The Godmother of Rock & Roll – Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born Rosetta Nubin on March 20, 1915, in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Although the identity of her father is unknown, Tharpe’s mother, Katie Bell Nubin, was a singer, mandolin player and evangelist preacher for the Church of God in Christ; the COGIC, founded by a black Baptist bishop named Charles Mason in 1894, encouraged musical expression in worship and allowed women to preach. At the encouragement of her mother, Tharpe began singing and playing the spectrum acoustic guitar from a very young age, and was by all accounts a musical prodigy.rosetta2

She began performing onstage with her mother from the age of four, playing the guitar and singing “Jesus Is on the Main Line.” By age six, she had joined her mother as a regular performer in a traveling evangelical troupe. Billed as a “singing and guitar playing miracle,” Rosetta Tharpe accompanied her mother in hybrid performances—part sermon, part gospel concert—before audiences all across the American South.

In the mid-1920s, Tharpe and her mother settled in Chicago, Illinois, where the duo continued to perform religious concerts at the COGIC church on 40th Street while occasionally traveling to perform at church conventions throughout the country. As a result, Tharpe developed considerable fame as a musical prodigy, standing out in an era when prominent black female guitarists remained very rare; blues legend Memphis Minnie was the only such performer to enjoy national fame at the time.

In 1934, at the age of 19, Rosetta Tharpe married a COGIC preacher named Thomas Thorpe, who had accompanied her and her mother on many of their tours. Although the marriage only lasted a short time, she decided to incorporate a version of her first husband’s surname into her stage name, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, which she would use for the rest of her career.

In 1938, Tharpe moved to New York City, where she signed with Decca Records. On October 31 of that year, she recorded four songs for Decca: “Rock Me,” “That’s All,” “The Man and I” and “The Lonesome Road.” The first gospel songs ever recorded for Decca, all four of these recordings became instant hits, establishing Tharpe as one of the nation’s first commercially successful gospel singer.

Then, on December 23, 1938, Tharpe performed in John Hammond’s famous Spirituals to Swing Concert at Carnegie Hall. Her performance was controversial and revolutionary in several respects. Performing gospel music in front of secular audiences and alongside blues and jazz musicians was highly unusual, and within conservative religious circles the mere fact of a woman performing guitar music was frowned upon. Musically, Tharpe’s unique guitar style blended melody-driven urban blues with traditional folk arrangements and incorporated a pulsating swing sound that is one of the first clear precursors of rock and roll. The performance shocked and awed the Carnegie Hall audience. Later Tharpe gained even more notoriety by performing regularly with jazz legend Cab Calloway at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club.

During the early 1940s, Tharpe continued to bridge the worlds of religious gospel music with more secular sounds, producing music that defied easy classification. Accompanied by Lucky Millinder’s orchestra, she recorded such secular hits as “Shout Sister Shout,” “That’s All” and “I Want a Tall Skinny Papa.” “That’s All” was the first record on which Tharpe played the electric guitar; this song would have an influence on such later players as Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.

All the while, Tharpe kept up a grueling tour schedule, performing her gospel music in churches as well as playing secular clubs. One highlight was a weeklong stint on stage at New York’s famous Café Society before racially mixed crowds. Tharpe’s considerable crossover appeal was demonstrated during World War II when she became one of only two African American gospel artists to be asked to record “V-Discs” (the “V” stood for “victory”) for American troops overseas.

In the mid-1940s, Tharpe scored another musical breakthrough by teaming up with blues pianist Sammy Price to record music featuring an unprecedented combination of piano, guitar, and gospel singing. The duo’s two most famous tracks, recorded in 1944, were “Strange Things Happening Every Day” and “Two Little Fishes and Five Loaves of Bread.” However, in the face of intense criticism from the religious community, who viewed her jazzy collaborations with Price as the devil’s music, Tharpe returned to recording more Christian music later in the 1940s. In 1947, she formed a duet with fellow gospel singer Marie Knight to record such overtly spiritual traditional gospel songs as “Oh When I Come to the End of My Journey,” “Stretch Out” and “Up Above My Head” (“I Hear Music in the Air”).

Tharpe married Russell Morrison on July 3, 1951. The elaborate ceremony at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., attended by some 25,000 paying audience members, featured a gospel performance by Tharpe in her wedding dress and finished with a massive fireworks display.

In 1953, Tharpe and Knight deviated from the gospel genre to record a secular blues album. The experiment proved disastrous. Not only was the album a commercial failure, it also earned both artists widespread condemnation from the religious community that had provided their most loyal fan base. Tharpe and Knight parted ways shortly after the album’s release and neither ever recovered her previous popularity. Tharpe spent the remaining two decades of her career touring Europe and the United States, primarily playing gospel music.

Though she had a much lower profile during these years, Tharpe enjoyed several late-career highlights, including an acclaimed 1960 performance with James Cleveland at the Apollo in Harlem and a 1967 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival.

While on a European blues tour with Muddy Waters in 1970, Tharpe suddenly fell ill and returned to the United States. She suffered a stroke shortly after her return and, due to complications from diabetes, had to have a leg amputated. Despite her health woes, Tharpe continued to perform regularly for several more years. In October 1973, however, she suffered a second stroke and passed away days later, on October 9, 1973, at the age of 58, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

One of the most celebrated musicians of all time, Sister Rosetta Tharpe enjoyed a celebrity in the 1940s rarely attained by gospel musicians before or since. “She could play a guitar like nobody else you’ve ever seen,” her friend Roxie Moore said. “People would flock to see her. Everybody loved her.” Ira Tucker Jr., the son of the legendary gospel singer Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds, put it simply: “She was a rock star.”

rosetta3More than just popular, Tharpe was also groundbreaking, profoundly impacting American music history by pioneering the guitar technique that would eventually evolve into the rock and roll style played by Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Eric Clapton. However, despite her great popularity and influence on music history, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was first and foremost a gospel musician who shared her spirituality with all those who listened to her music. Her epitaph reads, “She would sing until you cried and then she would sing until you danced for joy. She helped to keep the church alive and the saints rejoicing.”


Thanks to


Releasing Fear Saved Me – Says Singer & Musician Kenya McGuire

We find our ladies everywhere on the internet – worldwide.  We found Kenya (McGuire Johnson) on facebook. Happened in bounce in and there she was in the stream.  We looked, we listened and realized that this is real talent.  The inspiration that Kenya gives us, besides her music, talent and her lovely voice is that fact that she faced her fears and pursued her dream of doing music full-time.  She one of our “sheroes.”  Take a read and a listen and enjoy!



Started singing at the age of 8,” according to your bio.  What made you decide to sing and what did you do to get started? 


As a child, I was the absolute “pretender”  – meaning I often pretended I was an actress or teacher and of course, a singer.  My father is a musician (drummer/percussionist) but never pursued it professionally.  Music was always encouraged in my household and I simply wanted to be a part of what I was already experiencing as a listener.  As a 3rd grader, I began singing in my elementary school plays and joined band by playing the flute.  As an adult, I stopped performing after college and didn’t resume until my late 30’s. To get “re-started” I enrolled in a community college music theory course and from there, things simply began to take off musically.


You also play piano.  Do you play during your gigs and for your recordings? 


When I first got back into performing as an adult, I played the piano for gigs all of the time because I didn’t have a band and was just beginning to meet musicians.  I played the keyboard for my first demo and recordings (scratch versions), but once I began working with a producer, I no longer played on recordings, with the exception of my first released EP/CD “Starting Over” where I played on 2 songs (“Who’s Crying Now” and an original song titled “Rest”).


