and Charles Richard Lambert, a free black musician, New York-born conductor and music educator who relocated to New Orleans
After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, race relations in New Orleans got worse, so Edmund Dédé and many other free Creoles of color moved to Mexico. In 1851, Dédé moved back to New Orleans. There, he wrote and published “Mon Pauvre Coeur,” which is thought to be the oldest piece of sheet music published by a free Creole of color from New Orleans.
Edmund Dédé made cigars for a living. This gave him enough money to move to Europe and continue his music education there. In 1857, he went to Paris to study advanced music at the Paris Conservatory. He then moved to Bordeaux, where he led the L’Alcazar orchestra as its conductor. Because trade between Bordeaux and Louisiana was good, a lot of free Creoles of color moved to the French town, and Edmund Dédé didn’t face as much racism there as he did in the U.S.
During his time in Bordeaux, Dédé was a well-known and productive composer. He wrote more than 250 dances and songs, as well as ballets, operettas, opera-comiques, overtures, and more. Most of the copies of Dédé’s works that still exist are from this time in his life.
They are kept at the National Library of France in Paris. Even though he was very popular in France, when a New Orleans orchestra played Dédé’s Quasimodo Symphony in 1865, it was one of the few times that one of his pieces was played in the United States.
In 1864, Edmund Dédé married a French woman from the upper class named Sylvie Leflat. Eugene Arcade Dédé, the couple’s son, also became a composer and musician.
In 1893, Edmund Dédé made one trip back to New Orleans. On that trip, his ship ran into bad weather and had to dock for two months near Galveston, Texas. During that time, he lost his prized Cremona violin. He stayed in the United States until 1894 and gave violin concerts in cities all over the country during that time. He moved back to Paris in 1894, where he died in 1903.