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Cornelius Grant

Music director Cornelius Grant was born on April 27, 1943 in Blooming Grove, Texas. He was raised by his grandmother, and taught himself to play the guitar at nine years old. At thirteen years old, his family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Grant met his future writing partner and childhood friend Rodger Renzabene. He graduated from Samuel C. Mumford High School in 1961.

At the age of fifteen, Grant started playing with local groups at many of Detroit’s clubs and music venues. While playing with a local band called the Staccatos, he met Motown producer and songwriter Henry Cosby. Through Cosby, Grant became a back-up guitar player for singer Mary Wells, and later as lead guitarist and music conductor for singer Marvin Gaye. It was while working with Wells that Grant met The Temptations. From 1964 to 1982, Grant served as guitar player, musical director, and live show arranger for The Temptations. He also played in Motown studio sessions with the Funk Brothers from 1964 to 1970, and played lead guitar on the 1967 hit “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips. In 1965, Grant wrote "You’ve Got to Earn It” with Smokey Robinson, his first song written for The Temptations. In 1966, he wrote The Temptations’ hit song “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” with Norman Whitfield and Eddie Holland. Grant was responsible for the famous opening guitar riff to the song. The song became a number one hit on the U.S. Billboard R&B singles chart. Grant also wrote “You’re My Everything” and "I Gotta Find A Way (To Get You Back)" for The Temptations, in addition to co-writing "Take Me in Your Arms and Love Me" by Gladys Knight & the Pips, “I Want My Baby Back” and" My Weakness Is You" by Edwin Starr, "I'm More Than Happy (I'm Satisfied)" for Stevie Wonder, and "Loving and Affection" for Marvin Gaye. He worked alongside Temptations members Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin as part of D.O.C. Productions, producing the 1973 album It’s Time For The Swiss Movement by The Swiss Movement.

After ending his working relationship with The Temptations in 1982, Grant became a contributing writer for the Hollywood Reporter and BRE Magazine. He also formed a production and talent booking agency named Siege Company with Ruth Adkins Robinson; and in 2011, founded the Flashback International production company to start his online radio show “Flashbacks and Newtraks.” Grant created a series of non-profit organizations, like Starz of Tomorrow, dedicated to fostering new talent and preserving the legacy of those who have worked in the industry. He also started the Skoole Awards, a pre-Grammy Award show dedicated to honoring unrecognized pioneers in the entertainment industry, as well as the live weekly comedy show “Do You Think You’re Funny?” in West Hollywood, California.

Cornelius Grant was interviewed by The Historymaker on November 17, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.134

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/16/2016

Last Name

Grant

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Dogan High School

Bernice McDowell Elem. School

Samuel C. Mumford High School

First Name

Cornelius

Birth City, State, Country

Blooming Grove

HM ID

GRA16

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

South Africa

Favorite Quote

Always be the best that you can be

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

4/27/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Okra

Short Description

Music director Cornelius Grant (1943 - ) played guitar for Mary Wells and Marvin Gaye before becoming the musical director for The Temptations from 1964 to 1982. He wrote and co-wrote songs for The Temptations, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Edwin Starr, and Stevie Wonder, among others.

Employment

Various

Motown Records - The Temptations

Motown Records

Carrie Records

Siege Company

Hollywood Reporter

Flashback International

Favorite Color

Blue

Ray Chew

Musician and music director Ray Chew was born in 1958 in the Harlem, New York to Henry and Elaine Chew. Chew developed an interest in music at an early age. At age six, Chew received a scholarship to attend the Julliard School’s Children’s Program. He continued to pursue music education throughout his childhood, and enrolled in institutions such as Third Street Music School and the High School of Music and Arts where he was exposed to iconic musicians such as jazz legends Lionel Hampton, Max Roach, and Dizzy Gillespie.

As a music arranger and multi-instrumentalist, Chew has worked with notable musicians including Gladys Knight, Quincy Jones, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin. In 1974, Chew received his first big break in the music industry when he was given an opportunity go on tour with recording artist and Broadway star Melba Moore. Chew was selected to produce music for Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson in 1975. He went on to serve as the music arranger on seven albums with the legendary duo over a twenty year period. In 1980, Chew became the musical director of the Saturday Night Live Band. In 1998, he co-founded Chew Entertainment with his wife, music executive Vivian Scott Chew. Later Chew and his wife founded Power to Inspire, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve music appreciation among youths He continued his career in television when he was named musical director of “Showtime at the Apollo,” a talent competition filmed at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater, in 1992. In 2001, Chew composed the score for the short film, The Gilded Six Bits, earning him his first credit for a musical score; and, in 2008, he was recruited as the bandleader for the Democratic National Convention. In 2009, he was selected by President Barack Obama to direct the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball. Chew became the musical director of “American Idol” in 2011.

Since his early years as a student at the High School of Music and Arts, Chew has received recognition for his talent as a musical arranger and multi-instrumentalist. Chew served as the musical director of the Apollo Theater Foundation and as a national trustee for the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Chew is married to Vivian Scott Chew. they have two daughters: Bianca and Loren.

Ray Chew was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 24, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.194

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/12/2013

Last Name

Chew

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Leighton

Schools

P.S. 125

P.S. 121 Throop School

P.S. 144 Col Jeromus Remsen School

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

Manhattan School of Music

First Name

Raymond

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

CHE07

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Punta Mita, México

Favorite Quote

Reach Beyond Your Grasp.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

9/7/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Fort Lee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salmon

Short Description

Musician and singer and music director Ray Chew (1958 - ) served as the music arranger on seven albums with the legendary duo Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson. He also served as the musical director for the television shows “Showtime at the Apollo” and “American Idol.”

Employment

Delete

American Idol

Favorite Color

Brown

Benjamin Wright

Music director, arranger, and conductor Benjamin Franklin Wright, Jr. was born on July 11, 1946 in Greenville, Mississippi. Wright started his music career while in high school, performing as a drum major in the marching band and singing Doo Wop in a group he and his friends started. Wright attended the Chicago Conservatory of Music and received his Ph.D. from the Pentecostal Bible College in Tuskegee, Alabama.

