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Daryl Waters

Music composer and arranger Daryl Waters was born in Cleveland, Ohio. From the age of eight years old, Waters studied music at the Cleveland Music School Settlement. While attending Shaw High School in East Cleveland, he played piano and served as a conductor for Karamu Theater and The Singing Angels, as well as conducting at a summer music theatre program and performing with his own band. Upon graduation, Waters enrolled at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, where he obtained his B.A. degree in music with a specialization in piano performance in 1978.

Waters returned to Cleveland after graduation, playing various jobs around town, before moving to New York in 1981, where he began working as a nightclub pianist, arranger and conductor. In 1983, Waters became the music director for the European tour of Ain’t Misbehavin’, the acclaimed musical revue of the Harlem Renaissance and tribute to Fats Waller. In 1985, Waters landed his first job on Broadway as the associate conductor of the Broadway musical, Leader of the Pack, directed by Michael Peters who choreographed Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and “Beat It” music videos. In 1992, Waters was the associate conductor for George C. Wolfe’s Jelly’s Last Jam, joining Wolfe again in 1996 as a co-composer of Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, which garnered him his first Tony and Grammy nominations. In 1997, Waters supervised and orchestrated Street Corner Symphony, a revue of 1960s and 1970s soul music.

Waters worked Off-Broadway as the music director for George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum (1986), the composer for In Real Life (2001), orchestrator for Kirsten Childs’ Miracle Brothers (2005), music director of The Seven (2006) (a hip-hop adaptation of Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes), composer for Blue Door (2006), supervisor/arranger for the highly-acclaimed musical celebration A Civil War Christmas (2008) by Pulitzer winner Paula Vogel, and orchestrator for Childs’ Bella (2017).

In 2010, Waters earned rave reviews for his orchestration of Memphis: A New Musical, receiving both Tony and Drama Desk Awards. In 2013, he was the conductor for After Midnight, under the music direction of Wynton Marsalis, with various stars including Fantasia, Toni Braxton and Kenneth Edmonds, and Patti LaBelle. He arranged, orchestrated and supervised music for Holler If Ya Hear Me (2014), Shuffle Along (2016) with director George C. Wolfe (for which he also wrote new material), and The Cher Show (2018).

In addition to his theatrical accomplishments, Waters became Eartha Kitt's music director in 1986, performing concerts with her on six continents over twenty-two years. He also conducted and arranged for many other stars, including Leslie Uggams, Sammy Davis Jr., Gregory Hines, Cab Calloway, Nell Carter, Patti Austin and Jennifer Holliday.

Waters is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and the American Federation of Musicians.

Daryl Waters was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 12, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.143

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/12/2016

Last Name

Waters

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Maurice

Schools

Rozelle Elementary School

Mayfair Elementary School

Kirk Junior High School

Shaw High School

Livingstone College

First Name

Daryl

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

WAT15

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Favorite Quote

It Ain't Deep.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/12/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sushi

Short Description

Music composer and arranger Daryl Waters (1956 – ) orchestrated such productions as Jelly’s Last Jam (1993), Bring in ‘Da Noise (1995), Memphis (2009), and Shuffle Along (2016).

Employment

DMW Enterprises, Inc

Eartha Kitt Productions

Self Employed

Favorite Color

Caribbean Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Daryl Waters' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Daryl Waters lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Daryl Waters describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Daryl Waters describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Daryl Waters talks about the traits he inherited from his grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Daryl Waters lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Daryl Waters describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Daryl Waters remembers his early neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Daryl Waters talks about his elementary school

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Daryl Waters recalls his early musical interests

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Daryl Waters describes The Music Settlement in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Daryl Waters names his early musical influences

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Daryl Waters remembers his first musical theatre experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Daryl Waters remembers early encouragement from his piano teacher and his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Daryl Waters talks about his special qualities as a young musician

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Daryl Waters remembers acting as a music director at Karamu House while in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Daryl Waters talks about his musical influences in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Daryl Waters remembers balancing music and academics while in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Daryl Waters talks about his early exposure to religion

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Daryl Waters remembers his high school band, Life Is Real

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Daryl Waters recalls his experiences at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Daryl Waters remembers his mentor, K. Wilhelmina Boyd

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Daryl Waters describes the challenge of adjusting to life in Salisbury, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Daryl Waters talks about the movie 'Uptight'

