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The Billy Strayhorn Foundation congratulates Temple University Grad Marcus Grant 

Congratulations to Temple University senior and jazz drummer Marcus Grant. Marcus was the recipient of the 2013 Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education scholarship award, honoring a jazz studies student who personifies the artistry, integrity and musical passion representative of the legacy Billy Strayhorn left with his music. Marcus has earned a bachelor of Music in Jazz Performance and will be continuing his master degree studies in the fall. Marcus was chosen for this award by the Director of Jazz Studies for Temple, world renowned trumpeter Terell Stafford.

The Billy Strayhorn Jazz Education Scholarship award is given in conjuction with the jazz studies program under the leadership of Mr Stafford and the Boyer School of Music on the Temple University Philadelphia campus.

Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. and the Billy Strayhorn Foundation recognizes the importance of youth involvement in the playing and studying of jazz and its treasured history. Thank you Marcus for representing The Strayhorn legacy, Temple University, yourself and your family in a truly positive light! 


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.


Duke Ellington and President Richard Nixon, 1969.



In 1969 on the occasion of his 70th birthday, Duke Ellington was summoned to the White House by President Nixon to receive the Medal of Freedom as one of America’s greatest composers and bandleaders. In accepting the award, Ellington did so in honor of Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967) who died in 1967.  

Nixon: “The President of the United States of America awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Edward Kennedy Ellington. In the royalty of American music, no man swings more or stands higher than the Duke.” 

Ellington: “Thank you Mr. President, Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen. And of course we speak of freedom of expression, we speak of freedom generally as being very sweet and fat and things like that. But at the end when we get down to the payoff, what we actually say is that we would like very much to mention the four major freedoms that my friend and writing and arranging composer Billy Strayhorn lived by and enjoyed.
And that was:
1. Freedom from hate, unconditionally.
2. Freedom from self-pity.
3. Freedom from the fear of possibly doing something that may help someone else more than it would you.
4. And, freedom from the kind of pride that could make a man feel that he is better than his brother.

“I don’t know how this affects you but it damn near makes me cry!!!”

(trans: Bruce Swedien)


As part of the Strayhorn Centennial, there is a movement to seek a posthumous Medal of Freedom for Billy Strayhorn in honor of the magnitude 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 (created music for the Copasetics Foundation to raise money for social causes).

This is the Centennial year of Strayhorn's birth and celebrations are taking place around the world.  There are no fewer than 20 celebrations scheduled for Washington, D. C. involving the Kennedy Center and the Smithsonian and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

In recent years, Strayhorn's legacy has grown and has been recognized by people of all walks of life for his genius and his life story in 20th Century America.  His very notable contributions musically include his composition, "Take the 'A' Train" which was Duke Ellington's theme song and one of the top songs of the 20th Century.  His composition, "Lush Life" is in the list of the top torch songs ever written and has been recorded by artists ranging from Sarah Vaughn, Nat King Cole, Queen Latifah and Lady Gaga.

Strayhorn is famous for his lack of fame--given the magnitude of his artistic 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.  Prejudice from some industry powerbrokers contributed to the subordination of his legacy for this reason.  Yet he commands the respect of musicians everywhere.  Not only in the jazz world but among social scientists, artists, and educators.  He is featured this year on the poster for JAM Month sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution.

Many great artists have performed his works including Lena Horne (his best friend), Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Wynton Marsalis, The Canadian Brass, notable symphony orchestra artists, and classical musicians.  Some of the contemporary artists who respect Strayhorn include Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Queen Latifah, Linda Rondstadt, the late Donna Summer, Natalie Cole and others, Lady Gaga and others.  His civic activities included working with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement and also with organizations that promoted raising funds for the needy.  He created music especially for these organizations, specifically the Copasetics, a black fraternal tap dance organization established in 1949 in memory of the great Bo jangles Robinson. Strayhorn served as President until his death in 1967.  The organization, which is still active, retired the title of President in honor of Billy Strayhorn.

Letters of support should be addressed directly to the President:

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20500


A. Alyce Claerbaut


Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc.



Chicago Jazz Festival to celebrate Billy Strayhorn Centennial September 4th, 2015.

A “Billy Strayhorn Centenary Celebration”,  featuring Jeff Lindberg’s Chicago Jazz Orchestra playing new arrangements of Strayhorn repertoire will be one of the highlights of the 37th annual Chicago Jazz Festival, September 3rd thru the 6th at the Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park.

Known for its artistic creativity, the Chicago Jazz Festival is a favorite Labor Day Weekend tradition. It promotes awareness and appreciation for all forms of jazz through free, quality live musical performance. Since 1979, the festival's mission is to showcase Chicago's vast jazz talent alongside national and international artists to encourage and educate a jazz audience of all ages.

Strayhorn family member and Billy Strayhorn Songs President, Alyce Claerbaut states “We the members of Billy Strayhorn's family are honored that the Chicago Jazz Festival will salute the Strayhorn legacy on the occasion of his centenary. Chicago holds a special place in Billy Strayhorn's life and career as he served as musical director for the 1963 presentation of Duke Ellington's 'My People' at McCormick Place. Chicago was one of his favorite cities and he often spoke of his great respect for Chicago musicians."

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.

Led by Honorary Chair for the committee, 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 (5/2015). 

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

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga win Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at 2015 Grammy Awards

The magic continues for Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga and their award winning collaboration on 'Cheek to Cheek'. The award marks Lady Gaga's 6th Grammy win, while Tony Bennett has earned a total of 17 Grammy's  to date, including a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Listen to Lady Gaga's live rendition of the Billy Strayhorn classic 'Lush Life', performed solo on 'Cheek to Cheek'.