Promoting Inclusion in Piano Repertoire
Scores • Recordings • Leveling
A resource for pianists, pedagogues, and curious music appreciators to explore.
Every two weeks, ASAP is proud to shine the spotlight on different composers that can be found within our database, both living and deceased. Explore these composer's works, learn about who they are as individuals, and discover what makes each composer unique.
Each post will link to the composer's page on our own website, as well as to their own website (if they have one), and a brief write-up that highlights their works for the piano.
Composers are chosen randomly, as every person on our website represents an exciting chance to learn.
Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) was an American jazz pianist, arranger, and composer. She was a prolific composer, with hundreds of both jazz charts and fully-notated works.
She began to play piano at the age of three in her hometown of Pittsburgh, and was performing to support her family by the age of six. She later performed with Duke Ellington's early band 'The Washingtonians," and was soon performing and arranging songs for her future husband John Overton Williams, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey.
Williams is often known as the 'mother of bebop' due to her important early mentorships to musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Tadd Dameron, Budd Powell, and Miles Davis.She had an illustrious performing career, with important performances at venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Monterey Jazz Festival, and teaching appointment at Duke University.
Her legacy and influence continues to be felt today.Duke University has since started the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, the Kennedy Center runs the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival, and she has been the subject of numerous books, films, and podcasts.