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Robert Winfrey

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Information about Robert Winfrey

Profile image of Robert Winfrey

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Education Administrator
Music Composer
Music Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fish, Vegetables
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Atlanta, Georgia
Favorite Quote:
See How The Masses Of Men Worry Themselves Into Nameless Graves While Here A Faithful Servant Loses Himself Into Immortality.

Birthplace

Born:
6/14/1933
Birth Location:
Atlanta, Georgia

Profession

Category:
EducationMakers
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Education Administrator
Music Composer
Music Director

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fish, Vegetables
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Atlanta, Georgia
Favorite Quote:
See How The Masses Of Men Worry Themselves Into Nameless Graves While Here A Faithful Servant Loses Himself Into Immortality.

Birthplace

Born:
6/14/1933
Birth Location:
Atlanta
See how Robert Winfrey is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Robert Winfrey, musician, composer, music teacher, musical arts director and choral director, has revolutionized the musical scene and music education in Boston, Massachusetts over a twenty-eight year period. A builder of a multi-cultural school music program in Boston, Winfrey made music education available to all students at the high school level. In addition to his work in the city of Boston, Winfrey served as the director of the world-renown Kuumba Singers of Harvard University for twenty-five years. His signature composition, Let’s Build A City, is known and has been sung across the United States.

Winfrey was born in Atlanta, Georgia in June 1933. His parents, Pete and Ethel Winfrey, and two sisters, Frances and Betty lived in the Grady Holmes Housing Project during Winfrey’s growing up. He was a neighbor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s.

Winfrey graduated from David T. Howard High School in 1950 and from Morehouse College in 1955 with a degree in music composition. During his youth, he played piano and organ at Liberty Baptist Church, two blocks from Ebenezer Baptist Church.

From 1955 to 1957, Winfrey served in the U.S. Army as a minister of music to the chaplains of all faiths – Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. During his military service, he decided to become a music teacher.

In the summer of 1957, Winfrey studied music composition at Columbia University in New York City. Then, in the fall, he became the choral and band director at Hubbard elementary and high schools in Forsyth, Georgia. He returned to Columbia University in 1960 and earned his M.A. degree in music composition. For the next eleven years, he taught and directed the music program at Dunbar High School in Lynchburg, Virginia. In Lynchburg, Winfrey met Reverend Virgil Wood, pastor of Diamond Hill Baptist Church, and became Diamond’s organist and minister of music. In 1970, he received a Tangley Oaks Fellowship for graduate studies in music education at Columbia University where he developed an arts program for inner-city youth. Reverend Wood moved to Boston in 1963 and influenced Winfrey to join him in 1971. Winfrey reluctantly left Georgia with his wife Johnie (Evans) Winfrey and their two sons, Robert, born in 1968, and Peter, born in 1970.

In Boston, Winfrey taught music at Jeremiah Burke High School and directed Boston’s Model Cities’ “Teen Town” community arts program. At Burke, he established for the first time a choral ensemble and a band. Quickly his reputation and talent for developing singing groups spread across greater Boston. In 1975, the Boston Public Schools established a citywide music program, which became the Roland Hayes School of Music at Boston’s Madison Park Campus High School. Winfrey was appointed to plan and develop the Hayes School of Music and he served as its director from 1977 to 1999.

In 1972, Reverend Wood asked Winfrey to compose an original song for a Black Expo sponsored by the Boston chapter of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The result was Let’s Build A City, in which he changed ‘City’ to ‘Nation’. The theme of this Winfrey composition was so impressive and important, that it was used in the inaugural ceremonies of three former big city mayors, Maynard Jackson of Atlanta, Thomas Bradley of Los Angeles and Coleman Young of Detroit. In 2005, Winfrey shared the message of this composition with the cities of Mobile, Alabama; Biloxi, Mississippi; and New Orleans, Louisiana after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The mayors of Mobile and Biloxi sent letters of appreciation to Winfrey for his thoughtful composition.