After high school, Wright embarked on his first major musical tour with rhythm and blues icon Ted Taylor. During the tour, Wright played piano and sang back-up for the band. The Ted Taylor Tour allowed Wright to experience music arrangement for the first time, and his subsequent success within the industry took him on the road with James Brown, Otis Redding, Billy Stewart and Gladys Knight and The Pips. Shortly after Wright’s touring period, he was drafted into the United States Air Force. While there, Wright met “Fats” Ford, a trumpet player who played with Duke Ellington. Ford eventually introduced Wright to Duke Ellington, an experience that changed his life forever. After Wright’s honorable discharge from the military in Alabama, he worked for several years with Bobby Moore and The Rhythm Aces, before working on the hotel circuit and jazz trios throughout the country. In 1969, Wright worked as a copyist for notable musical arrangers such as Charles Stepney, Gene Barge, Donny Hathaway and Richard Evans. Concurrently, Wright performed with Pieces of Peace, a group of musicians who recorded music sessions for Jackie Wilson, The Chi-Lites, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. After traveling overseas with Pieces of Peace at the end of 1971, Wright enrolled in the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and shortly thereafter formed the Benjamin Wright Orchestra. In 1975, Wright moved to Los Angeles, California and became the musical director for The Temptations, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Aretha Franklin, and Barry White and The Love Unlimited Orchestra. In 1979, Wright acted as the string arranger for Michael Jackson’s first solo album, Off the Wall, where he met producer Quincy Jones. Between 1982 and 1983, Wright opened the Ritesonian Recording Studio, and in 1987, he went back on the road as the musical director for Gladys Knight and The Pips to do a year of one-night-only performances. In 2003, Wright and long time friend and former singer with The Temptations, Louis Price, formed the Price/Wright Orchestra. Then, in 2004, Wright wrote five new arrangements for singer Brandy and produced three songs with Otis Williams for The Temptations. Wright has also done arrangements on Outkast and Justin Timberlake’s Grammy-winning albums Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and Justified respectively. In 2005, Wright was honored by being invited to write and conduct the Norwegian Radio Symphony Orchestra for the Patty LaBelle segment of the Nobel Peace Prize celebration in Oslo, Norway.

Wright was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 18, 2007 and March 9, 2017.

Accession Number

A2007.146

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/18/2007 |and| 07/22/2017

Last Name

Wright

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Julia Armstrong Elementary School

Coleman High School

American Conservatory of Music

Berklee College of Music

First Name

Benjamin

Birth City, State, Country

Greenville

HM ID

WRI03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Saint Martin

Favorite Quote

Straight Ahead.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

7/11/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Music arranger, music director, and conductor Benjamin Wright (1946 - ) became the musical director for The Temptations, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Aretha Franklin, Barry White and The Love Unlimited Orchestra. He has arranged music on the albums by Michael Jackson, Outkast, and Justin Timberlake.

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Benjamin Wright's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes his maternal and paternal family histories

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about his parents return to Greenville, Mississippi from Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his experience at Julia L. Armstrong Elementary School

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright talks about being inspired to play piano by his church and his sister

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright talks about playing his sister's piano

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about his choir at Coleman High School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his high school doo-wop group, The Soothers

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about his choir at Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about his choir at Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about singing in the choir at St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about playing in his high school band director's swing group

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright describes chopping cotton and avoiding snakes with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright talks about his father's independent contractor business

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about his early awareness of racism in Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about Emmett Till and meeting the Freedom Riders

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes the difference between his parents' attitudes about the Civil Rights Movement and his own

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes his growing consciousness of the Civil Rights Movement during high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes his maturation in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright describes his first experience writing music

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright describes how a performance of Handel's "Messiah" encouraged him to write music

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright describes honing his ear as an arranger at Coleman High School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright describes being expelled from Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about receiving his diploma from Coleman High School in Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright recalls his introduction to Down Beat magazine and HistoryMaker B.B. King

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about working for his father and meeting with his high school counselor

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright describes auditioning for Ted Taylor's band

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright recalls beginning to tour with singer Ted Taylor

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright describes his experience touring with singer Ted Taylor

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about why he has never done drugs

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes meeting Peggy Lee and his decision to remain on the road with Ted Taylor

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about a Civil Rights march and concert with James Brown and Mitty Collier in Birmingham, Alabama in 1965

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes trying to avoid the Vietnam War draft by enrolling at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright describes a racist experience on the first night he was in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about studying music while in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his job in the communications center at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright describes the last time he saw his mother and getting an Humanitarian Deferment during the Vietnam War

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about touring as an organist with Bobby Moore and The Rhythm Aces and Skip McQueen

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes playing with Skip McQueen's trio

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about moving to Chicago, Illinois to play with Jerry Wilson's band, the Pieces of Peace

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright recalls meeting Duke Ellington while in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright recalls meeting Duke Ellington while in the U.S. Air Force, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about joining the Pieces of Peace in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes enrolling at the Chicago Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright describes his experience in Singapore

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his experience at the Chicago Conservatory in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright talks about the difference between music education and practical musicianship

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright describes the growth of his career as an arranger

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Benjamin Wright describes moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Slating of Benjamin Wright's interview, session 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright remembers his return to civilian life

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright recalls being drafted

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about going back on tour with Bobby Moore and the Rhythm Aces after his military discharge

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright recalls the racism in the South during his early tours

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright remembers President Bill Clinton

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright remembers meeting Skip McQuinn

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright remembers playing music for the mob

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his decision to move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about abstaining from drug use

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about composing music

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright remembers his work as a copyist

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his business and marketing philosophy

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright recalls the artists he's work with

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright remembers passing the entrance exam to the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his experience at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about the European tour with Pieces of Peace

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes why Pieces of Peace dissolved after their European tour

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright remembers playing popular nightclubs in Chicago, Illinois with The Benjamin Wright Orchestra

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright recalls his reasons for moving to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright remembers his early success in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright talks about becoming the music director for The Temptations

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright reflects upon his work with The Temptations

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright recalls his biggest hits as a composer

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about negotiating his rate as an arranger and composer

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright recalls meeting Quincy Jones

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright remembers writing music for Quincy Jones

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright talks about his biggest hit singles

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright remembers working with Michael Jackson

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright describes Quincy Jones

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright remembers opening Ritesonian Recording Studio in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright talks about his role as musical director and conductor for the 'Night of the Living Divas'

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright talks about touring with Gladys Knight and the Pips

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about arranging music for major artists

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright remembers the Easter program at the L.A. Forum for Faithful Central Church, pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright remembers the Easter program at the L.A. Forum for Faithful Central Church, pt. 1

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright describes his work arranging and composing music for churches

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Benjamin Wright talks about his faith

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Benjamin Wright talks about his family

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Benjamin Wright describes his musical philosophy

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Benjamin Wright shares his work philosophy

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Benjamin Wright talks about his plans for the future

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Benjamin Wright reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Benjamin Wright reflects upon his life

Tape: 13 Story: 9 - Benjamin Wright describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 13 Story: 10 - Benjamin Wright shares his advice for aspiring musicians