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Daryl Waters remembers directing a homecoming talent show at Livingstone College

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Daryl Waters reflects upon his reluctance to promote himself

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Daryl Waters remembers his decision to move to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Daryl Waters remembers attending his first Broadway production

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Daryl Waters recalls his experience as a pianist at a New York City dessert club

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Daryl Waters remembers touring in Europe with the musical 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Daryl Waters describes his duties in the production of 'Ain't Misbehavin''

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Daryl Waters remembers his first experience as a music director on Broadway

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Daryl Waters describes the responsibilities of a conductor in musical theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Daryl Waters recalls how he began working with Earth Kitt

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Daryl Waters reflects upon Eartha Kitt's musical influences

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Daryl Waters describes his experience working with Eartha Kitt

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Daryl Waters talks about Eartha Kitt's personality

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Daryl Waters describes his experiences as the associate conductor of 'Jelly's Last Jam'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Daryl Waters remembers meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Daryl Waters describes the rehearsal schedule for a Broadway show

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Daryl Waters remembers becoming involved in 'Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Daryl Waters talks about the music production of 'Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Daryl Waters remembers his Tony Award nomination for 'Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Daryl Waters talks about the educational component of 'Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Daryl Waters describes HistoryMaker George C. Wolfe

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Daryl Waters talks about the business elements of a career in musical theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Daryl Waters describes the benefits of joining the American Federation of Musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Daryl Waters talks about the musical 'Street Corner Symphony'

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Daryl Waters remembers working on 'In Real Life'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Daryl Waters talks about creating the music for 'Drowning Crow'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Daryl Waters recalls the reception of the 2005 musical 'The Color Purple'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Daryl Waters describes the seating capacity of Broadway theatres

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Daryl Waters talks about the relationship between music and lighting cues

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Daryl Waters describes the musical 'Miracle Brothers'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Daryl Waters remembers the hip hop musical 'The Seven'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Daryl Waters talks about the play 'Blue Door'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Daryl Waters remembers the musical 'Memphis'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Daryl Waters talks about how winning awards impacted his career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Daryl Waters remembers working with Wynton Marsalis on 'After Midnight'

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Daryl Waters reflects upon the reception of 'Holler If Ya Hear Me'

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Daryl Waters describes the challenges of scoring 'Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed'

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Daryl Waters talks about his projects at the time of the interview

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Daryl Waters remembers his favorite musical collaborators

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Daryl Waters reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Daryl Waters talks about his early work on Broadway

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Daryl Waters reflects upon black representation on Broadway

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Daryl Waters talks about the challenges to success on Broadway

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Daryl Waters describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Daryl Waters reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Daryl Waters talks about his close acquaintances

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Daryl Waters describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Daryl Waters narrates his photographs

Quincy Jones

An impresario in the broadest and most creative sense of the word, Quincy Jones’ career has encompassed the roles of composer, record producer, artist, film producer, arranger, conductor, instrumentalist, television producer, record company executive, magazine founder and multi-media entrepreneur. As a master inventor of musical hybrids, he has shuffled pop, soul, hip-hop, jazz, classical, African and Brazilian music into many dazzling fusions, traversing virtually every medium, including records, live performance, movies and television.

Quincy Jones was born on March 14, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois, and brought up in Seattle, Washington. While in junior high school, Jones began studying trumpet and sang in a Gospel quartet at age twelve. His musical studies continued at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where he remained until the opportunity arose to tour with Lionel Hampton’s band as a trumpeter, arranger and sometime-pianist. He moved on to New York and the musical “big leagues” in 1951, where his reputation as an arranger grew. By the mid-1950s, he was arranging and recording for such diverse artists as Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Dinah Washington.

In 1957, Jones decided to continue his musical education by studying with Nadia Boulanger, the legendary Parisian tutor to American expatriate composers such as Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copeland. To subsidize his studies, he took a job with Barclay Disques, Mercury’s French distributor. Among the artists he recorded in Europe were Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel and Henri Salvador, as well as such visitors from America as Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine and Andy Williams. Jones’ love affair with European audiences continues through the present: in 1991, he began a continuing association with the Montreux Jazz and World Music Festival, which he serves as co-producer.

Jones won the first of his many Grammy Awards in 1963 for his Count Basie arrangement of “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Jones’ three-year musical association as conductor and arranger with Frank Sinatra in the mid-1960s also teamed him with Basie for the classic Sinatra At The Sands, containing the famous arrangement of “Fly Me To The Moon.”

