14 year old Tianna Mickens first studied piano and ballet with American Ballet Theatre for five years. She found her love for drums in fourth grade when she joined band at school. She has been playing drums for five years. She is part of the school band and the jazz band. Tianna also performed with the New Jersey Youth Orchestra this past year. She plans on continuing with band and jazz band in High School and College.

Tianna is a straight A student, and the family attributes her academic excellence to the music in her life. She was the recipient of 3 awards at school this year. Tianna was chosen as “Student of the Season” for fall 2019. She received an Achievement Award for Performing Arts Band, and the President’s Education Award Program for Outstanding Academic Excellence.

We are proud to add Tiannna as part of the ever growing list of young musicians/scholars representing the musical legacy of Billy Strayhorn through our Jazz Education Scholarship Award.

Find out more about the great work being done at the Litchfield Jazz Camp: go to litchfieldjazzcamp.com

Led by world renowned trumpeter and educator Terell Stafford, the Temple University Jazz Band carries with it a stellar reputation for musicianship and jazz studies.

This year, we congratulate our 2020 Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship Award recipient, Mr. Patrick Hill. Patrick plays alto saxophone and completed his undergrad at another prestigious jazz music institution, the University of North Texas. Patrick, who is a resident of Rowlett, Texas (a suburb of Dallas), is in the first year of getting his Masters in Jazz Studies at the Boyer College of Music and Dance.

Join us in congratulating Patrick on being selected for this award and joining our growing list of young and talented musicians representing the Strayhorn musical legacy.


The Silkroad Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma is honored to share an exclusive live recording of Billy Strayhorn’s iconic jazz standard Take the “A” Train as part of WhyHunger’s SongAid campaign. Leveraging the power of music, SongAid unites musicians and technology companies to bring awareness to complex economic, social, and environmental issues surrounding equitable access to nutritious food, and helps extend WhyHunger’s support for communities in need. Each time you listen to the SongAid recording, the streaming proceeds will go to WhyHunger’s Rapid Response Fund.

“Silkroad is thrilled to be included in the SongAid campaign. Through the simple act of sharing music, we are supporting frontline workers, food pantries, small-scale farmers, and food chain workers — truly culture in action. Please join us by listening along, and help us to sustain this vital work,” says Yo-Yo Ma, Silkroad Founder.

At a time when New York has been brought to a halt by the COVID-19 pandemic, Take the “A” Train celebrates the familiar sounds of NYC’s subway system that connects its vibrant neighborhoods. Silkroad’s recording is featured on the very first SongAid playlist, along with Darryl “DMC” McDaniels & The HellRaisers’ I Was Born, Tom Morello’s Save the Hammer for the Man, and Cindy Blackman Santana & Carlos Santana’s Imagine. Thanks to The Orchard, these playlists will be available on Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, and Apple Music. 

This performance of Take the “A” Train, arranged by Silkroad Co-Artistic Director Shane Shanahan and commissioned by Reservoir Media, was performed live at UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, presented by CalPerformances on August 18, 2016, as part of the Silkroad Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma’s summer festivals tour. 

Great music and great movies can still be made — even if you’re sheltered in place. Paul Glenshaw offers that chance with his YouTube channel “The Seven Tones Project.” Paul is an artist, film maker, author and educator with more than 25 years experience working across disciplines in the arts, history and sciences. He hopes to provide artists a creative outlet to escape the confines of Covid 19 quarantine.

“Anybody who needs a live audience for their work to be fulfilled, doesn’t have it,” Glenshaw said. “Let’s use what we’ve got. Here we are now. Musicians can still record at home. Filmmakers can make films at home, even if you’re just using your phone. So that’s the idea. Let’s see what beautiful things we can make with the tools that we have at hand.”

“We’re limiting the musicians to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn songs, which is to say they have at their disposal an incredibly rich and broad repertoire” Glenshaw said. Beyond the Ellington and Strayhorn stipulation, are there any technical requirements?

“You can record with whatever you have at home, even if it’s just solo bass or just accompanying yourself,” Glenshaw said. Anyone can participate, no matter your experience level.

“It’s an open call,” Glenshaw said. “Student filmmakers, student musicians, professionals. It’s really open. We want to give you something that is fun, something that is a creative outlet and something that might even be a bit of a challenge, but a fun challenge.” What can audiences take away from watching the videos?