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Benjamin Wright narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Benjamin Wright talks about Emmett Till and meeting the Freedom Riders
Benjamin Wright talks about a Civil Rights march and concert with James Brown and Mitty Collier in Birmingham, Alabama in 1965
Transcript
The Emmett Till thing--you know, we didn't have television, my family, okay, but the when the Emmett Till thing happened, wow, that was heavy duty.$$What are the details that you remember about Emmett Till affair?$$Well, you know, the word was Emmett Till came from Chicago [Illinois], visiting his cousin or whatever and supposedly he whistled at a white woman, and now then (unclear) killed him, identifiable. Shot him, beat him, threw him in the river. You didn't--in Greenville, you didn't see that on a daily basis because you didn't have contact with white people. But as you begin to go to school and whatever--I lived in what is called the "south end." The south end had a big white school called, E.E. Bass [School], by the railroad tracks. Now, I had to--E.E. Bass was maybe 10 or 12 blocks from my house, but I had to go approximately five miles to get to my school [Coleman High School] and you had a choice. You could take the streets or you could take the railroad tracks. The railroad track was a shorter route but you had two dangers, the train--(simultaneous)--$$--Right.--(simultaneous)--$$--there wasn't much room on either side if the train came, and white kids at the school that you had to pass, so nobody knew the other one. There was a fight every day, rock throwing or whatever. And it was like-- I never understood that.$$Was there retaliatory rock throwing, in other words, when the white kids threw at you, you would throw back at them?$$Yeah, yeah, you know. I mean it was on every day, and, you know, you didn't want to--you didn't want to take the track by yourself, generally there was four or five guys, you know. But the racial thing was bad. And like I said, nobody knew each other. White kids didn't know the black kids and vice versa. What the hell are we fighting for, you know? Now, my--my parents [Benjamin F. Wright, Sr. and Colonus Miller], love, love, love, love, love and I have a problem with that because that ain't what's happening outside of this door. Okay? My dad was the Sunday school superintendent, you know. All my dad know is God and carpentry. Never heard him curse, good man. But I don't like what's happening with this, I can't go here, I can't do this. I never knew nothing else, but there is something is wrong here, instinctively something is wrong.$$Okay.$$When the Freedom Riders came, information, information. Well, I'm hanging out down there because all this pent up stuff for me to feel that something is wrong. Now somebody else show up and showed that it is wrong because we didn't get that basically from home, you know.$I-- There's a James Brown date. [Austin] Ted Taylor used to headline over James Brown.$$Okay.$$Now, it's about August. August 1965, 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag' hit. Nobody head lined over James no more. So we're going to big James Brown date. I'm excited because a couple of cats in our band knew cats in James' band. They had gone to school together, or something, or whatever, so I'm excited. This gig is in Birmingham, Alabama. I think it's called Ridgeway Field [sic. Rickwood Field]. It's a stadium. James is big. But it's two things happening in town that day, the James Brown gig, which I'm excited to get to, but that morning, there was a march, [Reverend] Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] was in Birmingham.$$Okay.$$Now, I've been so Civil Rights conscious and the whole bit. I'm going to be in that march.$$Okay.$$I made that march.$$You're at the march that morning.$$That morning, and that evening--(simultaneous)--$$---you played with James Brown?$$Yes. Now, this was another experience. There was a young lady on the show called, Mitty Collier. Mitty Collier had a big record at that time called 'I had a Talk with My Man Last Night.' Mitty didn't have a band. [Austin] Ted Taylor's band is to play behind Mitty Collier. Well, now, we're set up at around second base. They're calling Mitty Collier. "Mitty Collier!" The stadium is full and people are calling. People are screaming. And this guy is running out toward second base where the band is with some charts. I'd never seen any charts other than in the high school band. The band starts playing (singing) with everybody's come on song. The guy is running out, Mitty Collier. She appears and she is strolling. The guy came out and staring passing music. What am I going to do with this? I can't read this. I can read drum stuff. I'm the piano player. Guess what? In Mitty Collier's record, there is a piano solo--two bar piano solo that is big in the song. (Singing) "I said I had a talk with my man." This is a big part in the song, so they do two songs while I sat silently. And the third song was her hit record. Now, I've been looking through this chart. Throughout these two songs, nobody had heard me, but I could figure out based on my choir experience and my notation in terms of beats and whatever, I was able to figure out that part. So when it got to that part, I'm ready man. I turn up, and I kill it.$$All right.$$I became the hit of the tour. I was so embarrassed. I was so embarrassed.$$About?$$Because I couldn't handle the music.

Julian White

Julian E. White is a distinguished English Professor of Music, Chairman of the Department of Music and Director of the famous “Marching 100” Band at Florida A&M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, Florida.

White was born in Jacksonville, Florida on March 3, 1941. His parents were Victoria (Richo) White and George White. Raised and educated in Jacksonville, White graduated from Stanton High School in 1959. He earned his B.A. degree in music education from FAMU, his M.A. degree from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from Florida State University.

White is a product of the “Marching 100” family, having played in the band as a student, before going on to a career as a high school band director and music teacher. He returned to FAMU to join the band staff in the 1970s as the band’s Associate Director before ascending to the top position in 1998.

Prior to joining the FAMU faculty in 1972, White was a Band Director at Northwestern Junior/Senior High from 1963 to 1965 and was the first director of the William Raines High School Band in 1965, both in Jacksonville.

For a period of ten years, White served as drill designer for the McDonald’s All-America High School Band with appearances at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California and the Fiesta Bowl of Phoenix, Arizona. His drills have been featured in performances on all major television networks and the Bastille Day Ceremony in Paris, France.

White assists with half time shows for Bowl Games of America and is on the adjudication staff for Musical Festivals USA, International Music Festivals and Heritage Festivals, in addition to writing drill shows for high school and college bands.

White is the father of Tonja, born in 1969, and Phaedra, born in 1971, from his first marriage. In 2000, he married Dennine (Mathis), and they are parents of Julian E. White II, born in 2005.

White was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 18, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.124

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/18/2006

Last Name

White

Maker Category
Schools

New Stanton High School

First Name

Julian

Birth City, State, Country

Jacksonville

HM ID

WHI09

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

Panama City, Florida

Favorite Quote

There Are Consequences To Every Action You Engage In.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

3/3/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tallahassee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish (Fried), Steak

Short Description

Music professor and music director Julian White (1941 - ) was a distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman of the Department of Music at Florida A&M University. He also served as the director of the famed FAMU “Marching 100” Band.

