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John Andrew Ross

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Information about John Andrew Ross

Profile image of John Andrew Ross

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Music Composer and Arranger
Music Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
All Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Things are like the people they happen to.

Birthplace

Born:
12/15/1940
Birth Location:
Boston, Massachusetts

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Music Composer and Arranger
Music Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
None
Favorite Food:
All Food
Favorite Time of Year:
Christmas
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Things are like the people they happen to.

Birthplace

Born:
12/15/1940
Birth Location:
Boston
See how John Andrew Ross is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Composer, arranger, organist, choral conductor, jazz musician and music educator, John Andrew Ross was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 15, 1940, to Olga Evelyn White and Melvin Everard Ross, a close friend of Langston Hughes. Ross knew Langston Hughes as “Uncle Langston” while growing up in Roxbury. Ross attended public schools, and in 1957, he enrolled in Boston University to study church music. He received degrees from the College of Liberal Arts in 1960 and the School of Fine and Applied Arts in 1964.

Beginning in 1970 as music director at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts (ELSFA), Ross has worked with the ELSFA and its parent organization, the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA) and leads two music ensembles, the Voices of Black Persuasion and the Contra-Band. Ross has also served each Christmas season since 1970 as the musical director of the gospel play Black Nativity by Langston Hughes, which recasts the story of the birth of Jesus against a backdrop of African American culture.

In addition, Ross served the congregation of the First Parish Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, as minister of music. For nine years prior to his 1995 ordination, he was the church’s music director. Active as a member of the American Guild of Organists and also as an arranger, Ross released the recording, Comin' up Shouting: Gospel Songs and Spirituals Newly Arranged. Together with folklorist John Langstaff, Ross arranged the music that accompanies two books, Climbing Jacob's Ladder: Heroes of the Bible in African-American Spirituals and What a Morning: The Christmas Story in Black Spiritual.

Ross won the Coretta Scott King Book Award as well as a regional Emmy in 1981 with Billy Wilson for "Blues and Gone," part of the series Say Brother produced by Boston's PBS station, WGBH. He was also nominated numerous times for other regional Emmys. In 1990, Ross won Boston’s Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Musical Achievement Award, and in 2000, he won the New England Conservatory’s Anna Bobbit Gardener Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ross passed away on Monday, June 12, 2006.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of John Ross interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John Ross's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John Ross describes his mother's family, including the first black graduate from Boston University School of Law
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John Ross gives his father's name and birth year
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John Ross recalls his grandmother who attended law school and was an advocate for the poor in Boston
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John Ross describes his father's background, part 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John Ross describes his father's background, part 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John Ross names his sister
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John Ross shares memories from his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John Ross remembers his childhood friend, Ron Brown, later Secretary of Labor and DNC Chairman
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John Ross recalls episodes from his school years
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John Ross recalls the increase in racism as more blacks moved to Boston during the 1950s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John Ross describes growing up in a musically oriented family
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John Ross remembers learning to play piano
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John Ross recalls many future artists at Roxbury Memorial High School and describes a school show he helped produce
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John Ross explains the role of the church in his musical development
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John Ross recalls an instance of his expanding musical vocabulary
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John Ross briefly describes the transition from an academic life to a musical life
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John Ross recalls working for Elma Lewis
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John Ross details the founding and work of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts and the National Center of Afro-American Artists
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John Ross details the long term success of 'Black Nativity' at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John Ross recalls the annual fundraisers at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John Ross discusses the future plans for the National Center of Afro-American Artists
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John Ross talks about his appointment as Minister of Music at the First Parish in Brookline, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - John Ross discusses his vocal ensemble, Voices of Black Persuasion
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - John Ross talks about his jazz performances
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - John Ross discusses cultural connections he has noticed in travels to Africa and lands of the African diaspora
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - John Ross remembers some great talents in art, music and dance who taught or exhibited at the NCAAA
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - John Ross talks about his friendship with Richard Long
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - John Ross remembers his father's friendship with Langston Hughes
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - John Ross talks about theologian Howard Thurman
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - John Ross reflects on his life and career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - John Ross shares his concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - John Ross considers his legacy