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The music alone of this first song was Foster's. In after years he almost invariably composed both the words and the music for his songs, but at this time he was giving his attention to his studies along the practical lines and had no thought of devoting his entire time to the composition of music and the writing of poetry, as he did in later years.
From the time he was able to walk, he was always fond of all musical instruments, and at the age of seven, while visiting the music store of Smilh and Mellor, in Pittsburgh, he picked up a flageolet and in a few minutes had mastered the stops and was able to play "Hail Columbia" in perfect time and accent, notwithstanding the fact that he had never before handled a flute or flageolet.
Soon after this he learned to play beautifully on both the flute and the piano. He had but few teachers, among them being Henry Kleber, of Pittsburgh. He was possessed of remarkable talent for composition, but did not rely entirely upon this inspiration for his guidance. He was a deep student of all the old masters, being particularly fond of Mozart, Beethoven and Weber.
The simple melodies that Foster afterwards composed were not the accidental interpretations of an uncultured intellect, but rather the result of deep and arduous study and a most thorough and laborious analysis of harmonies, and his compositions were as well and favorably received by the most critical as well as by the most unlearned in the musical world.
In 1845, Foster composed "The Lou'siana Belle" and soon afterwards produced the famous song of " Old Uncle Ned,' which at once became popular and was sung everywhere.
The next year, while employed as a bookeeper for his brother Dunning Foster in Cincinnati, he wrote his song " Oh, Susanna," which also soon attained a vast popularity.
In 1848, after his return from Cincinnati, he devoted himself to the study of music as a science, and finding that he had no taste for business, he henceforth gave his entire time to his compositions.
About this time he wrote "Nelly Was a Lady," which was published by a New York firm, and soon offers began to come to him from all parts of the world for additional compositions, as his songs were very popular and were being sung everywhere.
Foster had a very pleasing baritone voice and was fond of singing his compositions together with his friends. When composing new songs it was his custom to ask a few friends to assist him in singing his choruses.