When did you start playing piano and how long do you think it took before you became what you feel is proficient?


I began tinkering on the piano playing by ear when I was 8 years old.  I officially began piano lessons when I was 12.  I only took lessons for about 2 years and wish I had stayed with it longer formally because I don’t feel as “proficient” as I would like.  Now, I mostly use the piano for writing purposes, but occasionally play during a gig to simply let the audience hear me in a different perspective.


You have a nice way of phrasing when you sing and all the scatting that you do is nice.  How did you develop your vocal style?  Who were your major influences?


I grew up listening to a lot of jazz and since I also played an instrument, I always hear various types of “sounds” and harmonies in my mind.  I think that has greatly helped me develop my vocal style.  I love dynamics- the quiet points that are still really intense are so special to me and I want my voice to be able to emulate that.  Some major influences are Stevie Wonder, Lisa Fischer, Lalah Hathaway, Dianne Reeves, Diane Schuur, and Gretchen Parlato to name a very few!


You’ve recently made the leap to be a full-time musician.  It is interesting in that you first obtained a master of arts degree in counseling and student development and became an administrator and educator.  You were a working person who flipped the script.  What brought you to that decision?


I was extremely restless in my mid-30’s.  I think trying to work full time, raise children, being a wife and not attending to my personal passions left me feeling empty.  While I truly enjoyed working in higher education with students, I knew that not doing music was leaving me depressed and I was feeling “cloudy,” almost numb.  I started counseling trying to find the perfect “remedy” to getting to happy and it was through counseling and a very significant spiritual retreat that ultimately lead me to take the leap of faith and follow my passion.  Releasing fear saved me…


You’re married and a mom.  Obviously one could not make such a change without the approval of their spouse, but what was it about your dream/career change that made your husband support it?


My husband is an EXTREMELY patient person!  I have an artist’s soul; therefore, it is not uncommon for me to be a bit all over the place (smile).  But, I believe once he saw me actually performing and nurturing my craft as a musician, he not only saw, but felt my energy shift.  He knew I was going through a very difficult period in life prior to returning to music and made it clear that he would support whatever would allow me to feel like my best me.


How are things going now that you’ve become a full-time artist?


I am in complete awe of how wonderful things are going as a full-time artist.  I never imagined half of the opportunities I’ve received as a musician.  I am performing, recording, and simply developing as an artist.  I want to underline that it was a process to me becoming a full-time artist.  I didn’t simply quit my full time job one day and declare full-time artist status!  Instead, I slowly lessened my professional career as an educator and physical therapist.  I kept my spiritual and prayer life nurtured and always told myself, I will know when its time to do music full time.  As things became more difficult to juggle within my educational profession, I would lessen my hours.  I also had on-going discussions with my husband regarding our budget/expenses and of course, saved money along the way to prepare accordingly.


Tell us what your typical day is like?


My typical day involves me waking up at 6 am and reading a Daily Word message and scripture to simply put my mind in the right space.  I then get my kids ready for school (or camp as we start summer) including preparing breakfast, lunch, etc.  Once they are out of the house I exercise 45mins-1hr at least 4-5 times/week and then eat breakfast.  After I take care of me, I usually hop on the computer and face the world of social media as well as respond to emails and music business. Depending on my performance schedule I will then do rehearsals as necessary. I am trying to incorporate more time spent on practicing vocal technique.  I just completed recording a new LP/CD, so for the past several months I’ve also done a ton of writing and traveling for studio recordings.  Now that the project is complete, I am in the height of music business mode to prepare for radio airplay, marketing, promo, music releases, etc. I try to get as much music business done during the day so that I am ready for when my kids come home from school/camp.  Once they are home, mommy mode is in full effect including homework, after school activities, dinner, etc.  I wind the evening down with my husband and occasional social media moments (ugh!). If I have gigs, of course, my evenings are completely different and I have assistance with managing my mom duties. When not performing, I try very hard to be in bed between 10 and 11pm.


What is your goal as a singer, musician and artist? 


My ultimate goal is to have my music heard!  I simply want audiences nationally and internationally to hear music from my perspective- messages of love, self, spirit…all of those things that we carry in this human journey.  If I can provide a new thought or help someone as they push through or towards something by simply listening to my music or if I simply provide a good tune to whistle to, I want to be able to share that experience with others.  Also, as an artist, I desire to help and support other artists so that their gifts are shared as well.


Just curious – what is the ipad on your microphone stand for during your performances?


I love my iPad stand!  This allows me to have my set list, some lyrics (if necessary) and any other special notes right at my finger tips during a performance.  I mostly use my iPad for longer gigs where I have multiple sets and I’m singing a variety of covers.  Its basically my music stand.


Knowing that there are other singers who sit while they perform, and with young people who sing – it’s all about “shakin’ your booty while you sing” – tell us why you sit while singing during some of your performances?


Again, music for me is about experiencing a special moment.  When I play in small intimate venues, I sit so that I can relate more to the audience.  Its about the vocals and the music.  I have found that my style is most appealing when my movements are subtle and I’m able to fully get into vocalization.  However, bigger venues require more movement due to the size of the crowd.  Still, even in those cases I try to make the music experience be about just that…the music!


Describe your future as you would like to see it unfold.


I am embarking on another level within my musical career.  I am now working with more musicians (including producers) who have been professional musicians for much longer than myself and are amazing mentors.  I see my listening audience increasing and really hope to perform more nationally and internationally.


You’ve rearranged a number of cover tunes (and nicely so!).  But, why do that instead of just writing your own songs? 


My EP “Jazz Made Rhythm” which is all cover songs,  was almost a fluke.  Let me explain…during my live performances prior to recording Jazz Made Rhythm, I would perform rearranged covers and after my gigs, many people would ask for recorded versions of the cover  re-arrangements and I had nothing to offer. So, as a way to have the recordings available at gigs, I decided to do a recording. We literally finished the project in less than a month.  I had no idea it would be so well received! Writing original music is my passion; therefore, my forthcoming full length CD (LP) includes all original songs with the exception of one song. I hope to always include a cover here and there because I love to rearrange music to fit my style.  But, original music is what sets an artist apart from the masses.



Do you ask anything of the music that you create and perform?


I simply want to make music vibrant, alive and an experience.  I try my best to create and perform music in a way that appeals to a person’s emotions and personal experiences.


What would you like people to come away with after listening to your music and/or watching you perform?


I want people to go on a musical journey.  I want them to be able to relate to the lyrics, but also experience the lyrics and the sounds.  Music is an incredible art form that appeals to so many senses.  If I can simply provide a special moment for the listener, one where they feel as though they matter and they feel alive, I’ve done my job as an artist!


Links for Kenya:

Geri Allen – Pianist

Submitted by Alison Wilcox, artist, musician, composer and advocate of the kawai piano.


Music is changing.  Sounds are becoming more and more electronic.  But, thankfully, there are people out there who still play organic instruments.  The piano is one of them.  We are featuring a well-known pianist, Geri Allen.


