Paul de Launay, born in Paris, educated there, at the University, the School of Fine Arts and the Conservatory of Musique. During his boyhood became a choirboy under Gounod at St. Eustache of Paris, as soprano soloist. At 13, de Launay became an organist, and as a pianist, he accompanied several of the grand opera singers of the capital at the Paris Opera.
He studied under Anthiome, the Dean of the Conservatory, Lavignac, Massnet, Guilmant and others. He studied painting with Jean-Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant, drawing under Gerome and sculpture with Fremiet, the famous animal sculptor. De Launay won many various prizes in both painting and sculpture, at competitions and expositions. Among these rewards, one silver medal for music, one bronze medal for art, at a students’ exhibition, etc. He traveled throughout France, Switzerland, England, the Channel Islands, Canada, and the United States where he gave recitals on the organ.
In 1902, he was appointed organist and choirmaster of St. Thomas Anglican Church of Montreal, Canada, and Director of Music at Westmount Methodist Institute, also in Montreal. In 1903, he was called to the directorship of the Conservatory of Danville, Virginia (Roanoke Baptist College) and as organist and choirmaster of Mt. Vernon Methodist Church.
In 1906, the first year of the school’s existence, Paul de Launay was hired as the Director of Art and Music at Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia. When his English-born wife of only three years, Florence Grace (born Hensley) de Launay, died suddenly of breast cancer on 3 January 1907, Paul was devastated and would remain at Sweet Briar just one year. Trying to escape the pain of her death after the school year, Paul moved 300 miles south to Columbia, South Carolina and was appointed organist of Trinity Episcopal Church, a position he kept for eleven years.
Paul de Launay gave concerts at the University of Virginia beginning in 1907, for various occasions and for summer school. While in Columbia, South Carolina, he founded the well known School of Music and Art of that city from where many teachers, established in leading institutions throughout the country, graduated. He also created the famous series of Lenten Organ and Orchestra Recitals, known as “Twilight Recitals,” which enabled him to prove his versatility, energy and capabilities as a conductor as well as an organist.
In 1909, he was nominated member of the American Guild of Organists by the New York chapter. That same year he became director of music in the Masonic Temples for both the York and the Scottish Rites. He traveled throughout the States, especially the Eastern and Southern States, giving hundreds of recitals in Universities, Colleges and Churches.
During WWI, de Launay taught French to officers and soldiers at Camp Jackson, from May 1917 until the end of June 1918, work which he did in connection with his numerous other duties. During 1918, he also filled the chair of French Literature at the University of South Carolina, in place of Dr. W. Currell, the president, and of Dr. A. Beziat, who joined the Army YMCA. During July and August of 1918, he gave up his work in Columbia to join the YMCA at Camp Jackson as Associate Director of French.
At the beginning of 1919, he was appointed organist and choirmaster of St. John’s Evangelical Church in Evansville, Indiana. There he founded the School of Music and Art, giving many recitals. He originated, prepared and conducted the first spring music festival of Evansville on June 12, 1919.
In September 1919 he was appointed Director of the new Conservatory of Music at Howard College (now called Samford College) in Birmingham, Alabama. He wrote the score for the original school alma mater song.
On March, 15 1926 de Launay was awarded Palms of the University from the Société Académique d'Histoire Internationale.
In July 1, 1936, he was made an Officer of the Academy by Ministry of Education by the Republic of France.
On February 20, 1950 he was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion of d’Honneur (French Legion of Honor.)