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Featured Composer: Mary Lou Williams

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.


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