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Celebrating the Music of Ignatius Sancho

Over the past two months, our intermediate elementary school musicians in our Villa-Lobos Orchestra have been learning about the life and music of Ignatius Sancho. Learn more about his story and listen to our musician's virtual orchestra project, performing Sancho's Les Contes de Fées ("Fairy Tales").

BMP Teaching Artist Debbie Apple shared the activities she and her students took part in before recording his music. "We first learned about his childhood, being sold as an enslaved person across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to South America and finally to England. As we charted his travels on a map, we discussed how difficult his life was." The students also explored Sancho's accomplishments once he was freed.

"Students were excited to learn that he was the first Black person to have his music published. "

They also learned that Sancho was the first Black person to vote in a British election over 100 years before Black people had that right here in the United States. Ms. Apple also led the students through active listening activities. "The students reflected on why this piece was titled Fairytales, and listened to other works by Sancho - and then we were ready to record our virtual orchestra performance!"

More about Charles Ignatius Sancho

Charles Ignatius Sancho (c. 1729 – 14 December 1780) was a British abolitionist, writer and composer. Born on a slave ship in the Atlantic, Sancho was sold into slavery in the Spanish colony of New Grenada. After his parents died, Sancho's owner took the two-year-old orphan to England and gifted him to three Greenwich sisters, where he remained their slave for eighteen years. Unable to bear being a servant to them, Sancho ran away to the Montagu House, whose owner had taught him how to read and encouraged Sancho's budding interest in literature. After spending some time as a servant in the household, Sancho left and started his own business as a shopkeeper, while also starting to write and publish various essays, plays and books.


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