Employment

Northwestern Junior-Senior High School

William Marion Raines Senior High School

Florida A & M University

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Julian White's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Julian White lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Julian White describes his occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Julian White remembers the beginnings of his interest in music

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Julian White describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Julian White describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Julian White describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Julian White describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Julian White remembers celebrating holidays with his family

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Julian White describes his family's musical abilities

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Julian White remembers growing up before electric appliances were common

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Julian White describes his siblings' professions

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Julian White describes the community of Durkeeville in Jacksonville, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Julian White describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Julian White remembers Jacksonville's College Park Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Julian White describes his personality as a student

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Julian White describes his junior high school and high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Julian White recalls his first year at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Julian White recalls his first performances with the Marching 100

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Julian White describes his early years in the Marching 100

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Julian White describes his role in the Marching 100 as an undergraduate

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Julian White describes his career upon graduating from college

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Julian White reflects upon his work as a high school band director

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Julian White remembers segregation in Jacksonville, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Julian White recalls becoming associate band director of the Marching 100

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Julian White explains the topic of his dissertation

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Julian White describes the recruitment process for the Marching 100

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Julian White describes the influence of African dance on the Marching 100

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Julian White describes the instruments played by the Marching 100

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Julian White reflects upon the Marching 100's diverse audience and music

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Julian White describes the popularity of marching bands at historically black colleges

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Julian White remembers working alongside William Foster

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Julian White describes how the Marching 100's performances are created

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Julian White describes the Marching 100's performances outside of football games

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Julian White describes the McDonald's All American High School Band

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Julian White describes the history behind the name of the Florida A&M Rattlers

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Julian White describes his involvement in musical organizations

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Julian White describes the Marching 100's competition

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Julian White describes the staff and facilities at Florida A&M University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Julian White describes his family

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Julian White reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Julian White shares his advice for future band directors

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Julian White describes his clinics for band directors and student musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Julian White reflects upon the importance of preserving history

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Julian White describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Julian White narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

10$10

DATitle
Julian White describes his family's musical abilities
Julian White remembers working alongside William Foster
Transcript
You said your mother [Victoria Richo White] played the piano?$$Yes, she did.$$Yeah. Tell me about her piano playing and what are your memories of her, her musical interests?$$She was a--she took piano lessons, but she was not a virtuoso pianist. She could play hymns and she could play favorite songs and, you know, she could sit, sit at the piano and just play anything by ear even though she had, I would say primary piano lessons, and she would sing. She didn't sing as well as my grandmother [Florence Richo] and sometimes when we would be bad or she would get disgusted, or she may be feeling not well because of her illness and she would sing. And especially when we were bad, and that singing would sometime penetrate. She'd sing 'Jesus, Keep Me Near The Cross,' and 'Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior,' and she would sing those songs and they were just like they were just gnaw at me and I'd take the pillow and put it over my head, and my bedroom was right next to the kitchen where she'd be working. And she'd say, "You know, you're gonna, one day you're gonna wish you could hear this voice," and she knew what she was saying because if today now if I could hear that voice again, oh, it would be so glorious. But, but she was--she was a good musician and I think the musicality, her musicality rubbed off on my sister [Willoughby White (ph.)] because my sister was a virtuoso pianist. She was a virtuoso musician and she played the flute. She played the piano and she inspired--she taught me music. Taught me to play the flute which I, I played before I started on the other instruments, and so that the background I think extended from my grandmother who was a great vocalist to my mother who played piano. Not a virtuoso pianist, but nevertheless did play piano, and then my sister picked up the music and she was just a fantastic musician (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) What was the first instrument that you picked up?$$The first instrument I picked up was the trombone. I sounded horrible on it.$$How old were you?$$I was about nine years old. My brother played the trombone and he sounded horrible, too. So, I imitated the sound then I put it down and didn't, didn't try it anymore because I was really keenly interested in playing sports. I did--I was captain of the swimming team, so I did do sports some. I was a very good swimmer and, I still swim. I, I do a mile a day in the family's pool and, and in my pool in the summertime. But--so, I, I--that side of, of the--of being an athlete did materialize, but that's basically it.$What was it like working under Dr. Foster [HistoryMaker William Foster]? You came and you accepted that position. That's why you're where you are today?$$Um-hm.$$But what was it like working under Dr. Foster?$$It was quite an honor, a distinction and a definite learning period. Dr. Foster is a tremendous musician, administrator and organizer. And to further (cough) my education with him, I think prepared me for everything that I do now. He was--he was and is meticulous in his organization of the administrative aspects of the band program [at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, Florida]. His rehearsal techniques and the development of the marching band [Marching 100] and the concert band employs concepts that ensure success as far as fundamentals are concerned. Marching fundamentals, musical fundamentals, tonal quality, intonation, articulation, phrase and balance, all the performance fundamentals. He was meticulous in that. And then his interpersonal relationships in dealing with his staff--in dealing with the students. He served as an inspiration in terms of the music, the marching, the academics, the character building, the integrity. All were just personified by him, so that was truly an awesome experience. I worked with him. I worked as his associate for twenty-five years and he retired and as far as I'm concerned, he could have sti-, he could still be here and I could still be associate because it was just a pleasure working with him. And I also had the freedom to develop myself and to develop the band along with. So, it was just a great experience.$$Well, the transition from his tenure to your present position took place in what year?$$Nineteen ninety-eight [1998].$$Nineteen ninety-eight [1998].

Reverend Dr. Dwight Andrews

Musical theorist, composer and minister, the Reverend Dwight Douglas Andrews was born on September 24, 1951, in Detroit, Michigan, to city administrator James Wildrex Andrews and Lovetta Foster Andrews. He attended Longfellow Elementary School and Durphy Junior High School, where music instructor Andy White introduced him to live jazz performed by Yusef Lateef, Ramsey Lewis, the Jazz Crusaders and other greats. At Cass Technical High School, Andrews studied the classics and learned music theory from Marilyn Jones. He also led his own band called the Seven Sounds, which often opened for the group Parliament-Funkadelic. Earning a partial scholarship to the University of Michigan in 1969, Andrews played in the marching band at two Rose Bowls and participated in the Black Action Movement (BAM). Receiving his B.A. degree in 1973 and his M.A. degree in music, Andrews went on to Yale University to earn his Masters of Divinity degree in 1977 and his Ph.D. in music theory in 1993.

