We celebrate some of the ladies of Jazz who musically touched Billy Strayhorn. We Salute:

Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Marian McPartland, Hazel Scott, Ivie Anderson, Kay Davis, Joya Sherrill and Carmen McRae, just to name a few.

The musical tells the captivating story of musical genius Billy Strayhorn as he navigates a world rife with homophobia and racism: We see him develop relationships with jazz legends Duke Ellington and Lena Horne as well as his romantic partner for several years, Aaron Bridgers. Nominated for 8 awards, WHEN JAZZ HAD THE BLUES won in 3 categories: Best Musical Direction, Best Ensemble Cast and Best Set Design. Its initial production was at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles.

The 27th annual theatre awards ceremony was held February 26th at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. The mission of the NAACP Theatre Awards is to entertain, educate and inspire as well as create diversity in the arts and entertainment industry.


The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance, by Mark Whitaker, profiles a number of notable black figures from Pittsburgh and explores the intersection of their lives from the 1920s to the 1950s. Each personality, in separate chapters, provides an entree into a major “Smoketown” social, political or cultural development, be it sports, entertainment, the media or the arts.  You can read an excerpt below, highlighting the relationship of Pittsburgh residents Billy Strayhorn and Lena Horne.


As the nation observes Black History Month this February, the U.S. Postal Service® is proud to present the 2018 Black Heritage® Forever® stamp commemorating the life and legacy of legendary performer and civil rights activist Lena Horne.

The Lena Horne Forever stamp is the 41st in the Black Heritage Stamp series. It was dedicated by Deputy Postmaster General™ Ronald Stroman during a January 30th ceremony at the Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York.

Born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 30, 1917, Horne was a trailblazer in Hollywood for women of color and used her fame to inspire Americans as a dedicated activist for civil rights.

Lena and Billy Strayhorn were very dear friends and musical soulmates.

Released on Christmas Day 2017, Phanthom Thread, starring Daniel Day Lewis, Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville has received several Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Music Score.

Part of the music score includes Billy Strayhorn playing his composition “Day Dream”, from the 1960 album; The Peaceful Side.

We Knew What We Had: The Greatest Jazz Story Never Told documentary film features the talents of international Jazz Masters George Benson, Ahmad Jamal, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Eckstine, Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, Billy Strayhorn and Mary Lou Williams – all Pittsburghers – and explores the social conditions and historical events that conspired to make Pittsburgh one of the leading contributors to the legacy of Jazz music in the world. The one-hour film is packed with compelling interviews, historical photographs and over 20 live performance clips of the Jazz Masters. The film is being distributed by American Public Television and can be seen on PBS stations throughout the United States beginning February 1st. Please check your local listings for show times. If you don’t see a local air date please contact your local PBS affiliate to request the film.

Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. and the Billy Strayhorn Foundation participated in the 2018 Jazz Education Network Conference (JEN) held this year in Dallas, Texas. The 3 day conference brings together jazz educators, students and artists to attend workshops and clinics related to jazz studies. It is also filled with live performances by some of the best jazz artist and music programs across the U.S.

The Billy Strayhorn Foundation presented 2 monetary awards at the conference. A Billy Strayhorn Scholarship award was presented to the Eastman School of Music Jazz Studies Program to assist one of their dedicated students.

A second award was presented as a JEN host city award to the Jazz Studies program at Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. The award recognized their excellence in teaching future generations the musical and historical importance of jazz.

Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. and the Billy Strayhorn Foundation also participated as a JEN conference exhibitor for the 7th straight year. As an exhibitor, Strayhorn Songs connects with attendees to promote and provide information that recognizes the important musical contributions made to jazz by the arranger, composer and pianist Billy Strayhorn.

(Pictured above: Students and staff from the Booker T. Washington Jazz Vocals Program receiving the Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship Award).

Billy Strayhorn (1915–1967)

Composer, lyricist, arranger and pianist Billy Strayhorn’s career was inextricably linked to that of the great Duke Ellington. For nearly thirty years, the small, diffident guy with the gold-rimmed spectacles (nicknamed “Sweepea” by band members, after a comic book character) served as Ellington’s closest confidante and collaborator. He was also …See full bio »

“This lush paean to the composer explores the challenges he faced of being both black and gay, and his commitment to his own four freedoms.” —The New York Times

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 composer’s life from musicians, scholars, and Strayhorn’s closest relatives.

Perhaps best known for his 28-year collaborative role as Duke Ellington’s “writing and arranging companion,” Strayhorn has emerged in recent years as an even more meritorious force in shaping the jazz canon. Strayhorn begins by describing Billy’s abusive upbringing and early success, and goes on to cover his music, family, intellectual pursuits, involvement with civil rights, and open homosexuality.

Strayhorn features contributions from Strayhorn’s biographer David Hajdu, film director Rob Levi, music scholar Walter van de Leur, as well as commentary from jazz greats like Lena Horne, Clark Terry, Dianne Reeves, Nancy Wilson, Terell Stafford, Herb Jeffries, and more. With lush photography and rare memorabilia like handwritten 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


Strayhorn: An Illustrated Life can be purchased at Amazon.com