Geri Allen is an internationally known composer and pianist. Since 1982, she has recorded, performed or collaborated with artists as diverse as Ravi Coltrane, Dianne Reeves, Liz Wright, and Simone, in a celebration of the life and music of Nina Simone, Donald Walden, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Bill Cosby, Mal Waldron, Sir Simon Rattle, Lee Konitz, Vernon Reid, Jackie Hillsman and Peter Bernard, JoAnne Akalaitis, Clark Terry, George Shirley, Carrie Mae Weems, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, Carmen Lundy, Lester Bowie’s From the Root To The Source, Kevin Maynor, Meshell Ndegeocello, Howard University’s Afro Blue, Dewey Redman, Jimmy Cobb, Sandra Turner-Barnes, Marcus Belgrave, Betty Carter, Marian McPartland, Roy Brooks, Charlie Haden and Paul Motion, Terri Lynn Carrington, Hal Wilner, Mino Cinelu, Dr. Billy Taylor, Joan Rivers, and Mary Wilson and the Supremes.
Professor Allen has released a number of recordings under her own name. These include: The Nurturer, Eyes in the Back of Your Head, Maroons, Homegrown, The Printmakers, Twenty One, The Gathering, The Life of a Song, and, most recently, the ambitious and critically acclaimed Timeless Portraits and Dreams. A newly released Timeline, Live presents Ms. Allen on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, Kassa Overall on drums, and tap percussionist Maurice Chestnut. This is a rhythmically innovative work and has just been released on Ms. Allen’s own label. Geri Allen is a Motema artist, and the forthcoming Refractions: Flying Toward the Sound, a work for solo piano which she composed during the period of her Guggenheim Fellowship, will be released by Motema in the new year.

Many honors have come Professor Allen’s way. She was recently invited by Ms. Jessye Norman to participate in Honor, A Celebration Of the Legacy Of African Music, held at Carnegie Hall Spring, 2008. She has received the key to the city of Cambridge during Geri Allen Week at Harvard University, and the key to the city of Cleveland. Howard University has honored her with its Benny Golson Award, while Spelman College bestowed its African Classical Music Award on her in 2007. She was the first artist to receive the Lady Of Soul Award in Jazz, and was also the youngest person—and the first woman—to receive the Danish Jazzpar Prize. Professor Allen is a 2008-2009 Guggenheim Fellow for Musical Composition. She is a Detroit native and a graduate of Cass Technical High School, Detroit’s magnet school for music. She is also a graduate of Howard University where she later served as Assistant Professor of Music. During that period, Howard honored her with both its Distinguished Alumni and Distinguished Professor Awards. Professor Allen also holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology from The University of Pittsburgh, where she studied with Dr. Nathan Davis, Dr. Kwabena Nketia, John Blacking, and Dr. Bell Yung.

Vicki Genfan – Female Guitarist




Every now and then an artist comes along whose music reaches out and touches the soul of all who hear them…virtuoso guitarist, singer and composer Vicki Genfan is among those artists… Drawing from folk, jazz, pop, soul and world music, Vicki is redefining ‘singer/songwriter culture.’ With a mastery of the acoustic guitar that borders on pure alchemy, audiences are mesmerized by the waves of sound Vicki creates with just two hands and her voice. Using 29 alternate tunings and the percussive technique she calls ‘slap-tap’, you’ll find the addition of her pure, expressive vocals that dig deep and stir the heart to be the perfect accompaniment on many of her songs. Vicki writes and beautifully sings her own brand of music and lyrics while putting her unmistakable imprint on familiar tunes like the Beatles’ Norweigian Wood. An evening with Vicki is far more than a concert; stories, warmth and humor come gift wrapped in an unforgettable evening of music that leaves the audience always wanting more.Vick

Vicki has been recognized among the world’s greatest guitarists and musicians at festivals such as The International Montreal Jazz Festival, Germany’s Open Strings Guitar Festival, Italy’s Soave Guitar Festival, as well as at venues and Performing Arts Centers across the US and abroad. In 2005 she was one of the featured artists on ‘La Guitara’, the first compilation CD featuring female guitarists from around the globe, released by Vanguard Records. With several additional ground-breaking recordings behind her, recent acquisitions of the 6 string banjo, 12 string and baritone guitars, high demand at clinics and music camps and an ongoing European presence, Vicki continues to reach beyond musical borders and into new territory. Find out more about Vicki and bugera amplifier.

“I understand completely why the audience applauds and whistles so wildly…this is fiery, living music.”

“I have to open my eyes to make sure that only one guitar is playing and that Vicki Genfan – so the name of this fascinating woman – only owns two hands.”
– Spurren Magazine, Switzerland

“Vicki has brewed her own style that has no name…and created a new kind of singer-songwriter culture.”
– Frankfurter Allgemeine

“Genfan is carving a niche in the acoustic music world which few can fill.”

Esperanza Spaulding – A Hard Working Female Musician



From the beginning of her life to her current success as a creative musician, Esperanza Spalding has charted her own course. The young bassist/vocalist/composer was one of the biggest breakout stars of 2011—not just in jazz, but in all genres of music. Her receipt of the 2011 GRAMMY® for Best New Artist was unprecedented—the first time a jazz musician had won the award— but Spalding continues to make the unprecedented the norm.

Born in Portland, Oregon, Spalding grew up in a single-parent home and learned early lessons in the meaning of perseverance and moral character from the role model whom she holds in the highest regard to this day – her mother.

But even with a rock-solid role model, school did not come easy to Spalding, although not for any lack of intellectual acumen. She was both blessed and cursed with a highly intuitive learning style that often put her at odds with the traditional education system. On top of that, she was shut in by a lengthy illness as a child, and as a result, was home-schooled for a significant portion of her elementary school years.

However, the one pursuit that made sense to Spalding from a very early age was music. At age four, after watching classical cellist Yo Yo Ma perform on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the roadmap was suddenly very clear. “That was when I realized that I wanted to do something musical,” she says. “It was definitely the thing that hipped me to the whole idea of music as a creative pursuit.”

Within a year, she had essentially taught herself to play the violin well enough to land a spot in The Chamber Music Society of Oregon, a community orchestra that was open to both children and adult musicians. She stayed with the group for ten years, and by age 15, she had been elevated to a concertmaster position.

But by then, she had also discovered the upright bass, and all of the non-classical avenues that the instrument could open for her. Suddenly, playing classical music in a community orchestra wasn’t enough for this young teenager anymore. Before long she was playing blues, funk, hip-hop and a variety of other styles on the local club circuit. Her first band, Noise for Pretend, expanded Spalding’s musical horizons and presented her earliest opportunities to sing and write music.

She also came under the influence of several elders in Portland’s musical community, including Greg McKelvey, Ronnie Harrison, Geoff Lee, Warren Rand, Stan Bock, Ronnie Steen, Janice Scroggins, Dr. Thara Memory and many other teachers in the Cultural Recreation Band and Mel Brown’s Jazz Camp.

At 15, Spalding left high school for good. Armed with her GED and aided by a generous scholarship, she enrolled in the music program at Portland State University. “I was definitely the youngest bass player in the program,” she says. “I was 16, and I had been playing the bass for about a year and a half. Most of the cats in the program had already had at least eight years of training under their belts, and I was trying to play in these orchestras and do these Bach cello suites. It wasn’t really flying through the material, but if nothing else, my teachers were saying, ‘Okay, she does have talent.’”