When he became vice-president at Mercury Records in 1961, Jones became the first high-level black executive of an established major record company. Toward the end of his association with the label, Jones turned his attention to another musical area that had been closed to blacks--the world of film scores. In 1963, he started work on the music for Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker, and it was the first of his thirty-three major motion picture scores. In 1985, he co-produced Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which won eleven Oscar nominations, introduced Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey to film audiences, and marked Jones’ debut as a film producer.

In 1990, Jones formed Quincy Jones Entertainment (QJE), a co-venture with Time Warner, Inc. The new company, which Jones served as CEO and chairman, produced NBC Television’s Fresh Prince Of Bel Air (now in syndication), and UPN’s In The House and Fox Television’s Mad TV. He is also the publisher of VIBE Magazine (as well as founder), SPIN and Blaze magazines. Also in 1990, his life and career were chronicled in the critically acclaimed Warner Bros. film, Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones, produced by Courtney Sale Ross.

In 1994, Quincy Jones led a group of businessmen, including Hall of Fame football player Willie Davis, television producer Don Cornelius, television journalist Geraldo Rivera and businesswoman Sonia Gonsalves Salzman in the formation of Qwest Broadcasting, a minority controlled broadcasting company which purchased television stations in Atlanta and New Orleans for approximately $167 million, establishing it as one of the largest minority owned broadcasting companies in the United States. Quincy served as chairman and CEO of Qwest Broadcasting. In 1999, taking advantage of the rapid escalation of broadcast station values, Jones and his partners sold Qwest Broadcasting for a reported $270 million. In 1997, Quincy Jones formed the Quincy Jones Media Group.

The laurels, awards and accolades have been innumerable: Quincy has won an Emmy Award for his score of the of the opening episode of the landmark TV miniseries, Roots, seven Oscar nominations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, twenty-seven Grammy Awards, and N.A.R.A.S.’ prestigious Trustees’ Award and The Grammy Living Legend Award. He is the all-time most nominated Grammy artist with a total of seventy-nine Grammy nominations. In 1990, France recognized Jones with its most distinguished title, the Legion d’ Honneur. He is also the recipient of the French Ministry of Culture’s Distinguished Arts and Letters Award. Jones is the recipient of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music’s coveted Polar Music Prize and the Republic of Italy’s Rudolph Valentino Award. He is also the recipient of honorary doctorates from Howard University, the Berklee College of Music, Seattle University, Wesleyan University, Brandeis University, Loyola University (New Orleans), Clark Atlanta University, Claremont University’s Graduate School, the University of Connecticut, Harvard University, Tuskeegee University, New York University, University of Miami and The American Film Institute. Jones was also named a 2001 Kennedy Center Honoree, for his contributions to the cultural fabric of the United States of America.

In 2001, Quincy Jones added the title “Best Selling Author” to his list of accomplishments when his autobiography Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones entered the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal Best-Sellers lists. Rhino Records released a four CD boxed set of Jones’ music, spanning his more than five decade career in the music business, entitled Q: The Musical Biography of Quincy Jones.

Celebrating more than fifty years performing and being involved in music, Jones’ creative magic has spanned over six decades, beginning with the music of the post-swing era and continuing through today’s high-technology, international multi-media hybrids. In the mid-1950s, he was the first popular conductor-arranger to record with a Fender bass. His theme from the hit TV series Ironside was the first synthesizer-based pop theme song. As the first black composer to be embraced by the Hollywood establishment in the 1960s, he helped refresh movie music with badly needed infusions of jazz and soul. His landmark 1989 album, Back On The Block--named “Album Of The Year” at the 1990 Grammy Awards-- brought such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Miles Davis together with Ice T, Big Daddy Kane and Melle Mel to create the first fusion of the be bop and hip hop musical traditions; while his 1993 recording of the critically acclaimed Miles and Quincy Live At Montreux, featured Jones conducting Miles Davis’ live performance of the historic Gil Evans arrangements from the Miles Ahead, Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain sessions, garnered a Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Performance. As producer and conductor of the historic “We Are The World” recording (the best-selling single of all time) and Michael Jackson’s multi-platinum solo albums, Off The Wall, Bad and Thriller (the best selling album of all time, with over forty-six million copies sold), Jones stands as one of the most successful and admired creative artists/executives in the entertainment world.

