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Musician and prolific composer, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), was in kinship care as a child.

Bach was born the last of eight children in a musical family living in Eisenach, a town in Thuringia, Germany. When he was ten his mother died. His father remarried quickly but died three months later. 

Sebastian and his older brother, thirteen-year-old Jacob, were sent to live with their older brother, twenty-three-year-old Johann Christoph in Ohrdruf.

Their Ohrduf brother was only modestly situated himself, though content enough there to decline a job at Gotha a year later (Williams, 26).

In Ohrdruf, Sebastian was sent to the progressive Klosterschule, where music was included in the curriculum.

Sebastian left his brother’s care when he was fifteen and travelled more than 300 km north to Lüneburg to attend a school which had free tuition for musically talented young people. He was likely in the school for two years, after which he was, in 1703, appointed as organist at the Neue Kirche in Arnstadt (officially renamed Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Kirche in 1935). 

Under the terms of his contract Bach was expected to accompany the services at the Neue Kirche on Sundays, feast days, and other occasions of public worship, to maintain the organ in good order, and to report any faults that might develop in it. In return he was to be paid an annual salary of 84 florins 6 groschen, which compared very favourably with what other Arnstadt musicians received (Boyd, 20).

The next post for Bach was in Muhlausen at the Blasiuskirche in 1707. During his time there he married Maria Barbara (1684-1720), a second cousin. (Bach fathered seven children with Maria Barbara and thirteen with his second wife, Anna Magdalena (1701-1760), although only ten children survived into adulthood).

Dissatisfied professionally with his work Muhlausen, in 1708 Bach became a music teacher in Weimar, and by 1714 he was a well-paid musician in the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst. The Duke had Bach imprisoned for a month when he asked to be dismissed from his position in order to take up one with Prince Leopold von Anhalt-Kothen.

From 1723-1750, Bach was employed as Thomaskantor, or Cantor of the Thomasschule at Thomaskirche in Leipzig. As cantor, or director of music, he was responsible for preparing music for church services in four churches as well as organising music for official city functions such as town council elections.

During his lifetime Johann Sebastian Bach was best known for his performances. He is now regarded as one of the world’s greatest composers. 

It was no doubt partly because of its complexity and technical difficulty that Bach’s music was not more widely disseminated during his lifetime, and was to some extent neglected after his death…Today a performance of the B minor Mass or of the Brandenburg Concertos can be relied on fill a cathedral or a concert hall, and festivals devoted largely or exclusively to Bach are a commonplace in the musical calendar (Boyd, 240, 245).


Boyd, Malcolm. Bach. Hong Kong, Oxford University Press USA, 2000.

Emery, Walter, and Marshall, Robert. “Johann Sebastian Bach.” Britannica. 

Williams, Peter. J.S. Bach: A Life in Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Image available here.