Born: February 29, 1956 Primary Instrument: Piano
MYERS KEEPS JAZZ ALIVE IN THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA
Belzoni, Mississippi) - As the Artistic Director of the Mississippi Jazz & Heritage Program, minister, physician and jazz musician, Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D., works to keep Mississippi's rich jazz legacy alive in the Mississippi Delta. Best known as the home of the blues, the Belzoni physician and accomplished jazz trumpeter and pianist, with medical clinics throughout the Mississippi Delta, continues to make jazz a household name in the delta.
The Mississippi Delta has rich jazz legacy, states Dr. Myers. One of the greatest jazz pianist in the world, Mulgrew Miller, was born in Greenwood, Mississippi and one of the greatest jazz composers since Duke Ellington, Gerald Wilson, was born in Shaw, Mississippi. Other legendary jazz artist from Mississippi include Milt Hinton, the father of the modern jazz bass, who was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, while Lester Prez Young, the father of the modern jazz saxophone, was born in Woodville, Mississippi, continues Myers. Now that Mississippi is my home, keeping that tradition alive while performing throughout the area is quite an honor.
Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1956 and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Myers career as a jazz musician was greatly influenced by performing with the legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Stitt as a 16 year old high school student. Performing with Stitt was a pivotal experience for me as a young musician, states Myers. I knew then that I wanted to be a jazz musician.
Myers, while still in high school, had the opportunity to perform for one of the masters of jazz trumpet, Donald Byrd. I thank my high school jazz band director, George Andrews, and music instructor, Anderson White, for providing me with so many unique jazz opportunities, such as performing with Sonny Stitt and for Donald Byrd, states Myers. They really encouraged me to develop my music talents, which is why I work so hard to encourage young people I meet to develop theirs.
While completing his pre-medicine studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Myers met his true music mentor, the late Professor Jimmy Cheatham, formerly with the Duke Ellington and Count Bassie Orchestras.
Jimmy taught me the basics of jazz improvisation and composition, states Myers. I know I wouldn't be performing with the intensity that I do today, were it not for Jimmy sharing his invaluable wisdom about life and jazz music.
While completing his residency in family medicine at L.S.U. Medical Center, Charity Hospital, in Baton Rouge, Bogalusa and New Orleans, Louisiana, Myers met his true jazz artistic mentor, the late legendary jazz clarinetist Alvin Baptiste. It was a great experience to play piano with the Alvin Baptist quartet, states Myers. Alvin introduced me to Ellis Marsalis, and I also ended up playing with him in New Orleans.
Myers performed with other notable New Orleans jazz musicians including bassist Walter Peyton, tenor saxophonist Victor Goines and alto saxophonist Wes Anderson. It was through this music apprenticeship with Alvin Baptiste that Myers was given the opportunity headline his own group at Snug Harbor, a top New Orleans jazz showcase.
Myers performed and recorded with the former jazz drummer for Sun Ra's Orchestra, Aye Aton, vibraphonist Charles Allen and bassist Harry Anderson. This group of talented musicians lead by Myers gave him a unique improvisational spiritual sound that he is known for in jazz circles today. Myers' stellar performances at Snug Harbor lead to being featured in the 1988 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, as an up and coming young jazz star.
Myers soon released his critically acclaimed CD, with all original music, composed and arranged by Myers, Doctor's Orders. Noted jazz critic Willard Jenkins, who frequently reviews jazz recordings for Down Beat and Jazz Times magazines, called the recording one of the most important recordings in the last ten years. Featuring original jazz compositions like Song For Tchula, Blues For Tchula and Message From the Country, Myers CD has made the Mississippi Delta an area of a great jazz legacy in America.
Myers artistic contributions have made the Mississippi Delta known for jazz and not just the blues, states accomplished Mississippi Delta blues guitarist Jerry Fair. I really enjoy his music!
