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Jazz Legend Billy Taylor Made His Mark in D.C.

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Jazz pianist and composer Billy Taylor was a presence on public radio and an advisor to the Kennedy Center.
Tom Marcello
Jazz pianist and composer Billy Taylor was a presence on public radio and an advisor to the Kennedy Center.

Jazz pianist and composer Billy Taylor died of heart failure this week at age 89.

Taylor grew up in the District, and through his storied career, left his mark on public radio and the Kennedy Center.

Taylor was born in North Carolina, but attended Dunbar High School in Washington.

He then studied music at Virginia State College, graduating in 1942.

Soon after that, he headed to New York City, where he played with top jazz musicians and eventually became a jazz teacher and advocate, traveling to high schools and colleges to talk about music.

In the 1960's, Taylor hit the radio airwaves and later hosted the popular NPR program, "Billy Taylor's Jazz at the Kennedy Center"-a series where he introduced live performances and interviewed artists.

He also served as an advisor to the Kennedy Center.

Taylor earned a doctorate in music education from the University of Massachusetts, then went on to perform hundreds of free concerts around the world.

He also penned more than 300 compositions in his lifetime, including "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free," which became an unofficial anthem of the civil rights movement.


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