Pianist Hazel Harrison was well-known for outstanding concert performances. She was the first African-American trained musician to appear with a European orchestra.
Harrison was born in La Porte, Indiana. She was home schooled much of her young life. In her early 20s, she traveled to Europe seeking work opportunities where her musical talent could flourish. She later spent time performing recitals and performing with the Berlin Philharmonic. For several years, she studied with Ferruccio Busoni in Berlin before traveling back to the United States to give concert performances.
Harrison returned to live in the United States and began a series of recitals and concerts through many major cities including Boston, Chicago, and New York. Her name rose to fame significantly during this period, and though she was recognized for her talent. However, she was not offered any positions with major orchestras because of her race. A Chicago reviewer in 1922, called the pianist extremely talented, but it was unfortunate that she was a Negress because it could limit her future.
In 1931, Harrison accepted a job as the head of the piano department at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. In 1936, she moved to Washington, D.C. and accepted a teaching job at Howard University, where she remained until retirement in 1955.