Ordained as a minister in 1978, Andrews served as associate pastor of Christ’s Church as well as a faculty member of the Music Department and the Department of African American Studies. He served as the Yale University campus chaplain for ten years. At Yale University, Andrews met Lloyd Richards of the Yale Repertory Theatre and playwright, August Wilson. As the Yale Repertory’s resident music director, Andrews would go on to compose the original musical scores for most of the August Wilson Broadway productions including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson and Seven Guitars. Andrews also composed movie and television scores for The Old Settler, W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices, In Her Own Words, Homecoming, Ms. Evers Boys and I’ll Make Me A World. He worked with Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and Phylicia Rashad on a new Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun. Specializing in woodwinds, Andrews has served as a multi-instrumentalist on over twenty-five jazz and new music albums. He can be heard on Jay Hoggard’s The Right Track with Hilton Ruiz and Jack Dejhonette.

Since 1994, at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Andrews has served as an associate professor of music theory, where he teaches “The History of Jazz” and “Sacred Music in the United States.” He also serves as pastor of First Congregational Church, where Rev. Andrew Young is associate pastor. He was the first Quincy Jones Visiting Professor of African American Music at Harvard University in 1997. Andrews has received the Pew Trust/TCG Artist Residency Fellowship, a Mellon Fellowship and Emory University’s Distinguished Teacher Award.

Accession Number

A2006.093

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/16/2006

Last Name

Andrews

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Cass Technical High School

Longfellow Elementary School

Durfee Elementary School

University of Michigan

Yale Divinity School

Yale University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Weekends

First Name

Dwight

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

AND02

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Any

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes

Favorite Season

Fall

Speaker Bureau Notes

Availability Specifics: Thursday, Evenings Through Monday Evenings

Preferred Audience: Any

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

9/24/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Macaroni, Cheese

Short Description

Music director, chaplain, and pastor Reverend Dr. Dwight Andrews (1951 - ) composed the original musical scores for most of the August Wilson Broadway productions as the Yale Repertory’s resident music director, in addition to scoring many other Broadway, television and film productions. He is an associate professor of music theory at Emory University, and serves as pastor of First Congregational Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dwight Andrews' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dwight Andrews lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dwight Andrews shares his maternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dwight Andrews talks about his mother's childhood and education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dwight Andrews describes his grandfather's career as an itinerant minister

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dwight Andrews talks about his father and paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dwight Andrews talks about his father's education and career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dwight Andrews talks about how his parents met and his family

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dwight Andrews shares his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dwight Andrews describes how he takes after his mother and father

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dwight Andrews describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Dwight Andrews describes his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dwight Andrews remembers the beginning of his interest in playing music

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dwight Andrews describes the jazz musicians who inspired him in his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dwight Andrews talks about his cultural and artistic education in childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dwight Andrews shares his experiences with marching bands

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dwight Andrews describes his experience and mentors at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dwight Andrews talks about his high school rock 'n' roll band and the musicians he met

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dwight Andrews describes enrolling at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1969

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dwight Andrews describes the Black Action Movement at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1969

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dwight Andrews talks about marching band and football at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dwight Andrews talks about some of the football players at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan while he was there

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dwight Andrews recalls learning about black culture and history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dwight Andrews describes the competitive environment at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dwight Andrews shares how he decided to go into ministry

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dwight Andrews describes enrolling at the Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut in 1974

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dwight Andrews reflects on his teachers and development at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dwight Andrews describes getting his doctorate in music theory from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dwight Andrews reflects upon the similarities between jazz and classical music

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dwight Andrews describes the intellectual environment for African Americans at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Dwight Andrews shares his experience of August Wilson's funeral

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Dwight Andrews talks about HistoryMaker Lloyd Richards

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dwight Andrews shares his memory of August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson"

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dwight Andrews talks about the song "Berta, Berta" from "The Piano Lesson" and reflects upon his collaborations with August Wilson

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dwight Andrews talks about his decision to continue his careers in music and ministry simultaneously

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dwight Andrews describes his experience in the black avant-garde music scene, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dwight Andrews describes his experience in the black avant-garde music scene, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dwight Andrews shares his theological approach

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dwight Andrews talks about his theological influences

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dwight Andrews describes the influence of African religions on his theology and musical aesthetics

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dwight Andrews talks about some of the plays he has scored

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dwight Andrews talks about moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dwight Andrews talks about HistoryMaker Andrew Young

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dwight Andrews recalls how he became senior minister at the First Congregational Church in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dwight Andrews describes his experience as the senior minister at the First Congregational Church in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dwight Andrews talks about his current artistic work

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dwight Andrews talks about the potential of television to host intellectual conversations about race

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dwight Andrews talks about spirituality in jazz music

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dwight Andrews shares his critique of Ken Burns' "Jazz" series

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dwight Andrews describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Dwight Andrews describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dwight Andrews reflects on what he would change about his life

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dwight Andrews reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Dwight Andrews talks about his wife, Desiree Pedescleaux

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Dwight Andrews shares his excitement for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Dwight Andrews describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