Berklee College of Music was the place where the pieces all came together and doors started opening. After a move to the opposite coast and three years of accelerated study, she not only earned a B.M., but also signed on as an instructor in 2005 at the age of 20 – an appointment that has made her one of the youngest faculty members in the history of the college. She was the 2005 recipient of the prestigious Boston Jazz Society scholarship for outstanding musicianship.espe

In addition to studying and teaching at Berklee, Spalding also had a chance to perform with many jazz icons, including pianist Michel Camilo, singer Patti Austin, guitarist Adam Rogers, and saxophonists Donald Harrison and Joe Lovano. “Working with Joe was terrifying,” she recalls, “but he’s a really generous person. I don’t know if I was ready for the gig or not, but he had a lot of faith in me. These years playing with him have been an amazing learning experience.”

Spalding has gone through several phases, which have been well documented during her brief recording career.  Her journey as a solo artist began with the 2006 release of Junjo, on the Spanish label Ayva Music, which featured pianist Aruán Ortiz and drummer Francisco Mela. She presented the many different sides of her writing on Esperanza, her 2008 international debut recording for Heads Up, a division of Concord Music Group, which quickly topped Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Chart and became the year’s best selling album worldwide by a new jazz artist.  Numerous awards and appearances followed, including an invitation by President Barack Obama to appear at both the White House and the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, and an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman that found Letterman and bandleader Paul Shaffer proclaiming the young musician the “coolest” guest in the three-decade history of the program.

“The objective of Esperanza was to show many sides of my musical personality,” Spalding explains; “but I also imagined that my next records would be built around a more concrete project-concept.”  What followed, Chamber Music Society from 2010 and her newly released Radio Music Society, made it clear that her initial triumphs were just the beginning.

“Originally I conceived the two albums as a double record, with intimate, subtle explorations of chamber works on one and jazz musicians exploring melodies, grooves and song associated with what we categorize as ‘pop-songs.’ Those are the two ways of looking at music that really interest me.”

Returning to her ever-expanding book of musical sketches, “taking my notes and organizing them into something coherent,” Spalding began with Chamber Music Society, the 2010 release on which the bassist was joined by longtime colleagues Leo Genovese (keyboards) and Terri Lyne Carrington (drums), plus percussionist Quintino Cinalli, vocalists (including the legendary Milton Nascimento) and a string trio (arranged by Gil Goldstein and Spalding).  The disc was another instant chart topper and gained multiple awards, none more imposing than the Best New Artist GRAMMY®.

Spalding’s latest release, Radio Music Society, expands the cast to include, among many others, jazz legends Lovano, Jack DeJohnette and Billy Hart; hip-hop giant Q-Tip, Algebra Blessett, Lalah Hathaway, Gretchen Parlato and Lionel Loueke, among an array of notable vocalists; and Portland mentors Scroggins and Memory, as well as the horn section of Memory’s American Music Program ensemble. “I’ve had the honor and blessing of working with so many phenomenal jazz musicians over the years,” Spalding explains, “As I’ve gotten to know them and their music, I’ve grown to love them as family and colleagues. I wished for an opportunity for us all to interpret songs together, so that they can be heard and received by a larger audience. All my personal heroes who are revered in the jazz world – like Joe Lovano and Terri Lyne Carrington – should be heard by a mainstream audience, because what they manifest in their music is so beautiful, sincere and uplifting. I think they literally bring good into the lives of the people who hear them”.

Radio Music Society is another unprecedented chapter in the Esperanza Spalding story, building on her past triumphs and achieving new heights that she will no doubt exceed in the future.  “The main way in which the Grammy has changed my life is that I keep getting asked how the Grammy has changed my life,” she says.  This will no doubt be a question that Esperanza is asked even more as Radio Music Society has been nominated for three GRAMMY ® Awards: Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists for the track ‘City of Roses’ and Best Long Form Video for the short films that accompany the album.

Spalding continues to spread her message around the globe. In addition to over 110 Chamber Music Society concerts, she still found time to tour with Joe Lovano’s US 5, perform at Rock In Rio with Milton Nascimento, play at Prince’s “Welcome 2 America” tour and join Wayne Shorter in celebrating Herbie Hancock’s 70th birthday at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. As Jeff Baker of The Oregonian once raved of her electrifying talent, “This was about art, performed at the highest level by someone with the vision, talent, and determination to make it happen”.


Reprinted from

Meshell – Been Places and Going Places with Music



Meshell Ndegeocello is an American singer-songwriter, rapper , bassist, and vocalist. Her music incorporates a wide variety of influences, including funk, soul, hip hop, reggae, R&B, rock and jazz. She has received significant critical acclaim throughout her career, and has had ten career Grammy nominations. She has been credited for having “sparked” the neo-soul movement.

meshell4Ndegeocello was born Michelle Lynn Johnson in Germany, to army Sergeant Major and saxophonist father Jacques Johnson and health care worker mother Helen. She was raised in Washington, D.C. where she attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Ndegeocello adopted her surname at the age of 17, which she says means “free like a bird” in Swahili.

Ndegeocello honed her skills on the D.C. go-go circuit in the late 1980s with the bands Prophecy, Little Bennie and the Masters, and Rare Essense. Going solo, she was one of the first artists to sign with Maverick Records, where she released her debut album, Plantation Lullabies. This recording presented a distinctly androgynous persona.
Her biggest hit is a duet with John Mellencamp, a cover version of Van Morrison’s “Wild Night”, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts. Her only other Billboard Hot 100 hit besides “Wild Night” has been her self-penned “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night)”, which peaked at No. 73 in 1994. Also in 1994, Ndegeocello collaborated with Herbie Hancock on “Nocturnal Sunshine,” a track for the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as “Album of the Year” by Time magazine.

She has appeared on numerous recordings and can be seen in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, singing The Miracles’ “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” and The Temptations’ “Cloud Nine”.

In 2010, Ndegeocello contributed to the essay anthology It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller in the vein of the It Gets Better Project.

Following the release of 2011′s critically acclaimed Weather, Meshell Ndegeocello announces the release of her 10th studio album, Pour une âme souveraine (“For a sovereign soul”), a dedication to fellow musician Nina Simone.

She’s someone we’d like to talk to at WMTS. She probably uses line 6 dt25.

Explore the Creation of Music —



I’ve been running into women who have pianos at home, but don’t play them.  The reasons are varied, but in drumsessence it boils down to choosing not to make the time to play for whatever reason.  We all know that music soothes the soul.  Music is what we are as physical beings.  Our bodies create their own rhythmic sounds – our hearts beat, we breathe and there are even other sounds within us not often heard by the ear (without an instrument) such as the sounds of our bodies digesting food, and the blood rushing through our veins.  If you have the talent to play an instrument and have gotten away from it in recent years, go back to it.  If you’ve never learned to play music, then why not try an instrument  – any instrument?  Flute, drums, piano, bass, guitar, cello, clarinet …. string or wind?  Even wood blocks, cow bell, conga, African drums, ddrum drums at Guitar Center… Be creative and be exciting.


Some people may get a little worried about what their friends would say.


Just do you,

be you,

improve you,

love you.



Sunshine, Remember Your Power – Carolyn Malachi



Photographer, John Ledbetter. Courtesy of

When you were a child, your aunt named you “Sunshine” and empowered you with the phrase “remember your power.” Please tell the story about how this came about and the impact that the name and that statement had on you throughout your life.

