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Cynthia Staples

was born in Bloomfield, Kentucky and little is known about his early life. In the 1880s, while singing in his local church, he either received encouragement or independently developed a desire to become a professional singer. In order to accomplish this, he traveled to New York City in that same decade and quickly became acclimated to the musical world. He worked a series of odd jobs to make money so that he could pay for professional voice, language, and music lessons from instructors such as voice coach John Howard. His teachers introduced him to a world of music he had not known before. He fell in love with opera, a classical form of music that, for Drury, was far more uplifting than the popular and too often derogatory minstrel shows of the late nineteenth century.

In 1889 with the aid of private benefactors who today are largely unknown Drury ...


Ronald P. Dufour

saxophonist, playwright, and educator, was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied clarinet in his youth but switched to alto saxophone at about the age of fifteen; as a teenager he played in local rhythm-and-blues bands and also apprenticed with Cal Massey, who had earlier influenced John Coltrane. Shepp graduated from Goddard College with a BA in Dramatic Literature in 1959 and moved to New York City in search of theater work, playing alto saxophone in dance bands to earn money.

Influenced by Coltrane, Shepp switched to tenor sax and immediately began to make a name for himself. Coltrane's emphasis on the African American spiritual values of jazz certainly shaped his approach to the music, but by Shepp's own account it was his playing with Cecil Taylor, from 1960 to 1962 that truly transformed him musically ...


Vera M. Kutzinski

and MacArthur Fellow. Jay Wright's biography is a composite of uncertain and contradictory stories. He was born in either 1934 or 1935 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Leona Dailey, a Virginian of African and Native American descent, and George Murphy (also known as Mercer Murphy Wright), a construction worker, jitney driver, and handy man who claimed to be of African American, Cherokee, and Irish ancestry. Wright spent most of his childhood in the care of foster parents in Albuquerque. In his teens, he lived with his father in San Pedro, California. While in high school, Wright began to play minor league baseball and developed what would become a lifelong passion for the bass. From 1954 to 1957 he served in the U S Army medical corps During most of his service he was stationed in Germany which gave him the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Europe ...