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Duke Ellington and President Richard Nixon, 1969.

BILLY STRAYHORN CENTENNIAL 2015

PROPOSAL FOR POSTHUMOUS PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM

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


Submitted:

A. Alyce Claerbaut

President

Billy Strayhorn Songs, Inc.

3/2015

 

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."

Phoenix, Arizona to celebrate the Strayhorn Centennial

The official 4th annual International Jazz Day Arizona festival at

CityScape on April 30th will once again be one of many International Jazz

Day Events taking place worldwide.

Downtown Phoenix is joining the line-up of more than 196 countries

around the globe that will be participating in International Jazz Day on April 30th.

This annual event was officially designated in 2011, by the United Nations'

Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the USA's form

of art gift to the World. We now celebrate jazz and the role it plays in uniting

people in all corners of the world. This great outdoor festival held at

CityScape features world-renowned jazz saxophonist Azar Lawrence, along with

an all-star lineup of local, national and international jazz artists. This year’s

official International Jazz Day Arizona Festival (IJDAZ) will include celebrating the Centennial

of Billy Strayhorn, one of the greatest contributors to Jazz as a composer and

arranger. Hear some of his greatest hits such as, Take the A Train, Lush Life, Satin

Doll, Something to Live For, and Hey Buddy Bolden (a tune dedicated to the

founder of Jazz), just to name a few. 

WHEN / WHERE: Thursday, April 30, 11AM until 9PM. 

11AM to 2PM: Area school bands will be featured. 

4PM to 9PM: The Jazz Lovers Festival. CityScape, Downtown Phoenix at 1 East Washington St., Phoenix, AZ     85004

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Reservoir Media joins promotion of Strayhorn Centennial Celebration


Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. co-publisher Reservoir Media Management (New York City) has helped to kick off the Strayhorn Centennial year with several collaborations to date. Reservoir recently partnered with BSSI to coordinate the WNYU radio interview with the Strayhorn estate on "The Phoenix" from New York. Reservoir also attended the 2015 Jazz Education Network conference in support of BSSI's jazz education outreach efforts.

A May 2015 viewing of the award winning documentary 'LUSH LIFE' and a Strayhorn panel discussion at New York University has also been coordinated thru Reservoir, as well as a November Strayhorn tribute by the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Strayhorn information and updates can also be found on the Reservoir website, facebook and pininterest pages.

Thanks to Reservoir and their creative, energetic marketing team for helping to move the Strayhorn legacy forward!!

 

Strayhorn Centinninel ButtonEast River Jazz puts together its exciting year long "Celebrating Strayhorn" centennial program in Washington DC.


Mr. Vernard Gray, producer and curator of East River Jazz is presenting "Celebrating Strayhorn". For you jazz lovers, this is a creative lineup of conversations and performances honoring the legacy and 100th anniversary of composer-arranger William "Billy" Strayhorn. Most of the events will be free but donations will be appreciated. Please check our Events calendar for happenings each month. Also visit eastriverjazz.net for info and updates. 

East River Jazz is an initiative that works to present jazz culture and music to underserved communities in the Washington DC. area.

East River Jazz

 

Clark Terry: Not Just A Jazz Jester

CLARK TERRY: DECEMBER 20TH, 1920-FEBRUARY 21ST, 2015

Trumpet and flugelhorn virtuoso Clark Terry, a mainstay in the Duke Ellington and "Tonight Show" big bands has passed away at the age of 94. Mr. Terry was a vibrant fixture of entertainment and music education over several decades. Clark Terry spent his life sharing his great gift and one of a kind talent with the world, whether by performing for Presidents or pre-schoolers and plenty of people in-between, or by traveling the world teaching students everywhere.

Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. extends condolences to Clark's wife Gwen and the Terry family. Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. will continue to honor the life of Clark by keeping his name and legacy alive as the Chairman of our 2015 Strayhorn Centennial Honorary Committee.   

Billy Strayhorn Festival at Music Institute of Chicago Review ...

Strayhorn legacy shines at 2015 Jazz Education Network Conference in San Diego.

JEN (Jazz Education Network)  2015 provided a very good start to the Billy Strayhorn Centennial activities. The January JEN conference provided Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. and the Billy Strayhorn Foundation with several showcase opportunities that gave an impactful spotlight to  their  jazz education initiatives. Strayhorn family members led a presentation titled "Heirs to a Legacy", detailing the beginning process that led to Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. and its current day to day work involving music and print publishing, jazz education, Foundation outreach and preserving/enhancing Strayhorn and jazz music to a broader world audience. 

Conference attendees were also treated to a Strayhorn tribute concert performed by the Berklee College of Music professor and saxophonist Daniel Ian Smith. His quartet performed a wonderful hour long ‘Latin side’ tribute of several Strayhorn compositions.

Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. was also supported in its efforts by Alfred Music and Reservoir Media Managment. Print publisher Alfred provided 2 Strayhorn charts for raffle items as well as a handout listing the many Strayhorn charts they publish for musicians of all levels. Co-publisher Reservior Media Management provided a full page color ad for the JEN program book and attended several conference events in support of the Strayhorn legacy.

The 2016 Jazz Education Conference will be held in Louisville, Kentucky.

   

 

 

 

Smithsonian Jazz Appreciation Month Poster 2015

2015 Jazz Appreciation Month poster pays tribute to Billy Strayhorn

In recognition of Billy Strayhorn's importance and centennial, The Smithsonian Institution decided that their 2015 Jazz Appreciation Month poster will feature Billy Strayhorn, with a lovely portrait by the African American artist Keith Henry Brown, who designed the 2011  poster featuring Mary Lou Williams. The annual JAM poster is a big deal—it's eagerly awaited each year, sought after, and many schools and organizations post it for years. The poster will be distributed through the US Department of Education, to 35,000 schools, as well as to US embassies and consulates around the world, to Smithsonian audiences, jazz educators, etc.

2015 is another year of wonderful centennial birthdays in jazz. Along with Strayhorn, 2015 also is the centennial year for Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday.