Dec 30, 2010
Dr. Billy Taylor, a great jazz pianist, composer, educator and ambassador for music, died on Tuesday at the age of 89 from a heart attack. He will be greatly missed, particularly here in his home away from home, Western Massachusetts.
Taylor will be remembered for his residency as house pianist at Birdland during the days of Charlie Parker; for the jazz standard he wrote - "I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free"; but most importantly, he will be recalled as a jazz educator before such a thing was thought of. He was a co-founder of the JazzMobile program in New York, and created the Jazz at July program at the University of Massachusetts that launched careers and dreams by the dozens.
He also served as the Artistic Advisor for Jazz to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where he developed the Louis Armstrong Legacy series and the annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. His many honors included two Peabody Awards, an Emmy, a Grammy, and the National Medal of Arts.
Listen to an audio tribute to Dr. Taylor from NPR by clicking here.