1843–1923
portrait

October 18, 1843, Shepherds­town, West Virg­in­ia.

November 19, 1923, Lawr­enceburg, Ten­nes­see.

Elmwood Cemetery, Shepherds­town, West Vir­gin­ia.

After leaving school at age 14, Un­seld worked as a clerk in a country store.

He received his first musical instruction around age 15, from a companion who had attended a singing school. He was shown the representation of the scale in the old Car­mi­na Sac­ra, and had it sung for him. At the friend’s suggestion, he got permission from his pastor to practice on the church organ.

Since both boys worked, their only chance to practice was after the store closed at 9:00 p.m., and occasionally at noontime. They went to the church together and took turns, one at the keyboard and the other at the bellows.

Shortly after the Battle of An­tie­tam in September 1862, some of which Un­seld witnessed, he left home and became a bookkeeper for a railroad in Co­lum­bia, Penn­syl­van­ia. He sang in a choir, and gained further practice reading music.

He rented a mel­o­de­on and spent much time in his room im­pro­vis­ing on it. He bought a copy of Wood­bu­ry’s Har­mo­ny and Mu­sic­al Com­po­si­tion, and studied it as well as he could without a teacher.

He accepted an invi­tation to play the or­gan in the local Meth­od­ist church, on the condition that he received the tunes early in the week so he could learn them. This was his first position as an or­gan­ist.

In the spring of 1866, he entered the Musical Institute in Pro­vi­dence, Rhode Island, conducted by Eben Tour­jée. There he studied voice, piano, organ, and harmony. After learning of Un­seld’s bus­i­ness ex­per­i­ence, Tour­jée made him secretary of the school.

In 1867, Unseld became the first secretary of the New Eng­land Con­ser­va­tory.

Starting in 1870, Un­seld attended schools led by The­o­dore Sew­ard. There he met George Webb, Low­ell Ma­son, James Mc­Gran­a­han, Charles Case, and other notables in the music community.

In 1874, Un­seld taught at Fisk University in Nash­ville, Tennessee, and helped train Fisk’s Ju­bi­lee Sing­ers for their Eur­o­pe­an trip.

From 1877–78, he was organist and choir master at St. James’ Epis­co­pal Church, Lan­cas­ter, Penn­syl­van­ia.

In 1879, Un­seld moved to New York City, and for 15 years taught, led choirs, composed and published. In New York, his musical headquarters was the publishing house of Big­low & Main, where he was in frequent contact with popular composers and teachers of the day: Ira San­key, Ho­ra­tio Pal­mer, Hu­bert Main, Ro­bert Low­ry, et al.

In 1894, Un­seld moved to Cin­cin­na­ti, Ohio, and worked as an editor for the Fill­more Music House. In 1898, he moved to Day­ton, Ohio, and worked in a similar capacity for the Lo­renz Publishing Company.

He moved back to New York City in 1901, then to Ha­gers­town, Mar­y­land in 1905. He and his wife Sal­lie were apparently living in Ten­nes­see as of 1920.

Un­seld’s works include:

Unseld was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2004.

  1. Alrante
  2. Ancyra
  3. Brantford
  4. Bryce Canyon
  5. Contagem
  6. Englewood
  7. Euphemia
  8. He Is Risen
  9. Hordville
  10. In the Vineyard
  11. Make Haste!
  12. Meschach
  13. Unseld
  14. Wonderful Message