Dr. Billy Taylor

Honorary Founders Board

Dr. Billy Taylor

Dr. Billy Taylor is an American jazz pianist, composer, and educator. He is currently the Robert L. Jones Distinguished Professor of Music at East Carolina University in Greenville. Since 1994, he has been the artistic director for jazz at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Dr. Taylor has composed over three hundred and fifty songs, including "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" as well as works for theatre, dance and symphony orchestras. Playing the piano professionally since 1944, he got his start with Ben Webster's Quartet on New York's famed 52nd Street. He then served as the house pianist at Birdland, the legendary jazz club, where he performed with such celebrated masters as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. With over twenty three honorary doctoral degrees, Dr. Taylor is the recipient of two Peabody Awards, an Emmy, a Grammy and a host of prestigious prizes, such as the National Medal of Arts, the Tiffany Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Downbeat Magazine, and election to the Hall of Fame for the International Association for Jazz Education. Now in his eighties and officially retired from touring and recording, he remains active with his educational activities and a full schedule of speaking engagements and appearances on radio and television.

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