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    Chicago Presents:Billy Strayhorn. 100 Years

A city wide Billy Strayhorn Festival will run in the city of Chicago from September 4th thru November 21st in clubs, concert halls, community centers and other venues throughout Chicagoland. Coordinated by Chicago's famed Auditorium Theatre and its executive director Brett Batterson, the Strayhorn celebration will feature performances of his work in many forms as well as panel discussions examining Strayhorns place in music, culture and American society. Following are a few highlights of the Billy Strayhorn Festival:

Chicago Jazz Orchestra. Jeff Lindberg's band kicks off the festival with new versions of Strayhorn repertoire; 8:30p.m., September 4th at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, near Randolph Drive and Michigan Avenue; free; go to

Mike Smith Quartet. Saxophonist Smith and his quartet will collaborate on music of Strayhorn; starting at 9:30p.m., September 23rd at Andy's Jazz Club, 11 East Hubbard Street.; $10; call 312-642-6805 or go to

"The Life and Music of Billy Strayhorn." Northwestern University professor E. Patrick Johnson collaborates with Kim Hunt, Johari Jabir and Cedric Brown in a discussion of Strayhorn's life, with musical performance and recordings. 4p.m., October 4th at Center on Halsted, 3656 North Halsted Street.; free; go to for more info.

"Jazz'n on the South Side" featuring Dee Alexander. The great Chicago singer performs music of Strayhorn. 7p.m., October 7th at the Caribbean Cove, 8020 South King Drive.

D'Erania. The saxophonist performs October 30th at T&JJ's, 718 South 5th Avenue, Maywood, Illinois.

"Strayhorn: an Illustrated Life" (Agate Bolden). The coffee table book includes a foreword by Ramsey Lewis and essays by authors David Hajdu, Walter van de Leur and film director Robert Levi; in stores November 10th; $35.

"Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn." The festival's grand finale will be a revue of Strayhorn's music featuring vocal soloists, dancers, chorus and orchestra. In addition, the Auditorium will present its first annual Eighth Wonder Award. 8p.m. November 21st at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress Parkway; tickets $29-$68; call 312-341-2300 for info or visit

What does Executive Director Brett Batterson hope will come of all this music, discussion and analysis? "It's the social message, along with the entertainment value", says Batterson. Few jazz figures combine these themes more poignantly than Strayhorn... 



Strayhorn: An Illustrated Life

New Strayhorn book is out !!

Strayhorn: An Illustrated Life, is a stunning collection of essays, photographs, and ephemera celebrating Billy Strayhorn, one of the most significant yet under appreciated contributors to 20th century American music. Released in commemoration of Strayhorn's Centennial, this luxurious coffee table book offers intimate details of the composers life from musicians, scholars, and Strayhorn's closest relatives. Perhaps best known for his 28 year collaborative role as Duke Ellingtons "writing and arranging companion", Strayhorn has emerged in recent years as an even more meritorious force in shaping the jazz canon. "Strayhorn" delves into every stage of Billy's career, beginning with his abusive upbringing and early success to later partnerships with Lena Horne and the Copasetics. Rich with insights, the book covers topics such as his music, family, intellectual pursuits, involvement with civil rights and open homosexuality. Featuring contributions from Strayhorn biographer David Hadju, film director Robert Levi, music scholar Walter van de Leur, as well as lush photography and rare memorabilia like hand written scores, this is a book to be treasured by jazz aficionados and music lovers everywhere. Enthralling and visually captivating, "Strayhorn: An Illustrated Life" lauds a beloved jazz legend and captures a prodigious legacy that will influence generations to come.



Announcing the Billy Strayhorn 2015 Centennial Honorary Committee!

Bringing together luminaries from entertainment, education and performing arts, the Billy Strayhorn 2015 Centennial Honorary Committee brings together an impressive list of individuals with a wide array of accomplishments expanding beyond jazz.

The Honorary Chair for the committee is (in memorium), jazz legend Clark Terry. The centennial honorary committee members all share a vision to contribute to 2015 being a year of celebrating the life and music of the man affectionately known as 'Swee Pea'.

To all Honorary Committee Members, THANK YOU for your time and talent to perpetuate the continuing growing legacy of Billy Strayhorn.

The 2015 centennial vision is being spearheaded by the Billy Strayhorn Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to celebrate the music and life of composer, arranger, pianist Billy Strayhorn and to develop an appreciation of his music among all people. The Billy Strayhorn Foundation supports this purpose through live music performance, lectures, and symposia.  

