Helen Eugenia Hagan is born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Raised in New Haven, she is educated in the New Haven Public Schools. Helen’s first piano teacher is her mother, Mary Estella Neal Hagan.
Serves as the organist at Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ, New Haven (a 9 year-old prodigy).
Performs as a soloist on her own Piano Concerto in C Minor on May 23, 1912 with the New Haven Symphony Orchestra conducted by Horatio Parker at Woolsey Hall. Hagan becomes the first known Black woman to play with the Symphony and to earn a degree from Yale University.
Graduates from Schola Cantorum following two years of study with Vincent d’Indy supported by Yale’s Samuel Simons Sanford scholarship. Returns to the U.S. to begin a successful career as a concert pianist, paving the way for other women and performers of color as she achieves numerous firsts as a black woman.
General John Pershing calls on Hagan to serve her country by entertaining Black troops in France following the Armistice that suspended combat operations of World War One. One of the only Black artists sent to France, she is dubbed “the Darling of the Doughboys.” She returns to the U.S. and continues her concert career a year later.
Earns the distinction of being the first Black musician to perform a solo recital at Aeolian hall in New York City.
Having run a successful private music studio for many years, Hagan becomes the first Black woman admitted to the Morristown Chamber of Commerce.
Establishes and operates music studio in Harlem, New York City.
1940s – 50s
Continues performing late in life. Works as a choir director and organist in New York City.
Dies in New York City and is buried beside her parents in New Haven, CT’s Evergreen Cemetery. Unmarked until 2016, a new gravestone dedicated by then Mayor Toni Harp reads: Helen Eugenia Hagan, 1891 – 1964, Composer – Pianist – Teacher.