Yesterday the amazing jazz pianist, composer, vocalist and educator Dr. Valerie Capers turned 80 years old. For several years now Starr and I have had the immense pleasure of being in Dr. Capers presence one glorious weekend a year and it’s our expert opinion that she’s a bona-fide HBG y’all!
If you’ve not previously been schooled on her black excellence here’s an excerpt from her bio:
Valerie Capers was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She received her schooling at the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind and then was admitted to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. Dr. Capers is the first and only blind student to have earned both Bachelor and Masters degrees from that institution. After graduating from Juilliard, she served on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music where she instituted their first jazz classes and where she taught for seven years. She later became a faculty member of the music department at Bronx Community College (CUNY). Her tenure there culminated in her appointment as the Chairperson of the college’s Department of Music and Art. Dr. Capers retired from academia in the mid nineties and is now professor Emerita. Lauded as a one of the nation’s preeminent jazz educators by the New York Times, Dr. Capers has now returned to performing, conducting workshops, and teaching master classes.
We’ve only scratched the surface with this small birthday shout, cleverly disguised as an introduction. Her catalog, life’s work and yearly visit to Eastside College Preparatory in East Palo Alto are all things we’re dedicated to sharing more about. We’ve also got lots more about the series she’s involved in with the minds behind the African American Composers Initiative coming up.
But for now, we simply ask that you join us in saying Happy Birthday to Dr. Valerie Capers! You can leave all wishes directly via her Facebook page and we’ll make sure she gets them Lastly…how bout a little music so you get an idea of why we ( and so many others) love her so much!
I picked this one because you get a taste of her infectious personality at the front of the video as she breaks down how the rhythm rides in and how it’s different for some folks. Don’t act like you don’t know. I love being educated by smart and witty folks like Valerie!!!
Devoya Mayo is Co-Creator of The Happy Black Girl
Get To Know An HBG is her favorite column to write.
You can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org