Women in Jazz Month 2018

12 Mar

March is Women in Jazz Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of women to jazz. Few – male or female – have contributed more to the jazz canon than Billie Holiday. In the decades since her death, Lady Day has been celebrated in film, song, books, fashion and art.


ClickitTicket, a resale marketplace, has created a timeline of Billie Holiday’s life, beginning with her birth in Philadelphia in 1915 and ending with her death in a New York City hospital in 1959.


An excerpt:

Billie Holiday’s voice was a little thin and somewhat limited. She had no technical training; she couldn’t even read sheet music.

Yet, Holiday is one of the greatest vocalists of all-time.

What she lacked in power and tone, she made up for it with the ability to tell a story and emote. Every song she sang she made her own.

Holiday was a true artist who had a profound impact on both jazz and pop music.

She made a huge impact on countless artists including Frank Sinatra.

“Lady Day is unquestionably the most important influence on American popular singing in the last twenty years,” explained Ol’ Blue Eyes to Ebony magazine in 1958.

Despite personal demons, abusive romantic relationships, and the specter of racism, Holiday achieved commercial and artistic success during her lifetime.

Since her death in the late 1950s, generations of musicians have turned to her recordings for inspiration and enlightenment.


Presidents’ Day 2018

19 Feb

I am a museum lover. Before the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Portrait Gallery was my favorite Smithsonian museum. It’s now my second museum. When Barack Obama won the 2008 election, I thought that he will be included in the pantheon of American Presidents.

President Obama’s portrait was unveiled last week.

Barack Obama - NPG

In an email, Obama wrote:

Today, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald became the first black artists to create official, Smithsonian-commissioned portraits of a former President and First Lady.

And Michelle and I joined our distinguished predecessors and thousands of our fellow Americans on the walls of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

To call this experience humbling would be an understatement.

That’s because, as a former president, when you choose an artist to describe your likeness, you have the opportunity to shape, quite literally, how someone sees the office of the American presidency. And how they might see themselves in that presidency.


The arts have always been central to the American experience. They provoke thought, challenge our assumptions, and shape how we define our narrative as a country.

Thanks to Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, generations of Americans — and young people from all around the world — will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this country through a new lens. These works upend the notion that there are worlds where African Americans belong and worlds where we don’t. And that’s something Michelle and I hope we contributed to over the eight years we were so privileged to serve you from the White House.

Michelle Obama’s portrait will join the collection of First Ladies.

Michelle Obama - NPG

In case you missed it, check out “Obama Portrait Unveiling at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.”

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