The Strayhorn Centennial Honorary Committee, a project of the Billy Strayhorn Foundation, is working with community groups, artists, and performing arts organizations interested in creating events throughout the centennial year of 2015 which explore and expand the musical legacy of Billy Strayhorn.

Our Honorary Committee members to date (November/2015). 

Clark Terry, Chair (In Memorium),  National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, educator and highly acclaimed trumpet player and member the great bands of Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

Ann Hampton Callaway, Grammy nominated jazz vocalist

Tammy McCann, jazz vocalist, recording artist, music teacher/coach

Mark George, President/CEO Music Institute of Chicago

David Hajdu, award winning Strayhorn biographer

Walter van de Leur, Pd.D., award winning Strayhorn biographer/musicologist

Rob Levi, Emmy/Peabody winning Strayhorn filmmaker/documentarian

John Clayton, Grammy winning co-founder of the Clayton/Hamilton Big Band

Donald Harrison, award winning jazz saxophone player and composer

Ramsey Lewis, Grammy winning jazz pianist and recording artist

Terell Stafford, acclaimed trumpet player and Chair of Jazz Studies- Temple University

Kevin Mahogany, acclaimed jazz vocalist and recording artist

R. Susan Motely, music promoter

Carol Adams, Former President/CEO DuSable Museum of African American History

Herb Jordan, music publisher/writer

Charles McPherson, acclaimed jazz alto saxophone player, recording artist and composer

The Duke Ellington Society of Washington D. C.

Allan Harris, acclaimed jazz vocalist and composer

Alex Webb, MA, Music Department Buckinghamshire New University, United Kingdom

The Duke Ellington Society of Toronto, Canada (TDES 40)

The Duke Ellington Society of the United Kingdom (DESUK)

Vernard Gray, producer, Be Mo Jazz/East River Jazz Project, Washington D.C-Baltimore

Filarmonica Laudamo Messina. Messina, Sicily

Bill Dobbins, Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media. Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Robin Bell-Stevens, Executive Director and CEO, Jazzmobile Inc.

Randy Weston, Jazz Pianist and Composer

Alon Nechushtan

Strayhorn Revisited: A Middle Eastern odyssey of Rhythm, Harmony and Groove.

From the Kennedy Center in Washington DC., a wonderful, musically stimulating interpretation of Strayhorn by pianist, composer and arranger Alon Nechushtan.

Pianist Alon Nechustan talks about Strayhorn - "I will blend my affinity with the Middle East and it's rich and mystical influence over jazz musicians through a broad periodic selection of some of Strayhorn's greatest compositions and crossroads: a few of his contributions to the seminal Far East Suite (such as 'Agra', 'Mount Harrisa'), along with his later dramatic textual driven works such as 'Sonnet in search of a Moor', showcasing his brilliant arranging skills ('Arabian Dance' from Tchaikovskys' Nutcracker) and other chance encounters he had with the gripping influence of the Middle East. I will conclude by blending an original composition of mine hommaging my personal inspiration with Billy's legacy, Presenting an exciting panoramic view of Strayhorn and his relevance to this day in an odyssey spanning a 100 years; from the early Ellingtonian Swing Era of the 1940's to this day".

Performed in conjunction with The East River Jazz Strayhorn Centennial Series, take a listen to the concert on the link below: 


Billy Strayhorn honored with Legacy Project Walk of Fame Plaque

The Legacy Project, the world's only Outdoor LGBT museum walk, hdld an outdoor ceremony celebrating the induction of bronze memorials commemorating Leonard Bernstein, Josephine Baker, Rudolf Nureyev and Billy Strayhorn. Chicago's Award-Winning "Legacy Walk" museum streetscape honors the month of October — "LGBT History Month" — and National Coming-Out Day. The event took place Saturday, October 10th, at 3245 North Halsted Avenue in Chicago. 

"The Legacy Walk is the world's only outdoor LGBT museum walk. It is dedicated to raising awareness of LGBT contributions to world history and culture as a means to counter the ignorance which fuels anti-gay bullying. "We are delighted to add these five remarkable plaques to those for Jane Addams, Byard Rustin, Alan Turing and so many others… an extremely moving tribute to an aspect of shared human history that most people aren't aware exists," said Legacy Project Executive Director Victor Salvo. "We hope it will lead to conversations about the importance of inclusiveness, especially for LGBTQ youth who are most often forced to grow up without ever learning anything positive about historically significant people like themselves. 


Jazz composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn's life is the subject of an exhbit in New Rochelle.

