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Award a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of jazz composer, arranger and pianist Billy Strayhorn.

In honor of the Billy Strayhorn Centennial, we his heirs along with a host of professional musicians, entertainment insiders, educators, and the general public seek a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his contribution as a great American composer, his involvement in social justice (worked with Martin Luther King Jr.) and his support of those in need. Duke Ellington received the Medal of Freedom from President Richard Nixon in 1969. In accepting the award, Ellington did so in deference to his collaborator, Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn is famous for his lack of fame, given his accomplishments. One of the reasons his legacy has been overlooked is due to his commitment to live openly as a gay black male in the 1940's. Strayhorn's life personifies the meaning of freedom.



Saxophonist/Composer Don Braden and his Organix Quartet

to release new recording “Luminosity”

Don Braden has produced 19 albums as a band leader and "Luminosity" is the latest effort put together by him and a stellar supporting cast that includes Cecil Brooks on drums, Kyle Koehler on organ, Dave Stryker on guitar and special guest Claudio Rodti and Sherman Irby. Don talks about the musical vision of this project; 

"The jazz music on Luminosity is intended to express my optimistic, go-out-and-get-it-done point of view and, I hope, to enhance similar feelings in the listener. I believe the power of the jazz language and style is based on the energy, intelligence, resourcefulness and soulfulness of the Africans and African-Americans who withstood American slavery and the many challenges of life after slavery. Over decades, jazz has evolved marvelously to be embraced by people of all nations and races. It embodies freedom, fosters creativity, demonstrates intellect, symbolizes democracy, and inspires motion and emotion, all while it entertains. It is a fantastic music style for conveying luminosity."

One of the album highlights is Don's interpretation of the Billy Strayhorn classic, Chelsea Bridge;

"2015 is the 100th year since the birth of the great composer/arranger Billy Strayhorn, so I was inspired to add the lovely “Chelsea Bridge,” which I perform on solo saxophone. The arrangement is based on harmonic motifs that extend from the melody with different intervals for each A-section. In the 1st A, I use seconds (major and minor); 2nd A, I use thirds (major and minor); and in the last A, I use fourths (perfect, augmented and diminished). In the final last A, I use chromatic steps."

The release date for 'Luminosity' is September 15th. You can go to for more info. In addition to recording and touring, Don is a highly experienced jazz educator, having taught at several institutions including Harvard University and the Litchfield Jazz Camp in Connecticut. He has presented numerous workshops around the world and continues to be a respected ambassador for jazz.


    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... 



New Strayhorn book coming November 2015

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 (August/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

Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship Award Recognizes Jason Clotter: Litchfield Jazz Camp.

Congratulations to Jason Clotter, The first recipient of the Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship awarded in conjunction with the Litchfield Jazz Camp, New Milford, Connecticut. Jason is a 19 year old bass player from the Bronx, New York who has also played with the Jazz at Lincoln Center youth band. Jason said the camp experience was life changing and he learned a great deal. Saxophonist and Music Director Don Braden described Jason as "having the right attitude, always practicing, always asking questions". Along with tuition assistance, Jason also received a letter of recognition from the Billy Strayhorn Foundation and several Strayhorn related items as a gift.

The mission of the Billy Strayhorn Foundation is to celebrate the music and life of the composer, arranger, pianist Billy Strayhorn through live music performance, lectures, and symposia.  The Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship Award was established in 2008 by Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc. to recognize students, teachers, and institutions that display a passion for playing, studying, and perpetuating jazz. The Billy Strayhorn Foundation, Inc. has managed the award since 2010. Given annually, the BSJESA promotes the values to which Billy Strayhorn adhered in his life, namely, personal integrity, commitment to excellence, and perseverance.

Under the leadership of Ms. Vita Muir, Executive/Artistic Director of the Litchfield Performing Arts Incorporated, the Litchfield Jazz Camp is an all-embracing program focused on musical and personal growth where you can learn by hearing greats on their staff and each other. While the commitment to the music is at the highest level, the program is not competitive. There is no pre-audition required. They will listen to you play when you arrive and assign you to a combo at your own level. Find out more about the camp and the Litchfield Jazz Festival at, or call 860-361-6285. 


 David Hajdu

Strayhorn biographer David Hajdu releases debut album "Waiting for an Angel"

Award winning author and music critic David Hajdu is adding lyricist to his list of achievements.

For the past five years, he's been working with composers and musicians in a collaborative effort to "make songs that live in the 21st century," says Hajdu.

In August 2010, Hajdu became severely ill. Believing he was facing his own mortality, Hajdu reflected on his life and accomplishments and came to the realization that he regretted not writing songs. After Hajdu recovered and was released from the hospital, he began the process of writing lyrics and creating songs with renowned composers Fred Hersch, Renee Rosnes and Jill Sobule.

Hajdu says he worked slowly to write pieces that "lived in the 21st century." He did this because he believed that so many of the artists he listened to wrote about ideas that were "outdated," he says. The album, "Waiting for an Angel" will be released August 28th, 2015.

One of his songs has its origins in Hajdu's 1996 book, "Lush Life", a biography on Billy Strayhorn. Strayhorn was once described by David as a "triple minority." He was a gay African-American, who was open about his homosexuality in a time when homosexuality wasn't viewed as socially acceptable.

The song "Suffer" was written by Hajdu in tribute to the late pianist.

"Suffer" recounts stories from Strayhorn's life. The song is written in the key of D, which is the key used by Strayhorn to write "Lush Life."

"Waiting for an Angel" cannot be placed into one specific genre as it touches various styles of music including jazz, pop and chamber music. This sound was achieved by working with singers and composers with various musical backgrounds. The vocals are provided by Jill Sobule, Michael Leonard, and Kate Oberlin, Hajdu's wife. "I'm lucky to have this incredible singer in my house," Hajdu says.

"Waiting for an Angel" will be performed in concert 7 p.m., September 2nd at the Rockwood Music Hall, 196 Allen Street in New York City. Tickets cost $20 and are available on You can also call Rockwood at (212) 477-4155.

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.

Billy Strayhorn Festival at Music Institute of Chicago Review ...

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.  

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.

Willie Ruff

  photo (Vincent Oneppo)

Willie Ruff remembers Billy Strayhorn.

French horn great Willie Ruff, has crossed the paths of many of the giants in the music world, including Paul Hindemith from the classical arena and Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Lionel Hampton, and Dwike Mitchell in the jazz world. Here he tells of getting to know Billy Strayhorn, and of their collaboration in bringing to life Strayhorn's final composition, "Suite for Horn and Piano", beautifully recorded by him with his longtime musical partner Dwike Mitchell.


... Of Duke Ellington And Billy Strayhorn: A Photo Journal Over Time

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 JULY.

*Bill Dobbins-Akron, Ohio

*Starlight Jazz Band-Tulsa, Oklahoma

*Novel Jazz Septet-Maine

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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