My aunt has called me “Sunshine” for as long as I can remember. The name came in handy during undergrad at Shepherd University. With the exception of my basketball team mates, I had very few friends. I was a bit lonely. Sometimes my aunt would call and remind me of my name; her advice, “remember your power”, encouraged my involvement in campus organizations. I began producing creative events that addressed local, social concerns. For example, after learning about meager financial aid opportunities available for international students, I organized a series of parties called Irie Time to raise money for the men’s soccer team (international students comprised seventy percent of the team). When the NAACP called for the resignation of the College’s president, racial tension on campus began to mount. I organized a fashion show that united black, white, and international students. The President of the college event showed up. He spoke to the sold-out audience. By calling me “Sunshine” and telling me to remember my power, my aunt helped me to discover ways of addressing social concerns through the arts. The experiences had a profound impact on my interest in DIY movements and social philanthropy.

Many singers and songwriters began their musical journey as children. You didn’t start singing until your junior year in college. So, as you were in college and pursuing a degree to apply towards another career, the music reared it’s head. What awakened the music in you?

Exposure to music production software through a Communications course significantly impacted my interest in music. Learning how to create music to accompany the lyrics in my aged poetry books was like getting a driver’s license and a very fast car at the same time. Exhilarating! All I wanted to do was make music and write songs. I would go to the Communications lab just a few minutes before the student lab attendee was scheduled to finish working, tell the attendee to lock me in, then I would stay there all night. I would go to class in the morning, study hall and basketball practice in the afternoon, then spend all night making music in the lab.

From there, I began performing around campus. I met a drummer, Danny Tait, who asked if I had ever worked with live musicians. I had not, but I was curious about how my songs would sound when played with other musicians. One night, Danny and I snuck into the music department’s rehearsal hall. I sang and played two or three songs on piano while he recorded on his walkman (HA!). Danny said he would let one of his friends, upright bassist Matt Lewis, hear the recordings and that he could not promise anything. Matt was, after all, in very high demand. A couple days later, Danny called. He said, “Matt wants to know when we’re going to rehearse.” At that point, I was completely shocked and stuck. Rehearsal?! I had no idea what I was doing. I had no musical background or training. Something told me to just give it a try. I’m glad I did, because my life was forever changed.

I feel truly blessed! Matt and Danny have always been superb musicians. I’m happy to feature them on the upcoming album on a song called “Ready for the World (Danny’s Song)”.

Photographer, Phelan Marcs. Courtesy of BET

You are also a self-trained vocalist. How did you train yourself?

I began by studying singers I liked – Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter, Lauryn Hill, Seal, Sade, Barbra Streisand, Habib Koite, and Miriam Makeba. Pat Metheny’s music is a constant source of inspiration. He does not sing, I always hear lyrics in his music. Presently, I study with a vocal clinician named Teapot. She helps me explore my voice as one would explore a deserted island. We always find hidden, burried treasure.

You said you feel you are walking a path that was designed for you. How so?

When I decided what and who I wanted to be, I began working diligently toward that purpose. Working with a sense of purpose turns all obstacles into opportunities. The pursuit of those opportunities makes the world feel wide open and full of possibility. It is sort of like standing at the edge of a dense forest but knowing exactly, instinctively, how to navigate to the other side.

“Every song is a thought with an intention – a higher purpose.” Tell our readers about this philosophy of yours.

I want to deliver memorable, sensory experiences that people will share and treasure. When writing, I work to pull beautiful stories from the morass of struggle, or perhaps a vibrant love story can emerge from a moment of lonely reflection. Each song is a museum exhibit; the lyrics, the artwork therein.

What is most important to you as an artist as you continue this journey?

John Malachi (Jazz pianist) was my grandfather. His legacy represents the highest standard of musicianship, humility, and authenticity. Most important to me is forging ahead with those principles firmly in grasp.

Photographer, Timothy Mak. Courtesy of The School Fund

You are very excited about the school fund project. Tell us about that project and why you have so much passion towards it.

The project is an initiative called the I Am Campaign. This partnership with The School Fund, an education nonprofit, will use my next music video as a means of educating students in developing countries. Our focus is East Africa. What makes this video so special is that, for every view it receives, one hour of class time will be donated to students in East Africa, courtesy of The School Fund’s corporate sponsors. Our goal is to provide 10,000 class hours per month for six months. This partnership makes it easy for people to change the world while getting something they love, good music. We’re really excited about the campaign and the support it’s getting from the corporate community! Speaking of which, check out coverage on the following outlets:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s website

The Huffington Post .

Also, here is a blog post I wrote for the Chamber .

The project goes live on December 6 at the Chamber’s Business Civic Leadership Center’s Citizens Awards, held at the Ronald Reagan Building. Think the Grammys, except the nominees are Google, Merck, Hilton, etc.

Advice for young people who may want to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t follow my footsteps. Chart your own course. Life is a beautiful journey. I believe we each have the power to choose our destination. My advice to anyone looking to maximize their life is to decide what you want out of it, then endeavor to greatness. Never give up. Always move onward and upward.

“Be excellent with a purpose.” That’s you. There is a dash in people’s lifetimes: born 19XX – died 20XX. What are you creating to put in the “-“? What will people say about you when you’re gone? What will you have left for those to come?

When I’m gone, I want people to say that I was a personal influence, a global presence, and a universal force for good. I want people to see the world differently after hearing my music. I want to have set a new standard for social entrepreneurship within the creative community.

Stevie’s Soul is More Than Photography

We give you Stevie. Stevie is a woman who followed her passion all of her life and allowed it to lead her into a world of photography, video, film and independent music management and promotions. She’s got a very full artistic plate. We’d like to touch on the things that she does and find out how she got there.

It is interesting how you combined your love of photography with music. What came first, the interest in music or photography?


Photography…I didn’t fall in love with music until I was a pre-teen and started changing the station on the radio to the soul station. As a kid watching National Geographic on TV, it inspired my desire to be a photographer. I envisioned myself on safari in Africa taking pictures. Haven’t been to Africa yet but, that’s coming… My first photo was published was in 1992 of Kris Kross n Speech n Wendy Moten….. My first magazine cover was “Right On!” in 1994.

As a teen I discovered Chaka Khan and fell in love with her music… I wanted to meet her… the only way I figured I’d meet her was by working in music… it worked. I met her in the first time 92′.


What do you prefer more, photographing musicians live or doing studio shots and why?

I love shooting concerts… capturing the moment…the emotion…I’ve become pretty good at that. Music is emotional.

Some of Stevie’s photography work


How did you get started with photography?

I kind of fell into being an entertainment photographer. In the late 80’s I was working with Toni Braxton. I went to a music conference down in Atlanta called “Jack the Rapper” to network and to promote her. I used my camera as an ice breaker… I used to be shy…believe it or not.


Artist management and promotions. What led you into that field?

I got into promotions right out of high school. Answered an ad in the paper. I helped this company promote a comedy show. Promotions come natural for me. If I dig something, I tend to tell the world.
Artist management – I was working with these guys with a production company…I put up all the money to get it incorporated and signed Toni Braxton. We became disillusioned with their work ethic, so we split from them and she started calling me her manager and we continued our hustle, until La Face picked her up.

How many artists do you manage?

La Veda

Right now, One…La Veda and I’m looking at a couple others, but La Veda is keeping me quite busy.


You are what you called an “Indie Artist Advocate.” What does an Indie Artist Advocate do?

Promote Indie Soul artists out of the love in my heart for them. I take their photos, blog about them, tell people about them, support their performances, shoot live videos and post on my youtube page in social networks and play their music on my podcast/radio show called “Stevie’s Soul Love 101”.


How did you get into that field?

