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William Spiller

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William Newmeyer Spiller was the son of Dr. Richard Spiller, clergyman and educator, and Mary Still Spiller of Philadelphia, whose relatives had been active in the Underground Railroad. He began his musical education in Hampton, Virginia at the Spiller Academy, a school founded by his father. In 1899 Spiller joined William A. Mahara's Colored Minstrels, one of the largest white-owned and managed minstrel companies in the United States. Starting with the company as a singer, he later played tenor saxophone and alto horn with this group, which at the time was under the direction of William C. Handy. In 1903, Spiller moved to Chicago and organized a vaudeville act - the Musical Spillers. His specialty was a trombone dance. In 1926 he and his wife opened a music school in Harlem, specializing in band and orchestral instruments. One of their more renowned pupils was jazz pianist, Hazel Scott. After a five year illness, William Spiller died on September 3, 1944 in New York City.