My amazing Aunt Marjory

My great aunt Juanita Marjory Jackson, was a tremendous influence on my life.  She is one of the five women I write about in They Raised Me Up.  Born  in 1904, she was a writer, musician, social activist and all-round outrageous person.  To fully get a sense of what she was like, you need to read my book!  But here’s a small excerpt where she talks about her time at the Milan Conservatory.


Keeping positive

Do you find it hard sometime to stay positive?  As creative artists, we are bombarded with negative messages on a daily basis.  How many times has someone told your artistic dream was impractical or worse yet, impossible?

In Celebration of Women's Month

This week I will use this blog to reflect on the four decades I've spent as a professional musician and educator.  As an African American woman, my path was often strewn with obstacles. Remember, this was 1969.  

So Inspired

In the past two days I have had the amazing good fortune to connect with two inspiring women.  These women are at the top of their respective fields and really inspired me to step up my own game!

Protecting our precious time

If you've ever had trouble finding time to work on a creative project, you'll appreciate this helpful tip from JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series.

Philippa Schuyler - "The Black Shirley Temple"

As we remember the great Shirley Temple, I want to lift up Philippa Schuyler, an African American child prodigy who was known in the 1940's as the "Black Shirley Temple."  Schuyler is one of the five women I write about in They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her. 

Author Interview - They Raised Me Up

A few weeks ago I did an interview with Kirk Hinkelman from the University of Missouri Press about my book.  Here are his questions and my responses.

The Intrinsic Joy of Making Art

It is easy to become discouraged if you are a creative person trying to get your work out to the public. 

Thank You Dr. King

Thank You Dr King

Posted on January 19, 2014
When I was growing up, blacks and whites could not use the same public toilet, drink from the same water fountain or sit together on a bus in many parts of this country. Thanks to the sacrifices of Dr. Martin Luther King and many other courageous civil rights warriors, I live a life of relative freedom and equality.

Several years ago I wrote a song to honor him. In the chorus I say:

I wouldn't be who I am
Where I am
Without this man
I'm lifted on the wing
Of Martin Luther King

To celebrate Dr. King's legacy, I've made this song available for free download on the "listen" page of this website. Enjoy!

The Importance of mentors

When I was an aspiring young musician, I saw very few women instrumentalists who looked like me on the concert stage. When I became discouraged, I took inspiration from the stories of the women in my family.

The intersection of gender, race and music

Since race impacts all aspects of American life, it should surprise no one that a musicians's race and gender play a role in how they are treated by audiences, critics and record companies. When I was a college student back in the early '70s I hoped to become an orchestral percussionist. But time and again I was told either that "girls don't play drums" or that "black people cannot play European music." Even as a jazz musician in Boston in the 1980s, I was frequently the only female instrumentalist on the bandstand. This is one of the subjects I address in my new book They Raised Me Up: A Black Single Mother and the Women Who Inspired Her. The book weaves the story of my first year in Boston as a single mother and aspiring jazz musician together with the stories of five African American women struggling to realize their musical ambitions at the turn of the last century.

Onward and Upward

Carolyn's new blog is coming soon! Stay tuned for weekly posts and commentary about race, women and music.

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