'Strayhorn: An Illustrated Life' Exhibit On View In New Rochelle, New York

“Strayhorn: An Illustrated Life” will be on exhibit at the Museum of Arts & Culture, in the new wing of New Rochelle High School, through November 25th.

The exhibit, a program of the New Rochelle Fund for Educational Excellence, will celebrate the centennial of Billy Strayhorn, the man who created many of the world’s most recognizable jazz standards.

The exhibit is based on a new book with that title by A. Alyce Claerbaut and David Schlesinger. It was curated by Strayhorn’s niece, Leslie Demus, with Theresa Kump Leghorn and designed by Jesse Sanchez. In addition to material taken from the book, the exhibit features some never-before-seen artifacts from Strayhorn's home, including artwork and personal items.

Programming for the exhibit included a screening of the award-winning documentary “Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life." Director Robert Levi was on hand to introduce the film and answer questions. The exhibit examines Strayhornn's life and his achievements as well as his support for civil rights.

“Strayhorn: An Illustrated Life” exhibit was made possible by the New Rochelle Fund for Educational Excellence, the Billy Strayhorn Foundation, Arts Westchester and the New Rochelle Council on the Arts. The exhibit is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8am to 3pm and by special appointment.

Strayhorn legacy shines at 2015 Jazz Education Network Conference in San Diego.

JEN (Jazz Education Network)  2015 provided a very good start to the Billy Strayhorn Centennial activities. The January JEN conference provided Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. and the Billy Strayhorn Foundation with several showcase opportunities that gave an impactful spotlight to  their  jazz education initiatives. Strayhorn family members led a presentation titled "Heirs to a Legacy", detailing the beginning process that led to Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. and its current day to day work involving music and print publishing, jazz education, Foundation outreach and preserving/enhancing Strayhorn and jazz music to a broader world audience. 

Conference attendees were also treated to a Strayhorn tribute concert performed by the Berklee College of Music professor and saxophonist Daniel Ian Smith. His quartet performed a wonderful hour long ‘Latin side’ tribute of several Strayhorn compositions.

Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. was also supported in its efforts by Alfred Music and Reservoir Media Managment. Print publisher Alfred provided 2 Strayhorn charts for raffle items as well as a handout listing the many Strayhorn charts they publish for musicians of all levels. Co-publisher Reservior Media Management provided a full page color ad for the JEN program book and attended several conference events in support of the Strayhorn legacy.

The 2016 Jazz Education Conference will be held in Louisville, Kentucky.





Smithsonian Jazz Appreciation Month Poster 2015

2015 Jazz Appreciation Month poster pays tribute to Billy Strayhorn

In recognition of Billy Strayhorn's importance and centennial, The Smithsonian Institution decided that their 2015 Jazz Appreciation Month poster will feature Billy Strayhorn, with a lovely portrait by the African American artist Keith Henry Brown, who designed the 2011  poster featuring Mary Lou Williams. The annual JAM poster is a big deal—it's eagerly awaited each year, sought after, and many schools and organizations post it for years. The poster will be distributed through the US Department of Education, to 35,000 schools, as well as to US embassies and consulates around the world, to Smithsonian audiences, jazz educators, etc.

2015 is another year of wonderful centennial birthdays in jazz. Along with Strayhorn, 2015 also is the centennial year for Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday.  

Billy Strayhorn, Westinghouse High School yearbook, 1934.

Billy Strayhorn honored at his Pittsburgh High School 

In honor of his Centennial, Westinghouse High School and the Pittsburgh community celebrate "Fantastic Strayhorn", a musical tribute to to one of their famous alumni who graduated in 1934. 'Fantastic Strayhorn' is titled as a reminder of the 1935 musical Strayhorn wrote and produced for that graduating class, 'Fantastic Rhythm'.




Westinghouse High School Auditorium

1101 Murtland Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15208


Co-Produced by Hand-in-Hand, Inc. and the Afro-American Music Institute, Inc.

PROGRAM ORDER: 2:00 – 4:30PM    October 17, 2015

Opening Ceremony:

Mistress of Ceremonies: Bev Smith**

Acknowledgements: Strayhorn family, Minister Darryl Strayhorn,* Dr. Vernell Lillie


Professor Geri Allen – A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing

Dr. James T. Johnson, Jr. – Isfahan

Floreece Davis – I Want Something to Live For

George “Duke” Spaulding – Chelsea Bridge

Howard Alexander III – UMMG

Frank Cunimondo**/Adam Wade** – Lush Life

Kenny Peagler – Pretty Girl

Sweet Thunder – Film Clip


Kenny Peagler – So This Is Love

Vanessa German – Strayhorn

Howie Alexander III – Blood Count

Floreece Davis – Daydream

Duet: Adam Wade & Floreece Davis – Satin Doll

Grand Finale: Blue & Gold All-Stars – Take the “A” Train


Introduction of Westinghouse Alumni:

Judge Warren Watson**  

Art Nance**  

Nelson Harrison**  

Cecil “Valdez” Washington* 

John “Smitty” Smith*  

Eric Johnson*

Tim Smith*  

Jevon Rushton*  

There will be a VIP MEET & GREET PRESS CONFERENCE immediately following the show in the Westinghouse cafeteria.



