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JUST LIKE OLD TIMES - Local man 'makes good' with musical talent

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:06 PM

For some time I've been researching the story of a Norwalk man who "made good" with his musical talent, but never rose as high as he might have, probably due to the times in which he lived.

I speak of Jay W. Noble, born as Jacob Noble, Jr., in Norwalk on April 23, 1874. His parents were Jacob Noble and Charlotte Scott, who lived at 185 Milan Avenue in a house which has been moved to 15 W. Willard. Both Jacob and Charlotte had been born in slavery and settled in Norwalk after escaping their bondage.

Jay was blessed with an excellent tenor voice and was very interested in music. He was a boy soprano in his youth and became first tenor in the Aeolian Quartet which he formed with several other Norwalk young men. They were popular performers at local events and church gatherings. Eventually the Aeolians disbanded and Jay formed a glee club.

In his spare time Jay was singing in the choirs of the Presbyterian, Congregational, and Universalist churches. He also taught mandolin and guitar in Norwalk and in Peru, Hartland, Bellevue, Milan, Olena and Berlin Heights. Even in his high school years he organized choruses to supplement special school programs.

Mr. Noble was living in Cleveland by 1900 where he eventually organized and traveled with (and was the director of) the Mozart Glee Club and the Kentucky Quintette. For 25 years he was in the choir of the Zion Congregational Church in Cleveland and later sang at the Crawford Road Christian Church. He also taught voice in Cleveland and directed the Cedar Avenue YMCA.

There were several other singing projects in Jay's life. A 1914 newspaper article describes his being in South Dakota serving as musical stage director for the Ethiopical Serenaders, touring under the Lyceum and Chautauqua programs. He noted in later years that he had also performed with vaudeville groups and toured not only in the U.S., but also in Canada, England, Scotland, and Wales.

Had it not been for the segregation policies of the time, Jay Noble might have become a much better-known musician. He did accumulate an impressive resume despite the limits imposed on him. One source says he held a college Bachelor's Degree in music, which is a great accomplishment for a man who never complete high school.

Perhaps some of Jay's tenacity came from his belonging to a group called the Junior National Guard during his youth in Norwalk. This group was similar to the Boy Scouts, and Jay was at first a lieutenant and later a captain in this organization. Perhaps his parents encouraged him, too. They had endured slavery and adversity to stay alive and succeed.

Jacob Noble and his twin brother, Isaac, had both served in the American Civil War. They are buried side by side in Woodlawn Cemetery, amidst the graves of other family members. Jay Noble died in Cleveland on Jan. 1, 1963, and was buried there. His wife Nellie survived him until 1977.

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