4$3

DATitle
Dwight Andrews describes his experience in the black avant-garde music scene, pt. 1
Dwight Andrews recalls how he became senior minister at the First Congregational Church in Atlanta, Georgia
Transcript
Now you're a musician who plays with the likes of--you were talking about the avant-garde black musicians and you, I know haven't lived in Chicago [Illinois] a long time but AACM [Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians] musicians, the guys in New York like David Murray, and people like that Arthur Blythe that play some-$$Pretty out-there music.$$--(unclear) cutting edge, the musicians that make most of their money in Europe. Who can't-- Americans here sometimes can't handle what they are doing.$$That's right.$$You know.$$For me learning and discovering the new music scene in New York [New York City, New York] and the avant-garde in New York really just pushed me in a good way because coming from the University of Michigan [Ann Arbor, Michigan] which is really a pretty conservative conservatory, I really didn't know what Roscoe Mitchell and the Art Ensemble [Art Ensemble of Chicago]--what they were doing and when I first got these opportunities to sit in and be involved with these musicians, I had no idea how to participate. I would literally-- I didn't understand the language, I didn't understand the techniques and they were so patient with me because I had an understanding of the instrument and all of the doubles but I had no idea about this musical language and its own traditions. So it was really opening me up because the musicians on the avant-garde scene were also hanging out with the writers. It was really David Murray and Ntozake Shange and Jessica Hagedorn, Thulani Davis that was part of the scene, Sam Rivers. I mean everyone was on that one scene so if you were on the new music scene that also meant you were on the new prose scene because the theater and all of that they all kind of reinforced one another. So I got a chance to spend time with Zake and Thulani because of David Murray and those musicians because they were all in one seamless environment. The writers were looking for inspiration from the musicians and vice versa. So it was once again yet another kind of great tableau for me to get a chance to just be involved in and certainly opened me up aesthetically and that's what I needed, that was the final piece because I don't think I knew where to put new art in my understanding of a black aesthetic and [Amiri] Baraka had tried to explain it to me in a way that I could understand but we were fussing too much for me to fully understand it. By playing with David and David got me on some of my first gigs in New York because he had just come from California and [HM] Stanley Crouch had just come from California. They really helped me to try and understand "Okay how does our tradition speak to the future and how does it speak to black freedom and black liberation." And so just being with those musicians and kind of stretching the envelope and saying "It's good because I say it's good as an artist not because it sounds like somebody else--it sounds like it's suppose to sound because I say it." That kind of understanding and independence really liberated me I think as an artist. And I really needed that piece to be able to make peace with the way in which the blues and the avant-garde are part of the same universe because they are both expressing our struggle for freedom and personal value. So that has been kind of the ground on which I kind of understand all of black art and aesthetics and it's been useful to try to say yes hip hop and James Brown and Anthony Braxton are part of the same universe. And if you have a, if you have a willingness to listen to what holds them together, you will hear it but only if you think of black culture in the small way do you see these discreet little expressions unrelated.$Okay. Now you're with First Congregational Church [Atlanta, Georgia]--(simultaneous) (unclear).$$I'm the pastor.$$Yeah pastor and how did that come about?$$With great difficulty (laugh). The long and the short of it is simply that I was teaching at Emory [University in Atlanta, Georgia], wanted very much to continue my ministry in some way in Atlanta and after a couple of years of not really being offered very much here at First Congregational Church where my wife [Desiree Pedescleaux] and I attended the senior minister finally invited me to work with youth as an assistant minister part-time. So I took that on. That was right around 1992. After two years of working with the youth, Rev. [George] Thomas left suddenly to take a church in Chicago [Illinois] and so I thought that since I had been such a good successful youth minister that of course the church would realize my depth and my wisdom and make me the senior minister. So I candidated for the senior minister's position and unfortunately I wasn't selected. The church really was kind of split and they selected another candidate, a very gifted preacher from Washington [D.C.], Susan Newman. Susan came as the senior minister then I needed to be like any old administration, I needed to get out of town in a way but I couldn't really leave town. So I think I worked on [August Wilson's] "Seven Guitars" the play as my excuse for not being at church while she got settled in her administration. But what happened was she only stayed for a couple of years and then left suddenly and then the church had no minister and so those that had really wanted me said "See we told you, you should have taken Reverend Dwight" and others they wanted Susan, they were disappointed that she was leaving and the church was really fractured. And then enter [HM Andrew] Andy Young who at a church picnic says, "You know the church is at such odds with itself, it's not ready to call a minister. Why don't we have a ministerial team and take some time and just let everyone catch their breath. We have many ordained ministers who are members of our church" and so that's what we did. So the church allowed me to be the head of the team-to coordinate the team and so for three years from 1996 to 1999, I was the coordinator of a team ministry to give us time to be renewed and to heal. Then finally in 1999 the church said, "well Dwight we like a team but we really want to have somebody to blame when stuff is not going right so we want to call you as the senior minister" and so that's how it happened. So in 1999, I was installed as the senior minister of the church. But as you can see it was the long way around and I think that was a good thing for everyone. I certainly was in a different place when they asked me to come again and I think they were in a different place when they saw that I might serve them well as a senior minister.

Robert Winfrey

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.

Accession Number

A2005.254

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/7/2005

Last Name

Winfrey

Maker Category
Schools

David T. Howard High School

Yonge Street Elementary School

Morehouse College

Columbia University

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Atlanta

HM ID

WIN04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Atlanta, Georgia

Favorite Quote

See How The Masses Of Men Worry Themselves Into Nameless Graves While Here A Faithful Servant Loses Himself Into Immortality.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

6/14/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish, Vegetables

Short Description

Education administrator, music composer, and music director Robert Winfrey (1933 - ) served as the director of the world renowned Kuumba Singers of Harvard University, and is responsible for building a multicultural school music program in Boston, making music education available to all students at the high school level.

Employment

Hubbard Elementary and High School

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Jeremiah E. Burke High School

Roland Hayes School of Music

The Kuumba Singers of Harvard College

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:1840,43:8240,179:8640,185:12000,257:16401,267:16816,273:18144,305:21132,367:33500,496:35580,519:38076,532:39249,557:39939,572:45942,740:46425,749:49944,825:51531,864:52290,881:52635,887:53808,903:55326,938:55878,947:56154,952:67190,1040:71220,1126:71805,1142:73300,1179:73690,1186:77135,1285:77720,1297:79475,1346:80060,1357:80840,1371:81165,1377:85645,1398:86035,1405:87920,1438:88245,1444:89350,1468:90000,1482:90780,1498:93185,1559:93640,1572:97800,1672:98060,1677:98320,1682:108754,1836:116272,1942:118846,1994:119110,1999:120496,2035:134708,2248:135676,2261:137436,2294:138492,2308:142276,2365:142892,2376:143508,2384:144124,2393:144476,2398:149070,2420:149425,2427:152833,2480:159410,2575$0,0:6514,59:6818,64:9250,107:9554,112:10010,119:13010,136:18236,216:18764,223:22082,261:27116,476:27456,482:30244,653:34868,756:36228,794:36908,805:37996,821:38336,827:42520,841:44040,867:44360,872:44760,878:46680,910:47400,920:47720,925:48200,932:48520,937:53318,993:53846,1000:57102,1070:57894,1083:58686,1093:60710,1126:65389,1156:65601,1161:66131,1178:70256,1249:75176,1306:90363,1606:91053,1617:91329,1622:94230,1631:96300,1650
DAStories