General admission - $35, Balcony - $25, VIP Orchestra - $100

This superb box set celebrating the work of William Thomas Strayhorn echoes the basic paradox of this extraordinary jazz musician’s life and career.

The richness and diversity of the music it contains will delight the most obsessive Strayhorn aficionado; at the same time it offers a thrilling introduction to the man many know only as someone who once played in Duke Ellington’s band and wrote “Take The “A” Train.

The 7 CDs contain material presenting 62 of Strayhorn’s compositions, not only focusing on his work outside of the Ellington orchestra, but also presenting him in Duke’s company.

Billy Strayhorn, the man whose musical abilities could have made him a star in his own right, labored in the shadow of a world-famous benefactor. This collection of his recordings puts him firmly in the spotlight for once, revealing beyond doubt the true scale of the debt owed to him by Duke Ellington in particular and jazz in general.

THE STRAYHORN ESTATE ON WNYU'S Strayhorn family members Leslie Demus and Alyce Claerbaut with WNYU radio host for 'The Phoenix' Brandon Peckman          



With the centennial birth year of Billy Strayhorn approaching in 2015, the legendary composer's estate is well into making its rounds to promote the artist's musical and civil accomplishments. In fact, wiith outreach and events including a birthday celebration at Pittsburgh's Kelley-Strayhorn Theater, a booth at the upcoming Jazz Education Network Conference and several tribute performances and media pieces already in the works, it is accurate to say that team Strayhorn is approaching the centennial with a running start.

In addition to working with co-publisher Reservoir Media Management to maintain and expand the impact of Strayhorn's catalog through performances, new recordings, and usages in visual media, one of the goals of the estate is to educate new generations of jazz fans, conveying the origins and impact of songs like "Take The 'A' Train", "Lush Life", and "Chelsea Bridge", whose sound young listeners might recognize even as they remain unaware of Strayhorn himself.

To that end, Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc. (BSSI) President Alyce Claerbaut and Billy Strayhorn Foundaton (BSF) President Leslie Demus--both nieces of Strayhorn--stopped by New York University's WNYU jazz radio show "The Phoenix" December 2nd to regale the liberal arts school's audience with historical insight and personal anecdotes about their revered and accomplished uncle.


Billy Strayhorn: Beyond The Peaceful Side.

Alyce Claerbaut is currently the President of Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc.. In her role, she interacts with music publishers, producers and educators, particularly in jazz. Ms. Claerbaut is a Calvin College alumna and was instrumental in helping to bring Duke Ellington to perform in the Calvin Fieldhouse in 1967. Billy Strayhorn’s only solo recording during the Ellington years was a record called “The Peaceful Side” which features him on the piano playing the titles that he considered his favorites. Ms. Claerbaut helps to explore Strayhorn's life through those songs as his expression of who he was. Calvin College welcomed Ms. Claerbaut back to campus as part of their internationally known January Series, selected as the featured speaker on Martin Luther King Day (January 19th, 2015). View this historical presentation below. 




Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. and the Billy Strayhorn Foundation would like to thank all of the musical artists, music educators and jazz advocates who have contributed to the Strayhorn Centennial thru performances, workshops, presentations and all other various forms of tribute that has made this year of honoring Billy Strayhorn a continuing success. We would like to recognize several tributes from our events calendar that took place in the month of October.

*Royal Northern College Music Theatre- United Kingdom

*Janelle Gill/Freddie Gill- Washington DC

*Westinghouse High School- Pittsburgh

*Karen Lovejoy, Coniece Washington, Adejoke Babington-Ashave- Washington DC

*Rusty Hassan/Craig Alston- Baltimore

*Herb Scott- Washington DC

*Paul Carlon- New York

*Samora Pinderhughes- Washington DC

*Pepe Gonzalez- Washington DC

*Alan Harris/Eric Reed- San Francisco

Continue to check our events calendar and PLEASE support the artist and venues in your city that are working so passionately to keep the Strayhorn legacy and Jazz music ALIVE !!!


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