Well it started with meeting DJ Frances Jaye @ Morgan State University homecoming concert featuring Amel Larrieux and her telling me about her station This was at the end of 2005… All this beautiful soul music that she played and commercial radio didn’t …I was hooked, told everyone I knew about it. Then in 2007 I was at the B stage of Balto’s African American Heritage Festival and this amazing

Sy Smith

performer by the name of Sy Smith ( blew me away. We became quick friends…A light bulb came on… It dawned on me that she couldn’t be the only one; I soon discovered many more. I realized every one of her songs that I’d been hearing on DJ Frances station I loved.

I told everyone I knew about Sy, brought all her music and I started taking vacation days from work and traveling everywhere she was performing, taking photos and video of her, spreading the word.

Everyone that know me knows I love me some Sy Smith…she’s is so very talented!!! not to mention she is one of the coolest people on this earth.

Your artist La Veda has had some recent successes internationally. Tell us how you created opportunities for her.

La Veda

If I tell you my tricks of the trade who’s gonna hire me…lol… I’m a promoter and I network my butt off. I know quite a few industry folks and DJs all over the world and am always open to meet more.

It also helps greatly that she records HOT songs… She’s an amazing artist on so many levels. Very focused, level headed, great range, she’s just a STAR. Everyone falls in love with her.

I’m losing count on the number of DJs and producers wanting to work with her from all different countries…It’s quite exciting.

We have a release coming from the UK with Italian DJ/ producer Phat Frank and South Africa, her producer Cafrodeep…and after the ink has dried on a few other projects I’ll share.


A lot of female artists have challenges working with men, especially because the music industry is a little more male-dominated. As a female manager and promoter, do you find opposition from men?

Nope… I get respect… they love me. They see and respect my hustle. They have been my biggest supporters.


Photography and video seem to go hand-in-hand. Do you find that to be true? Could you elaborate on how you make the transition between the two seamlessly?

Depends on who’s holding the camera. Vision is different for everyone…that’s why I love photographers. I kind of shoot video the way I take pictures, to capture the moments. So it’s not really a transition but more like my vision. And often I do both at the same time. This photographer in DC took a picture of me doing that. I use both my hands.


What kind of video work do you do for others?

I’ve done event videos, a couple of music videos, and promo videos.


Tell us about “Hip Hop for the Homeless.”

In 2010 a young Baltimore rapper by the name of Lano (Bomb1st) saw a homeless advocate’s son on the news talking about how folks didn’t seem to give as much since his mom, Bea Gaddy, died. Lano decided to get some of his fellow rappers to hit the streets and perform and collect canned goods. That’s how it began.
Phone calls were made to get local media support and people at Radio One got involved. That’s where I met everyone for the first time, I was with the video crew taping drops for promo commercials.
I sat down at the big conference room table and became apart of the team. Everyone just got in where they fitted. I wound up being the photographer for the movement. I’m now one of the administrators.
Now twice a year, summer and winter, we gather hip hops artist from all over the city to perform on the east and west sides of town outside at Rim Source & Wheel Deal. We sit out boxes and collect food and clothing for our homeless brothers and sisters.
We also go to a place called “bum city” (terrible name I know) and we take clothing and hot meals and break bread with our less fortunate brothers and sisters. We talk with them and let them know we care.
I did a mini documentary about it complete with my photos:


How do you find the artists that you manage? What does an artist need to have in order for you to consider managing them?

Actually they find me. I don’t go looking for them. It’s a lot of work. People tell me it takes a special person to be an artist manager and I’ve come to learn exactly why they say that. It ain’t easy!

La Veda is my ideal artist. She’s got international appeal. She writes great songs, sings, arranges, records herself and she’s loyal. She has an understanding of the industry that I find a lot of artists don’t. She’s patient and works at reaching her dream. She’s beautiful; she models and is an actress too. Her resume is pretty cool. She’s the Greatest!

Mmm, to consider managing someone else they’d pretty much have to be like La Veda…she’s ideal. I do however consult with artists and help them out when I can.


You are officially published writer. Is there more of that coming?

Yes most definitely. I’ve always loved to write. I recently pulled out notebooks and notebooks of short stories, poetry, songs and this novel I wrote. I’m interviewing a couple of artists to do blog postings on their stories as well.

I love to read; it’s one of my favorite things ever. I have quite a few favorite authors: J. California Cooper, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, E Jerome Dickey, Octavia Butler, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, etc.


You are now getting into the engineer’s booth in the studio. Tell us what you are doing and why you’re getting behind the board.

I don’t know…like I need something else to do… What happened was I had booked a date for La Veda in my friend’s studio and my engineer couldn’t make it at the last minute. So I just jumped in and worked the pro-tools. My photoshop knowledge helped me and I made a lot of phone calls. We recorded for about 5 days straight. We got a lot done – once I got the hang of it.


Congratulations on your independent radio show is being syndicated. What is the focus of your show and why do you think people find it so interesting?

Thank You! I play indie soul music and sometimes hip hop and soulful house and lounge … its been called eclectic. I basically play what I like listening to. I just play good music. I have pretty good taste in music.

We’re missing good old R&B love songs on mainstream radio. We never stopped making our music, the radio just stopped playing it. We as a people always communicated through our music. Love songs are what I play. Love makes the world go round. Love is good.


Stevie, everyone dreams of being self supporting by doing what they love. You’ve gotten to that point now. Was it an easy journey? Is there anything that you would have done differently and any advice you have to offer to other women who would like to get there?

I’m still on my journey. I do what I love and I love what I do. Nothing worth having is easy. Just meet the challenges along the way and have faith. You are here for a reason. It’s Divine order. Live your purpose and always give back. Love, support and respect each other. I’m a part of a strong team. We’re all leaders!

Spread love.

Oh, by the way, the team is also shooting a movie called “Hood Dreamz” which is a screenplay by Anita D. Foster (one of my business partners, we met around the conference table at the first Hip Hop 4 the Homeless)… we’ve been shooting since Feb… I play a cop.


Photo Credit: La Veda ~ Darrin K. Bastfield (2nd photo)
Photos of Stevie: Shedrivin Photography
All other photos: Stevie

Stevie’s Soul LLC


Shanice Manderville and Brick City Ent. – Making Music Industry Waves


Following our passion is what it’s all about. Here is a woman who pursued her interest in being in the music industry by creating and developing her own independent record label.   To venture into the music industry, to stay there and to be able to support yourself in it takes more than talent.  It takes guts, determination and skill.  Shanice Manderville has all of those things and is making her own waves in the hip hop music industry.

What made you decide to create your own record label?

My love and passion for always wanting to be apart of the music industry weather it was from an artist stand point, or working behind the scenes.


You obtained a music production certificate from Berkley.  How did you find out about the program and what made you pursue it?

Well, after I actually start my label, I also wanted to know how to physically do the work myself, that I was hiring others to do such as a recording engineer.  So I decided to enroll into an studio production course with Berklee College of Music.

One problem many people have with some rap and some hip hop is that the lyrics and videos are degrading to women.  You mentioned that as a female music industry executive, your goal is to have a positive influence on the music that comes out of your label. Please tell us how so and what your plans are.

Basically I feel like hip hop lacks feminine presence. Although there are women in hop hop and behind the scenes, I feel as though we need more females involved in the industry and being hands on in order to get that balance. Because right now, the industry is predominately male, which is why we get a “one sided voice” on what is hot today. Hip hop needs positive females in power within the industry that can stand up and say “hey it’s more to hip hop than this” which will also help lead our youth in the right direction as well. That’s the message that I hope to send today.


