The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Matthew Kennedy

Share on Social Media

Information about Matthew Kennedy

Profile image of Matthew Kennedy

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Music Professor
Choral Director
Pianist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
I'm Blessed.

Birthplace

Born:
3/10/1921
Birth Location:
Americus, Georgia

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Music Professor
Choral Director
Pianist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Chicken
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
I'm Blessed.

Birthplace

Born:
3/10/1921
Birth Location:
Americus
See how Matthew Kennedy is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Retired director of the historic Fisk Jubilee Singers, Matthew Washington Kennedy was born on March 10, 1921 in Americus, Georgia. His parents were educator, Mary Dowdell Kennedy and mail carrier, Royal C. Kennedy, who died when Kennedy was fifteen months old. Kennedy attended McCoy Hill Elementary School between 1926 and 1934. A prodigy of piano and choral music, Kennedy was inspired by a Rachmaninoff concert in Macon, Georgia when he was eleven years old. Moving with his mother to New York City in 1934, Kennedy enrolled in DeWitt Clinton High School. With help from his music teacher, Lois Adler, Kennedy entered the Juilliard Institute of Music. Graduating from high school in 1939, he also earned a diploma in piano from Juilliard in 1940. Kennedy went on to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. While attending Fisk University, Kennedy became piano accompanist to the historic Fisk Jubilee Singers under the direction of Ms. J.A. Myers on their tour of Europe, North Africa and Israel. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, he served in Southern Europe and North Africa before returning to graduate cum laude with his B.A. degree from Fisk University in 1947. Kennedy went on to earn his M.A. degree from Juilliard in 1950 and completed course work toward his Ph.D. from George Peabody College in Nashville.

Employed by Fisk University as an instructor in 1947, Kennedy became a member of its music faculty in 1954 as an associate professor. In 1956, he married piano soloist, Anne Gamble. Kennedy was appointed director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1957, and he mentored hundreds of young students for the next twenty-three years. In 1958, Kennedy made his own solo piano debut at Carnegie Recital Hall. Over the years, Kennedy toured the world as a soloist and as director of the Jubilee Singers. He was appointed acting chairman of the Fisk University Music Department from 1975 to 1978. Kennedy retired from Fisk University in 1986.

Kennedy has served on resource panels for the Tennessee Arts Commission and on boards of the Nashville Symphony Association and the John W. Work, III Memorial Foundation. He received the Achievement Award from the National Black Music Caucus of the Music Educators’ National Conference, distinguished service awards from the National Association of Negro Musicians, Fisk University Alumni Association, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Kennedy holds lifetime memberships with the NAACP and the Fisk University General Alumni Association. He is a member of the Nashville Fine Arts Club where he serves as President. He is also a member of the Nashville Symphony Guild, Gamma Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill and a recent inductee into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia.

In 2003, Kennedy released his first album, Familiar Favorites. It is dedicated to the memory of his late wife, Anne, and to their daughter, Nina who is also a concert pianist. In 2006, Kennedy received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, from Fisk University. In 2007, Kennedy’s daughter made a film entitled, Matthew Kennedy: One Man’s Journey, which won the Rosetta Miller-Perry Award for Black Filmmakers.

Kennedy was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 13, 2007. Kennedy passed away on June 5, 2014.

See how Matthew Kennedy is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Matthew Kennedy's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy describes his mother's upbringing and career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy describes his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy describes his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy describes how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy describes his parents' careers and personalities
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his neighborhood in Americus, Georgia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Matthew Kennedy describes his early music lessons
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy talks about his early musical talent
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his academic ability
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy recalls his early exposure to music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his first musical performances
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy remembers singing at the Bethesda Baptist Church in Americus, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the difference between hymns and spirituals
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy remembers the influence of Eva Jessye and Hall Johnson
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy talks about gospel music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Matthew Kennedy recalls performing on WENC Radio in Americus, Georgia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy remembers playing the organ at the Rylander Theatre in Americus, Georgia
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy remembers a concert by Sergei Rachmaninoff, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy remembers a concert by Sergei Rachmaninoff, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his isolation from other children
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy talks about his awareness of black classical musicians
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his mother's decision to move to New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy recalls his family's move to New York City
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his enrollment at the Juilliard School of Music
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy recalls the students at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy remembers receiving a piano from his teacher
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy describes completing Dewitt Clinton High School in New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy describes his admission to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy talks about being drafted into World War II
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy recalls playing piano for the Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy remembers meeting and marrying his wife
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy remembers John Wesley Work III
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Matthew Kennedy recalls his time in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy describes his assignments in the U.S. Army
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy recalls earning a master's degree at the Juilliard School of Music
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy remembers the formation of the Famous Jubilee Singers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the Famous Jubilee Singers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy remembers John Wesley Work III's directorship of the Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy recalls his appointment as director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy describes the Fisk Jubilee Singers' concerts
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the history of the Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the role of spiritual music in the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy remembers the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his debut at Carnegie Hall in New York City
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy describes his tenure as director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy describes his work in the music department of Fisk University
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy talks about his first album
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Matthew Kennedy reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Matthew Kennedy talks about the John W. Work III Memorial Foundation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Matthew Kennedy remembers his students
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Matthew Kennedy reflects upon his legacy and hopes for the African American community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Matthew Kennedy talks about his daughter's documentary project, 'Matthew Kennedy: One Man's Journey'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Matthew Kennedy describes his doctoral studies
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Matthew Kennedy describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Matthew Kennedy narrates his photographs