In 1973, Harvard University asked Winfrey to serve as the director of the Kuumba Singers. Under Winfrey’s direction, the Kuumba Singers performed in cities and towns across America – including public and private schools, colleges, churches, cathedrals, concert halls, hospitals, nursing homes and prisons. In 1981-1982, the highlight of that tour season for Winfrey was their performance in King Chapel at Morehouse College -- Winfrey’s alma mater.

In 1983, Winfey was chosen as one of Greater Boston’s Black Achievers. At the awards ceremony, the Kuumba Singers performed in his honor. Winfrey’s greatest awards are the legions of students who are now achievers in both musical and non-musical endeavors.

See how Robert Winfrey is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Winfrey's interview, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Robert Winfrey's interview, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Winfrey lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Winfrey describes his mother's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Winfrey describes his mother's upbringing in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Winfrey describes his father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Winfrey describes his father's family background and occupation
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Winfrey describes his family life
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Winfrey describes his music lessons
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Winfrey describes his sisters' interest in piano
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Winfrey describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Winfrey describes his childhood neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Winfrey remembers learning to play the piano
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Winfrey recalls growing up with Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Winfrey describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Winfrey remembers segregation in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Winfrey describes his elementary and high school experiences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Robert Winfrey describes his high school activities
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Robert Winfrey describes his high school history teacher
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Robert Winfrey describes his employment during high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Winfrey recalls studying African American history
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Winfrey recalls influential African American singers and speakers
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Winfrey talks about concert singer Roland Hayes
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Winfrey describes his organ lessons at Cable Piano Company
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Winfrey describes his experiences at Morehouse College in Atlanta
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Winfrey recalls his fellow classmates at Morehouse College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Winfrey recalls studying music at Morehouse College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Winfrey recalls being drafted upon graduation from Morehouse College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert Winfrey describes his experiences in the U.S. army
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Robert Winfrey recalls his plan to teach and compose music
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Winfrey recalls his decision to attend graduate school
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Winfrey recalls working as a band director in Forsyth, Georgia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Winfrey recalls attending Columbia University in New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Winfrey recalls attempting to publish his music compositions
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Winfrey describes the churches of Harlem in New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Winfrey describes his experiences in Harlem
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Winfrey recalls deciding to teach in Lynchburg, Virginia
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert Winfrey describes Reverend Dr. Virgil A. Wood and Clarence W. Seay
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Robert Winfrey recalls meeting and marrying his wife
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Robert Winfrey describes the Tangley Oaks Fellowship and his return to Columbia University
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Robert Winfrey recalls accepting a teaching position in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Robert Winfrey explains why he left Atlanta, Georgia
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Winfrey describes Reverend Dr. Virgil A. Woods
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Winfrey describes his two sons
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Winfrey remembers Rollins Griffith
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Winfrey describes the culture shock he experienced in Boston
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Winfrey explains why he stayed in Boston
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Winfrey recalls adjusting to life in Boston
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Winfrey talks about teaching and developing music programs in Boston
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert Winfrey remembers the popularity of his song 'Let's Build A City'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Robert Winfrey remembers school desegregation in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert Winfrey recalls the proposal for Boston's Roland Hayes Division of Music
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert Winfrey recalls designing the Roland Hayes Division of Music facility
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert Winfrey recalls the naming of Roland Hayes Division of Music
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert Winfrey describes famous students from Roland Hayes Division of Music
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robert Winfrey talks about actor and singer Carl Anderson
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robert Winfrey recalls becoming director of the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robert Winfrey remembers directing the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Robert Winfrey talks about his retirement
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Robert Winfrey describes the founder of Berklee College of Music, Lawrence Berk
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Robert Winfrey describes how he wants his leadership remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert Winfrey describes his post retirement activities
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Robert Winfrey remembers the Carl Anderson tribute in Lynchburg, Virginia
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Robert Winfrey reflects upon his life
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Robert Winfrey describes his hopes for the African American community
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Robert Winfrey describes how he would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Robert Winfrey narrates his photographs