You are also a singer.  What are your plans for yourself musically?  Do you have any, or do you choose at this point to be administrative from now on?

Right now my focus is helping and working with other artists to get their music out. Although, I still keep myself acquainted with writing some lyrics for artists.


What kind of services does the label provide to its signed artists?

Any artist signed on my label, I take them from A to Z with any project we work on. I get the artist in the studio, record the project, get the video done, promote and market their brand. I get them booked for shows and radio interviews, sell albums independently. I’m doing just about everything a major label would do with their artists, just on a smaller scale.


How do you determine whether or not someone will be signed to your label?  What do you look for?

Pure Talent. I love talent, if I like your work, you’re signed. Just that simple. I’m not the type to sign an artist because their doing what’s “hot” for the moment. I love versatility in artists and I also don’t have a specific type of genre that I am into. I like whatever sounds good, point blank.


Beyond the services offered to artists, your company also offers other services.  What are they?

Yes the same services that I provide to my artists, I also extend to other artists that do not necessarily have to be signed to my company. The services I offer are studio time, cd duplication services, video shooting and editing, and online promotional and marketing services such as e- blast.


How is business going overall?  Is there a high demand for your services?

This is my 3rd year in the business, everything is going as expected. Business is consistent, I am looking to take Brick City Entertainment to the next level opening the 1st quarter of 2013.


How is the marketing going for the artists?  Are they getting the press and recognition that you want them to have?

The marketing has been a blessing, within the 1st year, I was able to land some of the artists I managed on TV in front of over 200,000,000 viewers world wide. So that was a great accomplishment coming out of the gate. Since then, I consistently have artists in rotation on major terrestrial radio stations and online stations as well. The fan base is gaining on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking and music websites as well.


What more do you need to do to develop your company and how do you plan to do to it?

I would say to just continue to keep doing what I’m doing. To succeed in this business it takes time, great talent, and consistency.


What is the ultimate goal of Brick City Entertainment?

The ultimate goal for Brick City Entertainment its change the music industry as we know it. The main objective right now is to be 100% independent, but still be able to compete with major labels. B.C.E. came to change the game in a way we ain’t never seen before. You mark my word.



Shanice Manderville



Rena Scott – Born to Sing and Won’t Stop

What do you do when you are extremely talented, believe in yourself, but the industry that you are trying to get into will not give you the time of day because of your age or your race or your “look” in general?

That is how the mainstream music industry is. It is controlled and contrived with routine practices of age, race and sex discrimination. They actively promote young people who are NOT talented in any major way because when marketed properly, can generate revenue from a non-discerning, young audience. Meanwhile, truly gifted people go unnoticed.

Rena Scott has an incredible voice and talent. She’s been in the music industry for a long time and has never been given her due. Like a lot of inspirational women, she will not give up and continues to do what she is and makes her own way. We are grateful for her conversation and her inspiration on Women Move the



You started out singing in a Baptist churches. Did you ever feel out of place because of the color of your skin?

I grew up in the Black community. I think people were shocked when they saw this skinny little light-skinned girl get up there to sing. They really did not expect this big voice with so much emotion and soul go come out. You could just see it on their faces after the first note. I always thought that was funny. I was teased often because I was light skinned. I did feel different because I did not look like anyone in my family. I could not quite figure that out. Many years later I found out that I was bi-racial – half white and half Black. I was called several names and some people wanted to beat me up in school for no reason. That really hurt me, I did not understand that. I was blessed to have so many wonderful friends who stood up for me back then. I am so grateful for my church experience. It brought me closer to God and helped to develop as a singer and a person. To me there is no better training ground. I had so many teachers and choir directors mentor me.


You have been in the music business for all of your life. You have paid your dues. Do you feel that you achieved what you wanted? For being as talented as you are vocally, do you feel that you got what you deserved? And, is there more on your plate to do musically?

 I have achieved a lot in the business. I have 4 albums and was featured on 8 Soul CD compilations through out the US and the world. I have sung on several movie sound tracks and sang jingles along with other accomplishments. I want to do more of that kind work as well as do some acting. There is so much more that I want to achieve. I want to continue to grow and be the best I can be with the talents and blessings God has given me. I have come to realize that God is in control – not me – and I know he will continue to open doors for me just like this interview with you.

Valerie Capers – Given the Sight for Music

reposted from

Dr. Valerie Capers was born in the Bronx and received her early schooling at the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind. She went on to obtain both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The Juilliard School of Music. She served on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music, and from 1987 to 1995 was chair of the Department of Music and Art at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), where she is now professor emeritus.

Her outstanding work as an educator has been lauded throughout the country as being both innovative and impressive. Susquehanna University awarded her the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts in 1996, and Doane College (Crete, Nebraska) and Bloomfield (New Jersey) College (along with Wynton Marsalis) both awarded her honorary doctorates in 2004. Recent teaching and workshop venues include Doane College, Stanford University, the Cleveland (Ohio) public school system, St. Thomas (United States Virgin Islands) high schools, Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) and the Mozarteum conservatory, Salzburg, Austria.

Among the awards and commissions she has received are the National Endowment for the Arts, including a special-projects grant to present a jazz series at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Meet the Composer, the CUNY Research Foundation, the Smithsonian, and The Fund for Artists of Arts International.

Three of Dr. Capers’ most noted extended compositions are Sing About Love, the critically acclaimed Christmas cantata produced by George Wein at Carnegie Hall; Sojourner, an operatorio based on the life of Sojourner Truth, performed and staged by the Opera Ebony Company of New York; and Song of the Seasons, a song cycle for voice, piano and cello (which has been recorded several times) was both commissioned by the Smithsonian Institute and premiered in Washington, D.C., at the invitation of the Smithsonian, and recently performed at Weill Recital Hall in New York City.

Dr. Capers has appeared with her trio and ensemble at colleges, universities, jazz festivals, clubs and concert halls throughout the country, including a series at Weill Recital Hall and the 2001 Rendez-vous de l’Erdre in Nantes, France. Her trio’s performances at the International Grande Parade du Jazz Festival in Nice, France, the Martin Luther King Festival in Ottawa, Ontario, and the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague received rave reviews. The group has also participated in the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Mellon Jazz Festival (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), and New York’s Kool, JVC and Downtown jazz festival.

Dr. Capers’ most recent 2007 performances include: a concert at the Salzburg Global Seminar, Salzburg, Austria; the World-Wide Plaza Summer Festival New York City; the opening concert for the Women in Jazz Festival for Jazz at Lincoln Center at Dizzy’s Coca-Cola Club New York City; the Gateway Music Festival Rochester New York; the Holiday Festival, the Empire State Building; and a Jazz at Noon Concert, the Empire State Building. She is also regularly heard in New York City at the Knickerbocker in Greenwich Village and the Lenox Lounge in Harlem. As a classical soloist, she has also performed Mozart’s “Concerto for Piano & Orchestra, No. 23” at the Pepperdine University Center for the Arts in Malibu, California.

Throughout her career, Dr. Capers has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, including Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz (1983 and 1998/2006–rebroadcast) and Branford Marsalis’ JazzSet. Adventures of Wagner in Jazz, a special program created by National Public Radio (NPR), and About Music (two separate programs, “Traditions and Personalities in Jazz Piano” and “American Composer and Piano Virtuoso: Louis Moreau Gottschalk”) were all broadcast on KBYU-FM in Provo, Utah, and carried throughout the country on NPR.

