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Dr. Billy Taylor

Dr. Billy Taylor
The DCJF Lifetime Achievement Award
2006

Dr. Billy Taylor, distinguished ambassador from the world of jazz to the world at large, has served as the Kennedy Center's Artistic Advisor for Jazz since 1994 and has developed numerous ongoing concert series and the KC Jazz Club. His live show, Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center, was produced by NPR for an eight-year series of radio programs broadcast throughout the United States. In 2001, Dr. Taylor presented his jazz collection and memorabilia assembled over more than 65 years, to the Library of Congress - the largest and most inclusive jazz archive ever acquired by the Library.

Dr. Billy Taylor, distinguished ambassador from the world of jazz to the world at large, has served as the Kennedy Center's Artistic Advisor for Jazz since 1994 and has developed numerous ongoing concert series and the KC Jazz Club. His live show, Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center, was produced by NPR for an eight-year series of radio programs broadcast throughout the United States. In 2001, Dr. Taylor presented his jazz collection and memorabilia assembled over more than 65 years, to the Library of Congress - the largest and most inclusive jazz archive ever acquired by the Library.

Billy Taylor was born in Greenville, North Carolina, in 1921 and grew up in Washington, DC. Throughout the 1940s Billy Taylor played with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Machito, Coleman Hawkins, Eddie South, Stuff Smith, and Slam Stewart. As the house pianist at Birdland, he supported many of that eras jazz standouts, including Dizzy Gillespie. He then went on to perform predominantly as the leader of his own trios.

Dr. Taylor has written many works on various jazz-related subjects including the first book ever written about bebop piano. He has some 300 compositions to his credit, including - I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, featured as the theme for the film, Ghosts of Mississippi. He has been commissioned by numerous artistic organizations to create works combining jazz and orchestral music, music for dance, and civic occasions. Dr. Taylor is also considered to be the foremost jazz educator of our time, from co-founding community grass roots efforts, such as Jazzmobile, and programs focusing on young people and adults, to master classes and seminars for professionals.

The Center for Research in Black Culture designated Dr. Taylor as one of the top 100 Black New Yorkers of the 20th Century. He was named an NEA Jazz Master in 1988 and received the Grammy Trustees Award in 2005. In 2007, Dr. Taylor was one of the jazz luminaries honored with the Living Jazz Legend Award

Dr. Taylor has dedicated the remainder of his career to advocacy for the music that he loves by imparting his vast knowledge and wisdom to the thousands of young musicians who follow in his footsteps.