Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc., with the support of The Delta Beta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, presented a multi-media lecture on the life and legacy of Billy Strayhorn November 1st, 2019 at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Phoenix, Arizona. Along with the presentation, artwork from Phoenix area youth, under the direction of professional artist Erica Gillette, displayed their art work in the lobby, titled ‘Artwork from Take the A-Train- Jazz and Abstract Painting’.


It was a first class venue, wonderful crowd, and a lively musical tribute followed the presentation from the Fred Forney Quartet (Pictured above)

Founded in 1997, Litchfield Jazz Camp serves about 300 residential and day students during a month-long program on the campus of the Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut. Run by Litchfield Performing Arts (estb. 1981), a charitable organization dedicated to changing lives through music, the Camp’s philosophy is simple. They start with a faculty of amazing and inspiring jazz musicians who represent the best jazz players/educators on the scene today. To that they add eager music students in a non-competitive, all-inclusive program. No audition is required; just a desire to attend and make music. 

We salute our 2 Strayhorn scholarship recipients for 2019:

Milei Sagawa is a 15 year old bass player from Brooklyn, New York who has attended the camp for 3 years.

Laura Simone-Martin is also an accomplished bass player from Lawrenceville , New Jersey who has attended the camp for 2 years.

Continued success to both of our young ladies in all their future endeavors!!

Pictured above: Litchfield Jazz Camp participants and staff 2019.

A mural honoring jazz great Billy Strayhorn has been completed in downtown Hillsborough, North Carolina. Max Dowdle, the artist behind the mural, worked with Volume Records co-owner Tony Lopez on the design for the mural, which they named “Take the A Train”, one of Strayhorn’s most well-known compositions.

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens hopes to see more public art such as this in the future. “Hillsborough has become very much an arts community as well as a place where we preserve our history,” says the Mayor.

The mural was sponsored by the Hillsborough Tourism Development Authority and the Hillsborough Arts Council. According to Stevens, since the mural adorns a building located inside Hillsborough’s Historic District, it had to be approved by the Historic District Commission. “What the Historic District Commission does is review any changes to the exterior of buildings, nothing about the interior, so this falls right under what they do.”

Billy Strayhorn, a renown composer and pianist, burst onto the jazz scene in the late 1930s when he joined Duke Ellington’s band. Although he was born in Ohio and lived in New York City for most of his adult life, he spent much of his childhood visiting his grandparents in Hillsborough.

“Billy Strayhorn came to Hillsborough. This is one of the places where he learned music, so this feels like a local part of our community, and now we have this great art mural,” says Stevens. “It’s quite lovely; that’s the first kind of thing we’ve had like that downtown.” A historical marker located near where Strayhorn’s grandparents house was located also pays homage to the jazz legend.

A renovation project to restore a piece of Hillsborough’s history, will be done by a local artist. It will be the first downtown mural: a tribute to jazz pianist and composer Billy Strayhorn.

Artist Max Dowdle reached out to the town about painting a mural, economic development planner Shannan Campbell said. The mural, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” will honor Strayhorn and collaborator Duke Ellington’s signature composition and feature Strayhorn playing a piano on a field of yellows and blues with a train in the background. The painting could start in early to mid-August 2019 and take about two weeks, Dowdle said.

Strayhorn, who was born in Dayton, Ohio, often visited his grandparents’ home in Hillsborough as a child. His father and grandfather worked at the Eno Mill, and he would take the train to visit an uncle in Durham, the Orange County Historical Museum reported. At age 23, Strayhorn joined Ellington’s orchestra, becoming an influential figure in American jazz. He stayed with Ellington until his death at age 51 in 1967.

Held June 12th at the Library of Congress in Washington DC., this special panel-and-performance event highlighted the personal collection of an important star in the jazz firmament, composer, arranger and pianist Billy Strayhorn. Saxophonist Chris Potter, Strayhorn biographer David Hajdu, and jazz scholar Walter van de Leur, PhD, joined the composer’s niece, A. Alyce Claerbaut, President, Strayhorn Songs, Inc., and nephew, Gregory A. Morris, PhD, for an introduction to the recently acquired Library of Congress jazz treasure. Now available to scholars, researchers and performers, the collection contains nearly 18,000 documents, including approximately 3,000 music manuscripts in Strayhorn’s own handwriting—lead sheets, piano-vocal scores and complete orchestrations—and a rich trove of sketch materials. A list of manuscripts includes hundreds of songs, written by Strayhorn—many for the Duke Ellington orchestra—-among them landmark compositions like “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Lush Life,” “Something to Live For,” “Rain Check” and “Chelsea Bridge.”

The Nashville Jazz Workshop Summer Jazz Camp is for students ages 13-19, and is suitable for all instruments and vocalists. Directed by Evan Cobb, the jazz camp features ensembles, masterclasses, ear training, repertoire building, phrasing/vocal expression, lyric interpretation, music theory improvisation class, jam sessions and more!

This year we salute our 2019 Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship Award recipients from NJW:

Vocalist Eboni Stewart and Pianist Tyler Bullock.

Congrats also to camp founders Lori Mechem and Roger Spencer for their for their continued commitment to jazz education and the positive effect is has on the youth and the community.

Percussionist Maria Marmarou just completed her freshman year at Temple University and the Boyer School of Music and Dance. A graduate of Kutztown High School, she has participated in several all-state and nationally recognized music festivals. She has performed with the South Philly Big Band, along with A-List musicians Marcell Bellinger, Mike Boone and Tim Warfield.

We are happy to announce Maria as our 2019 Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship Award recipient for Temple and the Boyer School of Music and Dance Jazz Studies Program. She is pictured with one of her music mentors, Dr. Willis Rapp, recognized as one of the leaders over many years in percussion education and the principal conductor for the Reading Pops Orchestra.

Trumpeter Jamal Kemp is a sophomore at the Eastman School of Music. He plays in the trumpet section of the Eastman Jazz Ensemble. Jamal is working towards being a professional musician in New York City when he finishes school. Jamal was selected by several professors in the jazz studies department to be the 2019 Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship Award recipient for Eastman.

We congratulate Jamal on this well deserved award and know he will make his dream of becoming a professional musician come true!

Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) is a music festival held every April in recognition of the significant contribution that jazz music has made to society. The aim of this annual event is to pay tribute to jazz for its historic and cultural significance by encouraging schools, governments and organizations to participate in various events such as free jazz concerts and educational programs.

JAM was first established in 2001 by John Edward Hasse, a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It was initially funded by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, whose archives are currently housed at the Smithsonian.

Through jazz-focused events, JAM works to support today’s jazz scene and encourage an appreciation of jazz music in people of all ages. Throughout the month of April, people will be encouraged to participate in jazz activities such as studying jazz music, attending jazz concerts, reading books, or just simply listening to good jazz music on the radio.

Pictured above: The 2015 Jazz Appreciation Month poster featuring Billy Strayhorn.

North Carolina State University LIVE is thrilled to have co-commissioned David Roussève/REALITY’s latest work, Halfway to Dawn, a jubilant dance-theater piece that celebrates all facets of the influential jazz composer Billy Strayhorn’s rich and complicated life. Weaving dance, video, and Strayhorn’s masterful music, the project celebrates Strayhorn while creating conversations around race, sexuality, and the danger of placing the quest for fame ahead of personal freedom.

After putting final touches on Halfway to Dawn at NC State LIVE in the fall, the company returns to Raleigh February 25 – March 2, 2019 for a week of community events and the North Carolina premiere. The week includes multiple opportunities for North Carolina State students to engage with this world class company – through class visits, dance classes, guest lectures, and more. Equally important to NC State LIVE and David Roussève, is that the greater Triangle community can experience impactful programming related to Strayhorn, who spent much of his childhood in Hillsborough, NC.

Check out our February and March calendar for more information on the great events associated with this full week of Billy Strayhorn’s personal history and musical legacy.