Celebrating Veteran Jazz Star Dr. Billy Taylor at Kimmel Center

Strings for Schools will pay tribute to jazz pianist, composer, and educator Dr. Billy Taylor, honoring him in the year of his 80th birthday, at the Kimmel Center on April 27, 2002 at 7:30 PM. Led by jazz violinist and Philadelphian, John Blake, Jr., the evening will feature jazz and conversation with members of Dr. Taylor’s Trio, Chip Jackson, and Winard Harper, who will be joined by the nationally recognized jazz talents of artists Geri Allen, Frank Wess and Jimmy Owens. Hosting the evening will be Ukee Washington, Philadelphia native and co-anchor of KYW Eyewitness News, at noon and 5 p.m.

All proceeds from the concert will be used by Strings for Schools, a non-profit organization, to musically enrich the lives of students throughout the Greater Philadelphia area by providing classical, jazz, popular, and multicultural music education performances through the resources of the more than 60 professional musicians currently on its roster.

Tickets are available for $32 & $57 through Ticket Philadelphia at 215-893-1999. For more information please call Strings for Schools at 215-829-9522.

The Philadelphia Music Project, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, is the major financial supporter of this event. In addition to the April 27 concert, the jazz ensemble will hold a daytime workshop with students at Central High School on Friday, April 26th and a community concert that evening at St Mary’s Chapel on the campus of Villanova University at 7:30 PM.

"This grant allows us an opportunity to express our mission of music education in a powerful way. It enables us to combine ensemble leader and jazz violinist, John Blake Jr. from the Strings for Schools roster, with five star musicians, who have performed for years with Billy Taylor, in a salute to this nationally recognized musician and scholar. John has been performing with Strings for Schools for ten years, and he is representative of the high artistic level of many of the performers on the Strings for Schools roster," says Welthie Fitzgerald, Executive Director and co-founder of Strings for Schools.

Billy Taylor has led The Billy Taylor Trio since 1952. For the past 17 years he has been the artistic advisor and host of Billy Taylor's Jazz from The Kennedy Center, a co-production of National Public Radio and the Kennedy Center Education Department. He is also an arts correspondent for "Sunday Morning" on CBS. A songwriter and jazz historian, he has penned 300 songs, written dozens of books, and numerous articles. Dr. Taylor earned his doctorate degree from Massachusetts Amherst where he holds the Wilber O. Barrett Chair of Music. He has received two Peabody Awards, an Emmy Award, and 16 honorary degrees. On January 20, 2002, the Kennedy Center honored Billy Taylor on his 80th birthday. Joining in the celebration were Nancy Wilson, Regina Carter, and Phil Woods.

John Blake Jr. is a world-renowned jazz violinist and Philadelphia native. In addition to playing with his own quartet and as a solo artist, he has performed with Grover Washington Junior, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, and the Billy Taylor Trio. He is a composer, teacher, lecturer, and recording artist. Blake is a faculty member at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and at the Manhattan School of music in New York City. Since 1990, he has been a regular performer in Strings for Schools’ programs.

Ukee Washington, one of Philadelphia’s most popular news anchors at KYW, is co-anchor on KYW Eyewitness News at noon and 5 p.m. Washington was raised in West Philadelphia but attended Dover High School in Delaware where he was a celebrated athlete. As a youngster, his other love was music. As a member of the Philadelphia’s Boys Choir’s "elite," he traveled to Russia, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Denmark and Mexico to perform. He has hosted the station’s live telecast of the Philadelphia Orchestra in addition to other specials and programs, including providing live reports from Nagano, Japan during the 1998 Winter Olympic Games.

In 1974 Strings for Schools was founded by four women musicians from Main Line Philadelphia who recognized a need in the school system for a broader level of music education. In that first year, the string quartet performed 20 in-school classical music programs. Not long after, the group added jazz and classic popular quartet ensembles and expanded its outreach programs to encompass the five county area of the Delaware Valley. That remained constant for the next 25 years. As SfS entered 2000, however, the organization recognized the need to expand into a full range of instrumentation and multicultural musical offerings, reflecting Philadelphia’s connection with the rest of the world’s cultures and wonderful musical diversity. The new SfS catapulted from an average of 150 to 200 performances per year to 527 in 2000-2001, outreaching to 75,000 young people. Today, the group offers 32 different programs, from "Strings ‘Round the World" to "African Drums, Percussions and Dance" all through the services of over 60 professional musicians.

PR CONTACT: DIERDRE WOODY - Program Coordinator, SFS

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: John Blake, Jr.
  • Event Date: April 27, 2002, 7:30 PM
  • Subtitle: Strings for Schools Benefit Concert
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