Thomas F. Hulbert (Aug. 20, 1922 - Aug. 13, 1990), composer, pianist, and pedagogue, is best known for his technical book, Special Black Key Technique (© Feb. 19, 1969). Born in Redlands, California to orange farmers Victor and Clara Hulbert, Thomas Hulbert established a reputation as a concert pianist in his home town, where, at one point, he set up outdoor piano concerts on a makeshift stage at his family's orange grove. Gertrude Engel, founder and director of the Fleming Park concert series, called Thomas Hulbert "a brilliant and sensitive musician who has built a wide reputation as an artist of outstanding musical training and experience" (San Bernardino Sun, August 20, 1959).
In addition to his pre-collegiate studies, Hulbert's formal musical training took place at the University of Redlands, where he studied piano, theory and composition with Dr. Paul A. Pisk. An Austrian composer, pianist, and theorist, Pisk began his career in the United States at the University of Redlands in 1937. Listed together with Samuel Adler in American Learned Men and Women with Czechoslovak Roots (by Mila Rechcigl, 2020) as one of Pisk's notable students, Hulbert often spoke of his teacher in the fondest of terms (see letters from Dr. Pisk below).
Over the course of his career, Thomas Hulbert composed numerous pieces for solo piano, including works performed by him and his students (see programs in newspaper clippings below). Hulbert also wrote various works for other instruments, including his Recitative Anthem Hallelujah for organ and choir commissioned by Rev. Dr. Michael Samartha of St. John's Episcopal Church (San Bernardino, CA) in the late 1980's. While many of his compositions, including some listed in press releases of public concerts, have been lost, compositions that have survived are being formatted and processed for publication. Among works already published is his "Prelude" for piano, which was included in the Repertoire Album, Higher Intermediate 1, edited by Leo Podolsky and published by Boosey & Hawkes (1970). A handful of other piano compositions, beginning with American Posters and his final work, Poem Exotique, are to be made available in the near future.
Despite Dr. Pisk's advice to spend more time composing and less time teaching, Hulbert maintained a sizable private studio. The inspiration he gave to young musicians is clear in testimonials and letters. And his involvement with the general music community is demonstrated by his time as president of the San Bernardino Music Teachers Association, his role as an artist/faculty representative for Chicago's Sherwood School of Music, and his performances at the California State Music Teacher's Association Convention, Fleming Park Summer Concert Series, and his direction of various other musical programs. His piano method, which includes his books Points of Musicianship, Tonal Formulae, Teacher's Sketchbook, and Letter Notation, in addition to Special Black Key Technique, has been used by piano teachers throughout California. The effort to reformat and publish his pedagogical method is currently on-going.