Upon completion of his residency in family medicine in 1988, Myers moved to the Mississippi Delta and began performing in Jackson, Mississippi and throughout the state with jazz saxophonist Ron Wesley, jazz bassist London Branch, and Mississippi's most prolific jazz drummer, Al Fielder. Myers was soon appointed the Artistic Director for the Mississippi Jazz and Heritage Program (MJHP) by the late jazz promoter and historian John Reese, Founder and President of the Black Arts Music Society (BAMS). BAMS is the oldest and most accomplished jazz promotion organization in Mississippi, states Myers.
The MJHP, supported by the Smith Robinson Museum and Cultural Center and the Myers Foundation, educates students and community on Mississippi's jazz legacy through a series of concerts and lectures throughout the state. Myers also influenced and performed with talented jazz music students at Jackson State University, including trumpeter Russell Gunn and bassist Rodney Jordan.
John Reese was not only the greatest jazz promoter in the history of Mississippi, but a close friend, states Myers. During my lectures on the historic legacy of jazz in Mississippi, I always pay special tribute to the contribution John made to the promotion of jazz in Mississippi.
With the assistance of Reese, Myers founded the Mississippi Jazz and Heritage Festival, which featured several memorial jazz concerts in honor of Mississippi jazz drum master Freddie Watts and the legendary Mississippi jazz saxophonist Lester Prez Young. Also performing concerts during Juneteenth events across the state and country, Myers was named the National Juneteenth Jazz Artist by the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF).
To support jazz education in the Mississippi Delta, Myers accepted a short term teaching position at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) as Jazz Artist In Residence. Myers taught a unique course in jazz education entitled Experimental Improvisational Black Music Ensemble (EIBME). Teaching jazz composition and improvisation through the EIBME came from taking the same course with Professor Jimmy Cheatham, who created it, at the University of Wisconsin, states Myers. I was just continuing to teach from a tradition handed down to me from my mentor Jimmy Cheatham.
Myers, Founder & Director of the Fellowship of Creative Christian Jazz Musicians (FCCJM), is also an ordained Baptist Minister. Directing and performing at jazz worship services in churches across America, Myers served as Chaplain for the Black Jazz Music Caucus (BJMC) of the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) from 1990 - 2000. As chaplain, Myers lead and performed in unique jazz worship services, giving praise to God through improvisational worship music at IAJE conventions throughout the country. Like the Psalmist David, in Amos 6:5, who praised God through improvisation worship, I love to praise God through jazz, states Rev. Myers. The psalmist says in Psalms 150, 'Let everything that has breath Praise the Lord!'
Myers was one of the jazz musicians who honored Vicksburg, Mississippi native and master jazz bassist Milt Hinton during the 2000 Mississippi Governor's Arts Award presentation. Performing for Milt Hinton was a great honor for me, states Myers. I even sang a jazz tune for Milt during the special awards program. I'm hope Milt enjoyed my singing more then I did!
Myers, who performs regularly in Greenville, Mississippi at the Ramada Inn on Sundays, began showcasing the Mississippi Delta's own prolific jazz musicians through Jazz Greenville and moving the annual Mississippi Jazz and Heritage Festival to Greenville on Labor Day weekend. I am proud to be a jazz musician from the Mississippi Delta, states Myers. Mississippi has a rich, rich jazz legacy that continues to leave an enduring mark throughout the world.
Don't miss the next performance of Dr. Ron Myers. It will be just what the doctor ordered!
For more information on Ron Myers and the Mississippi Jazz and Heritage Program (MJHP), the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF) and the Fellowship of Creative Christian Jazz Musicians (FCCJM), go to the web sites: www.JazzMississippi.com, www.Juneteenth.us, www.JuneteenthJazz.com and www.ChristianJazz.net.
Awards:Jazz Educators Award, For Outstanding Service to Jazz Education - International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) - 1996 & 1997 Outstanding Acheivement Award, Black Jazz Music Caucus - International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) - 1992
National Juneteenth Jazz Artist - Ron Myers
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