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

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Robert Winfrey recalls adjusting to life in Boston
Robert Winfrey talks about actor and singer Carl Anderson
Transcript
And there were opportunities that began to open up for me to do things.$$For example?$$Well one of the things that I wanted to do is I've always wanted to be I was turned on with young people young minds and I did this in Lynchburg [Virginia] when I worked with some young people who went on to greatness like Carl Anderson and some of the others in fact they're now teaching in the colleges. I've always found that fascinating to motivate achievers, youngsters to achieve and to rise high. So that I, I found myself limited here until I got to know more people. I was introduced by some parents to a METCO [Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, Boston, Massachusetts] program and they said those youngsters could benefit to what you bring so I was interested in developing some kind of music program, maybe a choir or something like that with that program and then other things began to open up, Model Cities. I became a creative arts director for Paul--the executive director by the name of Paul Parks or so the executive director of Model Cities or so and one of the divisions so I became a creative arts. That brought me closer to young minds there over and beyond school.$$This is outside the schools?$$Outside the schools. You see one of the discouragements in schools and this was the thing that really frightened me was when I was accustomed to after school you had after school programs you know rehearsals and other activities. School was just a way of life and in the South. I was accustomed to that and the first thing that my first day of school they told me among and all the new teachers, "Look when the bell sounds for your last class, pack your bags and get out of here." And I said what? I was not accustomed to that. I was accustomed to saying okay young people we'll get together we'll plan a program, we'll plan some activity, we'll do some rehearsing or so for an hour or two. I didn't find that here. And I found that very, very discouraging but this town, this city was going through a transition or so and I guess for safety sake and I still didn't understand that, nobody's gonna bother me or so I wanna stay here. But they told me I couldn't do it, that fifteen minutes I have to get out of the building and that was one of the discouraging aspects of my teaching school here. That changed also. So I began to make other changes began to take place and I felt more like I could contribute to the, to the cultural life of the community, the educational life, motivate youngsters and that bit. And that's why I, I stayed.$Who is Carl Anderson?$$Carl Anderson was perhaps one of my most gifted students, maybe one of the nation's most gifted students, actor, vocalist in 'Color Purple' ['The Color Purple'] you name it. Starred in 'Jesus Christ Superstar' so the movie and the stage production so. I used to get Carl Anderson, Carl Anderson was not with Roland Hayes [Roland Hayes Division of Music at Madison Park High School; Roland Hayes School of Music, Boston, Massachusetts], he was with my first position in Virginia at Dunbar [Paul Laurence Dunbar High School; Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School for Innovation, Lynchburg, Virginia]. I used to work at the kinds of programs I disappointed in when I first came to Boston [Massachusetts]; I used to work with Carl after school. This when I could get to the individual attention or so after school and in addition to the classroom work after school. Carl went on to he was graduated from Dunbar High School and then he went to Washington, D.C. He went to Howard University [Washington, D.C.] and then he discontinued and he started singing at a church in Washington, D.C. and he formed a group and they were heard and then from there on he went to he auditioned for Broadway, big jump. And he made it. He was selected. Then he auditioned for the movie. He went to Israel and that's where they made the movie. And he went from there to sky's the limit. I'll be sitting in my living room and sometimes I'd be watching 'The Johnny Carson Show' ['The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson'] or some other culture program and there was Carl performing on that program, perhaps my most prolific student or so yeah.

Willie Kitchens

Born on January 6, 1956, to a musical family in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Willie David Kitchens, Jr., fell in love with music at an early age. At age seven, Kitchens began singing at community churches with his sisters and his father, a guitarist with the gospel group Five Sons of Calvary. Kitchens soon became a member of the Rosebud Choir at his family’s church, Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist. Willie Kitchens, Sr. taught his son to play guitar when he was ten, and at sixteen the younger Kitchens joined the Five Sons of Calvary as bass guitarist and background vocalist.

With the Five Sons, Kitchens performed with groups including the Swan Silvertones, the Brooklyn All-Stars, and the Jackson Southernaires. Diversifying his repertoire, Kitchens joined the funk band at Howard High School as lead guitarist and lead vocalist while continuing to perform gospel at church and with the Five Sons. After graduating high school, Kitchens attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

At age twenty-four, Kitchens began to concentrate on gospel performance. Over the years, he taught himself to play the harmonica, piano, and electric keyboards. Kitchens performed and ministered everywhere from “Bobby Jones Gospel” to colleges, to prisons.

In 1995, Kitchens became Music and Performing Arts Director for the Bethlehem Center, a ministry in inner-city Chattanooga; there he created a traveling youth choir for children from two to eighteen years of age and opened the Bethlehem Recording Studio for the Bethlehem Center’s radio and television programs. Kitchens’s choir recorded four albums, three of them at the Bethlehem Recording Studio. Kitchens also performed for luminaries including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In December 1999, Kitchens joined Samuel Gooden, Fred Cash, and Vandy Hampton in the Impressions, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rhythm and blues group that launched Curtis Mayfield’s career. In 2001, the Impressions toured with Eric Clapton.

Kitchens served as lead vocalist for the group—the role that Mayfield filled from 1963-1970. Kitchens, a long-term resident of Chattanooga, Tennessee, left the Impressions in 2002 and went on to work for the Bethlehem Center, where he served as the executive director of the Bethlehem Center Mass Choir and minister of music to the Bethlehem-Wiley United Methodist Church.

Willie Kitchens was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 27, 2005.

Accession Number

A2005.171

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/27/2005

Last Name

Kitchens

Maker Category
Organizations
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Days

First Name

Willie

Birth City, State, Country

Chattanooga

HM ID

KIT01

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Youth Teens

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - 0 - $500

Favorite Season

Christmas

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium Specifics: $500
Preferred Audience: Youth Teens

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Favorite Quote

If He Hung Out There, We Ought To Be Able To At Least Hang In There.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

1/6/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chattanooga

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Short Description

Gospel musician, music director, and singer Willie Kitchens (1956 - ) sang with the musical group, The Impressions, and served as executive director of the Bethlehem Center Mass Choir and minister of music to the Bethlehem-Wiley United Methodist Church.

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:7325,118:7860,124:8395,130:20646,233:21776,248:22567,256:34929,421:39353,512:45357,632:54878,736:62348,854:64257,904:65585,928:66083,935:66830,946:82685,1077:92290,1313:95265,1387:100960,1509:101470,1516:104190,1561:114004,1640:119026,1764:119512,1771:132850,1928$0,0:15052,256:22585,315:22925,320:23775,342:28620,422:32105,464:32955,488:40120,558:41920,586:42280,591:43360,606:45970,652:48490,687:50290,717:50830,725:55780,766:57400,830:93750,1360:107664,1535:108267,1547:110746,1599:111081,1605:111818,1619:112153,1625:113694,1662:114364,1676:126264,1840:128239,1887:129898,1927:130214,1932:141906,2187:142301,2193:148880,2243:149192,2248:151844,2289:153482,2345:158006,2442:158318,2447:165494,2606:165962,2613:166274,2618:175200,2684
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willie Kitchens' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willie Kitchens lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willie Kitchens talks about his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willie Kitchens talks about musicianship in his mother's family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willie Kitchens talks about his mother's upbringing in Sandersville, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willie Kitchens talks about his paternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willie Kitchens talks about his father's upbringing and migration to Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willie Kitchens describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Willie Kitchens talks about musicianship within his father's family and the WLAC radio station in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Willie Kitchens describes his parents' personalities and considers which parent he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Willie Kitchens describes his earliest childhood memories and the sights, sounds, and smells of his neighborhood in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Willie Kitchens describes the racial demographic in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the 1960s

