By Nora Hones, originally published on NYSMusic.com

America has an immensely rich culture of art in all its forms, spanning from the early years of the country through present day. Musicians, sculptors, painters, architects, illustrators and graphic designers give this nation a broad history of artistic accomplishment and appreciation that is found through all walks of life and every corner of the country.

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We have heard for nearly a year about the plight of independent music venues and the #SaveOurStages campaign, seen musicians turn to virtual tip jars to make money while streaming performances on various platforms, and in some…

On August 4, 1901, Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans. Until the age of five, Armstrong’s grandmother was his caregiver. At the age of six, he attended the Fisk School for Boys, an all black school in New Orleans. While performing odd jobs for the Karnoffsky family, Armstrong heard the early sounds of jazz from King Oliver.

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Armstrong and the Karnoffskys bonded over their discrimination. Armstrong faced the obvious racial discrimination, but the Karnoffskys, a Jewish houselhold, also faced discrimination by “other white folks.”

In his early career, Armstrong performed on riverboats along the Mississippi River. This gave him…

Eleanora Fagan was born on April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia. As a child, she started going by Billie Holiday, Billie from Billie Dove and Holiday from her dad. She began listening to records by Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith. Her mother Sadie cleaned houses, but could not make a living, so moved to New York City.

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As a teenager, Holiday began singing in nightclubs. She teamed up with saxophonist Kenneth Hollan, performing at numerous clubs in Harlem. In 1932, Holiday replaced Monette Moore at a club where John Hammond, a producer, heard her and signed her to a record. …

Cabell “Cab” Calloway III was born on Christmas Day 1907 in Rochester, living on Sycamore Street. His mother was a teacher and church organist and his father was a lawyer. When Calloway was 11, they moved to Baltimore. After he was caught playing dice on the church steps, his mother sent him to a reform school in Pennsylvania.

When he returned to Baltimore, Calloway began private voice lessons and continued his study of music throughout school. He soon began performing at nightclubs in Baltimore and was mentored by Chick Webb and Johnny Jones.

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In 1927, Calloway joined his older sister…

Written by Joseph Dugan, originally published on NYSMusic.com

On May 21, 1904, Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller was born to Adeline Locket Waller, a musician and Rev. Edward Martin Waller, a trucker and pastor in New York City. He began playing piano at the age of six and began playing organ at his father’s church at the age of ten.

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Waller left school at 15 to work as an organist at the Lincoln Theater in Harlem. Within a year, he composed his first rag. He was the top student and friend to pianist James P. Johnson. …

Written by Joseph Dugan, originally published on NYSMusic.com

On April 15, 1894, Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her parents and brother had died by the time Smith was nine, leaving her sister Viola as the caretaker. Therefore, Smith had a “wretched childhood” and never received an education.

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Early Life

In 1904, her oldest brother left to join a troupe with Moses Stokes. Eight years later, he returned and arranged an audition with the group for Bessie. She was hired as a dancer since Ma Rainey, a popular singer of the time, was already their singer. …

By Joseph Dugan. Originally published on NYSMusic.com

William James “Count” Basie was born in Red Bank, New Jersey in August 1904. Both of his parents played instruments: his dad on mellophone, his mom on piano. He dreamt of traveling, heavily inspired by touring carnivals. However, he spent most of his free time working at the Palace Theater in Red Bank where he eventually received free admission for performances.

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Although he was more proficient on piano, his real love was drums. However, another drummer, Sonny Greer, also grew up at the same time in Red Bank, and Greer eventually became Duke…

by Joseph Dugan, originally published on NYSMusic.com

On April 29, 1899, Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington D.C.. Both of his parents were musicians, and so Ellington began his piano studies at the age of seven. Due to his easygoing nature, his friends began calling him “Duke.”

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Ellington’s early career was defined by his being a painter. He did this to make money, but also involved his music. After he painted a sign for an event, he would ask if they had music. If not, he would offer his services as a pianist.

In 1917, Ellington formed “The Duke’s…

By Joseph Dugan. Originally published on NYSMusic.com

At the start of the twentieth century, many Black Americans, facing racism and discrimination across the country, moved to a neighborhood in Upper Manhattan: Harlem. This neighborhood became a cultural center in the early 1900’s, fully blossoming during the 1920’s and 30’s. This period of time, the Harlem Renaissance, is seen as a watershed for the country, but especially within the arts.

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The Harlem Renaissance established itself as a period of great innovation within jazz. There was a development with the piano making it more accessible for Black musicians. …

Written by Nora Hones for NYSMusic.com

The ‘Harry Chapin: When In Doubt, Do Something’ documentary following the life of the legendary songwriter Harry Chapin has been announced for October 16, 2020. The film will premiere in theaters across the United States as well as on a virtual cinema platform.

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The documentary is a Greenwich Entertainment film and is being directed by Rick Korn. The film was produced by Korn, S.A. Baron, and Chapin’s son, Jason Chapin. It follows the GRAMMY-nominated folk singer starting in his childhood which he spent under the shadow of his father Jim Chapin who was known…

NYS Music

New York State’s music news source, covering events of all genres from all corners of the Empire State. NYSMusic.com

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