“We can’t go to the movie theater [or] the art gallery … to have that intimate experience where you really feel like you’re communicating one-on-one with an artist,” Glenshaw said. “These small films, these little pieces of poetry do that in a way that a huge, multi-hour binge can’t. There’s an intimacy where the artist is expressing themselves directly to you.”

Along the way, he hopes folks will rediscover the music of Ellington and Strayhorn.

Jazz Appreciation Month (fondly known as “JAM”) was first established in 2001 by John Edward Hasse, curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz for the entire month of April.

JAM is intended to stimulate and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz – to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings, read books about jazz, and more.

*Pictured above is the 2015 Jazz Appreciation Month poster highlighting the centennial of Billy Strayhorn.*

Jazz Appreciation Month 2020: Women in Jazz

This year, JAM celebrates the dynamic impact of the often-overlooked contributions that women have made to jazz, both on and off the stage. As performers and conductors, educators, and producers and directors of jazz festivals, women have made their mark but have continued to struggle for recognition on par with their male counterparts.

This year, Smithsonian Jazz is highlighting a multitude of women artists on student-made posters from the Duke Ellington High School for the Arts. Features include Mary Lou Williams, the Sweethearts of Rhythm, Leigh Pilzer, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others. The winning poster features pianist, band leader, and composer Toshiko Akiyoshi.

2020 Featured Artist: Toshiko Akiyoshi

Billy Strayhorn’s music has been an essential part of composer, arranger and pianist John DiMartino’s repertoire since the beginning of his forty-five year professional music career. He recalls, “My first encounter with Strayhorn’s music was through an older cousin who gave me a recording of Chet Baker and Russ Freeman’s version of Lush Life and requested that I learn the tune.” DiMartino was just 15 years old at the time (ironically, Strayhorn’s age when he wrote the piece. John has been entranced with the composer’s music ever since.

In recent years John has been performing Strayhorn’s music with Paquito D’Rivera. Executive producer Neville Grusd heard a concert they did at Flushings New York Town Hall, which led to his interest in producing this recording.

Joining DiMartino are three of his fellow first call instrumentalists on the New York City jazz scene. Boris Kozlov on bass, Eric Alexander on tenor sax, and Lewis Nash on drums. Vocalist Raul Midon is featured on Strayhorn’s poignant Lush Life. 

Year in and year out, The Eastman School of Music Jazz Studies Program is considered one of the best in the country. We are proud to be a scholarship partner with Eastman and its great tradition. This year we congratulate Justice Freeman, trumpeter and first year jazz performance major. Justice is a native of Rochester, New York and is highly thought of by his music professors and fellow musicians. Continued success to Justice and his budding music career!

Pictured above: Professor of Jazz Studies Bill Dobbins (left), accepting the check for the Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship Award winner at Eastman, trumpeter Justice Freeman.

New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) is a regional, pre-professional arts training center that offers students intensive instruction in several disciplines, including jazz. NOCCA was founded in 1973, and some of its distinguished alumni include Terrence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., Donald Harrison, Trombone Shorty and Jonathon Batiste just to name a few.

For the 4th straight year, The Billy Strayhorn Foundation honored the recipient of this jazz education award in the JEN host city with a $500 stipend to help with upcoming program activities in the name of Billy Strayhorn. Every year, a remarkable 95-98% of NOCCA graduates go on to college and conservatory programs across the country.

Congratulations to all the programs at NOCCA, including the great work being done by Jazz Program Chair Michael Pellera and his staff with the students in the jazz program. We wish them nothing but continued success!

Pictured above: Students from the NOCCA jazz program and Mr. Michael Pellera receiving their award from Strayhorn family member Galen Demus.

The annual Jazz Education Network conference (JEN) in New Orleans proved to be a great start for jazz education and promoting the Strayhorn legacy. The conference bought together 3,000+ exhibitors, music artists, students and jazz educators in the “Big Easy”. There were over 250 jazz clinics, presentations and music performances over 4 days in January. Visitors to the Strayhorn booth received lots of information about Billy Strayhorn and his place in jazz history, as well as current and future events being held in his honor. Music students from as far away as Japan and England attended the conference. Look for details about the 2021 conference, which will be held in Louisville, Kentucky.

*Pictured above: Music students from Japan at the Billy Strayhorn exhibitor booth

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)