Accession Number

A2007.340

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/27/2007

Last Name

Jones

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

James A. Garfield High School

First Name

Quincy

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

JON18

Favorite Season

None

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

3/14/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Music composer and arranger, musician, and music producer Quincy Jones (1933 - ) has encompassed the roles of composer, record producer (#1 album of all time Thriller), artist (his albums include The Dude and Q's Jook Joint), film producer (The Color Purple), arranger, conductor, instrumentalist, television producer (Fresh Prince of Bel Air), record company executive, magazine founder (Vibe) and multi-media entrepreneur.

Employment

Mercury Records

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - 'An Evening With Quincy Jones' opens with credits

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - 'An Evening With Quincy Jones' opens with an introduction of host, HistoryMaker Gwen Ifill

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gwen Ifill introduces Quincy Jones

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Quincy Jones talks about growing up in Chicago, Illinois and Seattle, Washington

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Quincy Jones remembers discovering his love of music during his youth in Seattle, Washington

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Quincy Jones recalls the music industry and important recording artists of his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Quincy Jones shares his memories of Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Frank Sinatra

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lesley Gore performs 'It's My Party' to honor Quincy Jones' career at Mercury Records

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Quincy Jones talks about producing 'It's My Party' at Mercury Records

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Quincy Jones talks about moving from jazz into pop

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Quincy Jones describes his career writing scores for film and television

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - HistoryMaker Bebe Winans performs Quincy Jones' 'Everything Must Change'

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Quincy Jones talks about suffering two brain aneurysms in 1974

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Quincy Jones talks about his admiration for Miles Davis

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - HistoryMaker James Ingram performs Quincy Jones' song 'Just Once'

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Bobby McFerrin and HistoryMaker Herbie Hancock perform a medley of Michael Jackson songs to honor Quincy Jones

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Quincy Jones reflects upon his enduring success in the music industry

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - HistoryMaker Herbie Hancock plays a piano instrumental to honor Quincy Jones

Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Quincy Jones reflects upon his life

Tape: 1 Story: 20 - 'An Evening With Quincy Jones' concludes with a group performance of 'I'll Be Good to You'