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Willie Kitchens describes his experience at the Howard Elementary and High School in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willie Kitchens remembers his choir classes at Howard High School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willie Kitchens remembers singing in the Rosebud choir at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willie Kitchens talks about his sisters, and his parents' co-parenting

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willie Kitchens remembers learning to play guitar with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willie Kitchens describes the kinds of records he remembers hearing on the radio and at home

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willie Kitchens recalls civil rights activity in 1960s Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willie Kitchens remembers listening to the blues at home

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willie Kitchens talks about playing sports in high school and being invited to play with his father's gospel band, the Five Sons of Calvary

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Willie Kitchens talks about enrolling at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Willie Kitchens describes transitioning from gospel music to secular music, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Willie Kitchens comments on some musicians from Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Willie Kitchens talks about working as a musician in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the early 1970s

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Willie Kitchens recalls playing and singing at First Baptist Church of Bozentown

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Willie Kitchens describes transitioning from gospel music to secular music, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Willie Kitchens describes playing on the Bobby Jones Gospel TV show and his affection for Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willie Kitchens talks about taping HistoryMaker Bobby Jones' gospel show, 'Bobby Jones Gospel'

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willie Kitchens talks about becoming the minister of music at Church of the First Born and Friendship Community Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willie Kitchens talks about the history of the Bethlehem-Wiley United Methodist Church of Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willie Kitchens talks about directing the Bethlehem Center Mass Youth Choir

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willie Kitchens describes recording the Bethlehem Center Mass Youth Choir

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willie Kitchens explains how he became a member of The Impressions in 1999

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willie Kitchens remembers his first performance with The Impressions in 1999

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willie Kitchens lists noteworthy past and present members of The Impressions, including HistoryMakers Jerry Butler, Samuel Gooden and Fred Cash

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Willie Kitchens talks about touring with The Impressions and finding his own sound

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Willie Kitchens talks about The Impressions' performance schedule at the time of the interview

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Willie Kitchens describes highlights of his experience as a member of The Impressions

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Willie Kitchens talks about being inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame with The Impressions

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willie Kitchens talks about his favorite Impressions song, 'People Get Ready' as well as Curtis Mayfield

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willie Kitchens talks about the original songs he has written for The Impressions

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willie Kitchens describes his musical philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willie Kitchens shares his advice to young singers and musicians

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willie Kitchens expresses his hopes and concerns for the African-American demographic

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willie Kitchens considers what he would change about his past

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willie Kitchens reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Willie Kitchens talks briefly about the support of his family

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Willie Kitchens expresses how much he appreciates having gotten the opportunity to work with The Impressions

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Willie Kitchens describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Willie Kitchens narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

4$6

DATitle
Willie Kitchens remembers learning to play guitar with his father
Willie Kitchens explains how he became a member of The Impressions in 1999
Transcript
Okay, now how old were you when your father [Willie Kitchens, Sr.] started showing you how to play the guitar?$$I was about seven years old, seven or eight when I could remember him putting that guitar in my lap. In fact, I used to sneak and, and play it when he was not at home. I'd go in and open up the case and grab it and try to play a little bit of it.$$Okay, could you play a little bit?$$No considering I would just be strumming and getting blisters on my finger. And couldn't do anything with it but just to know that I could go to it and get it, it was, you know, that was enough for me.$$Okay, do, do you remember the first thing you learn how to play?$$I believe what he taught me was--it was just a chord I think it was just a chord. It wasn't a song it was like a chord here, and then he would tell me this is the first and this is the second and this is the fourth. And I would learn things like that, so it wasn't actually a song. But actually when I heard a sound that sound like a chord I went, man, I knew it was getting there it was getting there, so that was about it.$$Okay, so how long was it before you started actually playing the guitar, you know, in public?$$Well after my dad left I think I got a little bit more intense with it. My mom [Lena Pearl Wise] bought me a guitar and then I got together with my sisters, and we formed a group and we started singing. And I start playing guitar, I kind of surprised my dad. We had a gentleman, a older gentleman lived across the street from us named Mr. Curtis [ph.]. And I would always go over when my dad wasn't around. Of course, I went over to watch him play, and he would sit me down sometimes and, and show me a few things. And I took off from there and formed my own little family group. And so my dad would then sometimes have us to sing on the programs with them, so that's where I start playing actually myself. Start playing guitar.$Alright, now. Well, once again now, should we talk about The Impressions now?$$Yeah, let's go to The Impressions.$$Okay, so as stated earlier you were--your name was referred to Sam [HM Samuel] Gooden by his sister--$$Right.$$--that attended a neighboring church--$$Right.$$--and knew about you.$$Right, right.$$So what happened did--can you remember how you felt when you first heard from them?$$Yes I can very much so I said I said to my wife I say I wonder why they calling me I'm not interested in that (laughter). I really did I mean, I was doing very well in the gospel, and I'd just released a new project of my own. And, and that's all I was concentrating on when I get a call from Sam and said that they'd like to talk to me about, you know, getting with them. And I told my wife I'm like I'm not interested in that. Because growing up, I was so involved in the church I guess, and I'd made up in my mind that that's all I was gonna do. I wasn't gonna do anything else. So at that time I just wasn't interested in anything else.$$Okay now were you an [The] Impressions fan when you were growing up or, or was it a generation ahead of you sort of?$$No I, I listen to The Impressions music, in fact, I told Sam and [HM] Fred [Cash] that same story. I could remember coming home from--I was in middle school walking home I came by my house aunt's house, and my cousin was playing some of The Impressions music. And he knew how much I loved to sing and I would go to the door and listen. And he said to me he said if you keep up the work you're doing and with your singing one day you might become one of these Impressions. I never in one million years dreamed that this would happen he's dead and gone now. But he must have been a prophet 'cause he prophesized that.$$Okay, all right so they called you up, and you weren't interested right? (simultaneous).$$No I really wasn't interested.$$Not cause you don't like them (simultaneous).$$No.$$But because you, you were already busy?$$That's right, that's right. And he called and said they were going to London [England] to tour with Eric Clapton. And they needed a lead vocalist they need somebody. And, and I really still wasn't enthused, you know, it was like, you know, most people I know would. You know, and, and that's not to say that, you know, I didn't care. But I just wasn't--but and I asked, and I told him I said let me get back with you 'cause they want to come over and meet with me. And I wanted to talk to my pastor, talk to my dad [Willie Kitchens, Sr.]. To you know, to get some kind of opinion or get some kind of wisdom from them of what they thought and that's what led to where I am today.

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