She has also performed with a roster of outstanding artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Ray Brown, Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Slide Hampton, Max Roach, James Moody and Paquito D’Rivera, among others.

Valerie Capers was the first recipient of Essence magazine’s “Women of Essence Award for Music,” where she was in the elite company of fellow honorees Oprah Winfrey and Marla Gibbs.

Dr. Capers has recorded five albums: Portrait of Soul (Atlantic, 1966), Affirmation (KMA Arts, 1982), Come On Home (Columbia/Sony, 1995), Wagner Takes the ‘A’ Train (Elysium, 1999), and her most recent, Limited Edition (VALCAP Records, 2001). Her book of intermediate-level piano pieces, Portraits in Jazz, was published by Oxford University Press (OUP) in 2000. OUP has also published an arrangement by Dr. Capers of the English carol, “It Came upon the Midnight Clear” for mixed chorus a cappella.

“Since leaving Bronx Community College, Valerie Capers (Prof. Emeritus), is now directing her time, creative talents and enthusiasm towards her own personal career. In this new-found time and freedom, Ms. Capers has already released two CDs. The first CD is “Wagner Takes the “A”Train”; and the second CD “Limited Edition” which is a compilation of past radio broadcasts, club performances, concerts and festivals.


In the months ahead, Ms. Capers will be working on her next CD. This project will bring Dr. Capers together with several of her friends and musical colleagues such as Sheila Jordan, Maxine Roach, Paquito D’rivera, Hubert Laws and others (to be announced later).


In recent months Valerie Capers has performed in several festivals with her Ensemble. Some of these appearances include­New York World Wide Plaza Summer Festival; Women in Jazz Festival, (Jazz at Lincoln Center); Gateway Music Festival, (Rochester, New York)”





Pura Fé – An Artist of “Pure Faith”

Reposted from

Singer/songwriter/musician, poet, artist, dancer, actor, teacher, and activist:

This “Renaissance woman” is the founding member of the internationally renowned native woman’s a capella trio, ‘Ulali’, and is recognized for creating a new genre, bringing Native contemporary music to the forefront of the “mainstream” music industry.

People you Love — Pura Fe et Éric Bibb


Pura Fé (born: Pura Fé Antonia (“Toni”) Crescioni) is a singer-songwriter, poet, musician, artist and social activist. She created a style and genre that blends traditional Native American music with contemporary musical styles. She currently resides in Durham, North Carolina, and performs internationally with the Pura Fé Trio. She was born in New York City and raised by her mother and family of female singers who are descendants of the Tuscarora Nation that had migrated from North Carolina to New York in the early 1900’s.

Her mother, Nanice Lund, whose parents are mixed-blood Indian, was a classically trained opera singer who toured with Duke Ellington and his Sacred Concert Series. Her father, the late Juan Antonio Crescioni-Collazo was from Puerto Rico, of Taino Indian and Corsican ancestry. He named her Pura Fé which translates from Spanish as “Pure Faith.”

Pura Fe and the Music Maker Blues Revue perform Summertime Live in Germany

As an adolescent, Pura Fé studied and performed with the American Ballet Theatre company, briefly trained at Martha Graham school and performed in several Broadway musicals, including The Me Nobody Knows, Ari, and Via Galactica. She also sang with the Mercer Ellington Orchestra.

She attended a small professional school, Lincoln Square Academy, along with classmates Laurence Fishburne, Ben Stiller, Robbie Benson, Stephanie Mills, Gion Carlo Esposito, Pia Zadora, Scott Jacoby and her childhood friend, Irene Cara. In the late 1970s, she worked as a waitress at the famous club Max’s Kansas City in New York. It was soon after that she began singing in bands and began working as a studio singer. She recorded jingles, commercials, backup vocals and lead on demos and recordings such as, Good Enough written by James McBride, and recorded soon after by Anita Baker.

Camille Thurman – How A Geologist Becomes An Artist


You are a well rounded artist in that you play instruments, sing and compose music.  Tell us what instruments you play and how you got started playing them.

I play the tenor saxophone and flutes (piccolo, c flute, alto & bass flutes)… I also perform oftentimes on the soprano and alto sax.I first started playing the flute at the age of 12 and I was given a mouthpiece for a saxophone but I thought it was for a clarinet. I went to my middle school band instructor and asked if I could try this new mouthpiece on one of the clarinets and that’s when he told me it was actually a saxophone mouthpiece (for alto). I smiled and asked if I could try an alto out and he gave me a fingering chart and told me about all of the possibilities of learning and playing all of the woodwinds. So I would spend every lunch period trying out flutes, saxophones, clarinets and I just fell in love with the alto. Once he had a vacancy in the jazz band, he gave the alto chair to me and I started officially playing saxophone and flute.

I switched to tenor when I was 14 because I was offered a scholarship to attend Queens College Center for Preparatory Studies in Music (CPSM) on saxophone for their jazz program. Their alto chairs were filled but they had one vacancy on tenor and ironically my family had a tenor that was unused for 30 years in the closet. Once I entered the program, I stuck with tenor.


Where and how did singing come in?

My mother used to play all kinds of music around the house when I was a child. I would hear Pops (Louis Armstrong), Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Anita Baker and so many others. My dad played a lot of Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. So there were a lot of great singers on the radio for me to hear and absorb. I would always try to imitate as close as I could to their voices.  Their range was always a challenge for me because I loved how powerful and dynamic their voices were. So I would always try to sound as close and accurate as possible to their phrasing, pitch and style. It wasn’t until I got to college, where I started to officially experiment and sing jazz with the college jazz ensemble, but for a long time I kept singing “under wraps” because I just had a lot of respect for the singers I grew up listening to. I was very shy and wasn’t sure if I  could do justice or measure up to them.


What are your goals as a musician and an artist?

My goals as a musician are to:
Inspire and teach others to appreciate live music and it’s tradition (the historical, spiritual, social aspects and beauty of music)
Create great music that inspires, speaks to and uplifts people;  speaks for their time/ reflects their history and lives)
To be a musical vessel and share this gift with the world (to inspire/ touch people via music, using my personal experiences/journey)

As an artist to:
Show the importance of music in our everyday lives
Change people for the better (make a better society)
Inspire and uplift the next generation of musicians


You also do educational presentations and workshops for children and teens.  Given that today’s popular music that a lot of young people are into is not really music, but mechanical loops and beats, what is your goal with these workshops and how are you and your music received by these young people?

My goal with these workshops is to
1. Bring awareness to the history and existence of this great music called jazz–showing how it is the foundation of modern music and society today
2. Inspire them to be moved to dig deeper and have the hunger to go out and learn more about this music
3. Show them the relationship between yesterday’s culture and today’s culture and how music is a reflection of culture and society —-showing them how music was the tool/vehicle used  to express ideas/opinions/thoughts about society and the world  –using history,

Young people leave my workshops very inspired. They have an urge to seek more knowledge. One of my students came back to me and told me that my workshop inspired her to do her senior project on Jazz Vocalists. Before taking my summer workshop, she had never really checked out jazz so I felt moved by the fact that my workshop impacted and inspired her to go further and study it.

Students are inspired to gather in groups and discuss on topics covered in my workshops. I even had students, who weren’t in my workshops, seek me out to give them notes and handouts from the workshops because their friends told them about it and they were interested in learning too.  So the students are left with hunger and passion for learning more about the music. I believe that’s the best gift an educator can  give and receive.