The William N. and Isabele T. Spiller Photograph Collection documents both William's and Isabele's careers and provides a view of music education in New York City for the African American community. Portraits include a formal portrait of William, an informal portrait of Isabele, and several images of Isabele's sister Besse Taliferro, who performed with and was secretary of the Musical Spillers.
Music career images document the "Musical Spillers" and music education activities. Photographs of the "Musical Spillers," include group portraits, several performance images and a post card.
Music Education photographs document the Spiller School of Music and Isabele's work as a music educator. The Spiller School of Music is documented with images of individual students, orchestral and band classes, Music Education League contestants, and former Spiller School students. Isabele's career as an educator includes images of music education activities in the New York City public school system, the Federal Music Project (W.P.A. Programs), 1939 World's Fair, and Wadleigh Senior High School Pan-American Ensemble. Photographs of the 1939 World's Fair were taken by Isabele with her Brownie camera.
Biographical/historical: William N. Spiller, a pioneer in vaudeville, toured throughout the U.S. and Europe for nearly forty years. His speciality was trombone dance. William Spiller founded the "Musical Spillers" vaudeville troupe that made headline performances throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Europe and Africa.
Isabele Tailferro, a member of the Musical Spillers, married William Spiller. In 1926/27, William and Isabele opened the Spiller School of Music in Harlem. The School specialized in band and orchestral training. From the late 1920s until her death, Isabel devoted her career to musical teaching and directing. Isabele's work included serving as the Music Director of the Brooklyn Y.W.C.A. from 1928-1930, Director and organizer of the Columbus Hill Center (later the Harlem Boy's Club) from 1929-1933, Music Supervisor and Orchestra Conductor for the New York City public school system, Head of New York City's Federal Music Project, and the organizer of the instrumental programs at the 1939 World's Fair. Isabele was also a member of the Negro Actors Guild and a number of music and civic organizations. Her advanced education included a scholarship to Teachers College, Columbia University, to participate in a Boy's Clubs of America course, and advanced musical educational training at the Juilliard School.