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$1

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Quincy Jones remembers discovering his love of music during his youth in Seattle, Washington
Quincy Jones recalls the music industry and important recording artists of his youth
Transcript
Tell me about lemon meringue pie and juke joints.$$Right across the street from our house was the [U.S.] Army camp [sic. Naval Station Bremerton and Naval Submarine Base Bangor; Naval Base Kitsap, Washington] with the barbed wire, fifty-caliber machine guns and there was a big armory next door that was our recreation hall for all of the whole community. And we had inside tracks on everything. You know, I'm telling you, we had our stuff together. And we heard that there was some lemon meringue pie was being shipped in on Monday (audience laughter) and some chocolate and vanilla ice cream. So we were ready on arrival. And we broke in there and ate as much as we could, and then we had pie fights. And I went and broke open the superintendent's office and saw a little spinet piano over in the corner and was getting ready to close the door 'cause it didn't look valuable to me. You know, I didn't know people played them. And somebody said, "Fool, go back," God's whisper, said go back in that room now (laughter). And I went back in there, and I slowly went over to that piano and touched it with my fingers. And every cell in my body said, this is what you'll do the rest of your life. And that, and that one move, it changed everything in my whole life, you know.$$Music for you was an escape. It was your form of rebellion.$$But music was more than an escape. It was a mother. I started out in Seattle [Washington] when you had to play a white tennis club dinner, with white cardigan jackets, and play dance music and so forth. Then we changed our uniforms and go to the black clubs, The Rocking Chair [Seattle, Washington] and the Washington Educational Social Club [sic. Washington Social and Educational Club, Seattle, Washington]. What a joke (laughter). And the proprietor was Reverend Silas Groves, please. Bring your own bottles--$$(Laughter).$$--play for strippers. We'd do comedy acts. Man, we'd do the works, steal--all the comics who'd come through there, we'd steal all their material, and (unclear), do all these nasty jokes. And we--wasn't supposed to be in clubs. I was thirteen, you know.$$Yeah.$$So we pretended like we're smoking and everything so we could get in the clubs and it was just lucky that the teachers didn't--I had one teacher, Parker Cook, that saved my life, 'cause he said, "You're doing what you're supposed to be doing," 'cause I didn't get finished playing till 5:30 in the morning. And I couldn't--[James A.] Garfield High School [Seattle, Washington] was right across the street, you know. That's where Jimi Hendrix went to. And I couldn't get there till eleven sometimes, you know, but he supported me though (laughter). In fact, I saw, I thought I saw him up there in one of those joints a couple of times (laughter).$Did it ever occur to you that you were in the middle of something revolutionary?$$No way. We were just--Ray Charles came to town. I was fourteen. I was, I couldn't believe him, you know. He came in, and he was sixteen or seventeen, but he was like a hundred years older than me because I was still staying at home with eight kids, you know, and two parents [Quincy Jones, Sr. and Sarah Wells Jones], and this raggedy stepmother [Elvera Jones]. And he had two suits, his own record player, two girlfriends, everything. I mean I couldn't believe it, and I was around him. I didn't do it like (unclear) did. I wasn't like that at all. And I wrote the dialogue for that, but I wasn't like that at all. In movies, they have to make up stuff, you know. This little cat was loud and cocky and talked. I never talked at all when I was little. I shut up and listened, 'cause I was around guys who knew what they were talking about, like [Count] Basie and Clark Terry. And there's one thing that Ray and I used to say every day to keep from being affected by the climate in this country at that time, and that, "Not one drop of my self-worth depends on your acceptance of me," 'cause we never wanted to--(applause), we never wanted an external force to decide what your identity was about. And we were really, really, really, really cognizant of that. And we stuck to it 'cause Ray was strong, boy. He says, "I'm gonna have three of my own planes in twenty years." In 1968, he had three planes, and Ray went, he'd land--he knew how to deal with money, everything because in the beginning, we didn't think about money or fame. We didn't--like today, the bling bling, forget that.$$There was no money.$$There was no bling bling (laughter). The biggest joke on Broadway when we were out there starving to death was in front of the Brill Building [New York, New York] was you'd see somebody being held by their ankles out of the thirty-three-story window, and the overcoat hanging all over his head. And they'd say, "What's that going on up there?" They said, "That's Jackie Wilson renegotiating his contract (laughter)."$$(Laughter).$$All of the booking agencies, the nightclubs, record companies, everything--were all owned by the gangsters, everything, the Copacabana [New York, New York], the Chez Paree [Chicago, Illinois], (unclear) and Fish [ph.] and stuff and boy, between them, Chicago [Illinois] and [Frank] Sinatra, I met all of 'em.$$Tell us the story of the first time you met Charlie ["Bird"] Parker.$$Oh, I almost had a heart attack, but you know, we're so--Bird was never aware that anybody was around 'cause he was, unfortunately, what happened, he came from Jay McShann's band. Dizzy [Gillespie] came from Cab Calloway's band, and they had this new idea, but they did not wanna be entertainers anymore. They didn't wanna have to roll their eyes or dance or entertain and dance for anybody anymore. Louis [Armstrong] had to do it, and I'll defend Louis to death 'cause Louis did what he had to do, and if it wasn't for Louis, we wouldn't be here. (Applause) Everybody did what they did and it's a sociological music. That's what I try to tell my brothers all the time. Man, you can't say to throw jazz and blues away just for hip hop because it's all part of a--made millions of people's sociological experience, a terrible one. And for the '50s [1950s] and '60s [1960s] black artists got wasted. I'm telling you. You cannot believe what I've--I'd record with LaVern Baker, they'd send the arrangement over to the other side of town. Georgia Gibbs would copy it. Fats Domino would do his tune. Pat Boone would take it on the other side and it was split--the markets were split in the black and white markets, you know. So, now, please, yeah what would Jay-Z make now?

John Andrew Ross

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.

Accession Number

A2005.105

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/21/2005

Last Name

Ross

Maker Category
Middle Name

Andrew

Organizations
Schools

David A. Ellis Elementary School

Roxbury Memorial High School

Boston University

First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Boston

HM ID

ROS03

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Things are like the people they happen to.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

12/15/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Death Date

6/12/2006

Short Description

Music composer and arranger and music director John Andrew Ross (1940 - 2006 ) was the music director at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts and lead two music ensembles, the Voices of Black Persuasion and the Contra-Band. 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.

Employment

Tweeds

Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts

National Center of Afro-American Artists

First Parish in Brookline (Unitarian Universalist Church)

Favorite Color

None

DAStories

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