Born: March 21, 1942 Primary Instrument: Piano
Amina Cluadine Myers was born in Blackwell, Arkansas. She was raised by her great aunt Mrs. Emma Thomas whom she called mama and her uncle Buford. This is where her music lessons began, with her uncle teaching her rhythms. She started classical piano study at The Sacred Hearts Catholic School in Morrilton, Ark. before moving to Dallas, Tex in 1949. There she continued studying piano. During her elementary school years she became pianist for a local church, co-led an all female gospel group, participated in plays at Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church and in musical activities in school.
Myers moved back to Blackwell in 1957 and finished 11th and 12th grades at L.W. Sullivan High School. She helped form a group with two names The Gospel Four and The Royal Hearts. This group traveled locally for gospel shows and sang rhythm and blues songs popular during that time. Amina received several scholarships for college. She went to Philander Smith College, majoring in music education. She played in the jazz band under the direction of Mr. Whaley the head of the music department during her freshman year.
This was her introduction to jazz, learning to play the blues by ear. Amina continued to study the piano classics and became student director for the choir. After the pianist for the choir graduated, Amina became the pianist. She learned to play the pipe organ during this time. The choir, octet and quartet which she was a member of toured the Midwest under the direction of Dr. Carl Harris.
In her sophomore year, a young lady named Gloria Salter got her a job playing in The Safari Room, a jazz club on 9th Street , the major strip for night life. Amina also took a job playing church organ and later played the organ in a rhythm and blues club for three summers when she stayed with her mother in Louisville, Kentucky.
While in college, during summer vacations she directed and played for church choirs in and around Louisville, Ky. After graduating with a B.A. degree in music education, she moved to Chicago, Ill. to teach school. Amina taught music at The G.T. Donoghue Elementary School for six years. She became involved in the music scene and played with The Gerald Donovan (Ajaramu)Trio as organist for several years. Ajaramu introduced Amina to The Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) and she became a member.. There she met Muhal Richard Abrams and other creative musicians. She began composing for big band, various ensembles and formed a voice choir.
After resigning from teaching, Amina toured as organist with The Gene (Jug) Ammons Quartet for two and a half years and The Sonny Stitt Trio off and on for approximately six months.
In 1976 Amina moved to NY. and became involved with the creative musicians that had migrated from Chicago and St. Louis, playing music in the lofts of New York City. For a year she became a teacher at SUNY ((State Univ. of NY) developing the gospel chorus there.
Myers received several grants from the (NEA), National Endowments for the Arts), (MTC) Meet the Composer and (NYFA) NY Foundation for the Arts.
Myers began touring Europe with The Lester Bowie Quintet and The NY Organ Ensemble around 1978. This began her European (all of western Europe, Hungary, Turkey and Poland), Japanese, Canadian and U.S. performances of concerts, festivals and clubs as a soloist, with her trio, quartet, sextet and voice choir.. This included workshops, seminars and residencies in universities and schools in the U.S. as well as Europe. Myers had the opportunity to perform in Cape Town, South Africa at The North Sea Jazz Festival with saxaphonist/composer Archie Shepp and to Accra, Ghana (West Africa) with composer/ vibraphonist Cecilia Smith during their jazz festival.
There are nine recordings with Amina as leader: “Song For Mother” (Leo Records) “Amina Claudine Myers Salutes Bessie Smith” /Leo Records) “The Circle of Time” (Black Saint) “Poems for Piano” The piano music of Marion Brown, (Sweet Earth Records) “Amina and In Touch” (RCA/Novus) “Jumping in the Sugarbowl and Country Girl”(Minor Music) and Amina Claudine Myers, “Women in Motion Live,” (Modern & Traditions).
Myers has recorded and toured with other musicans such as Muhal Richard Abrams, James Blood Ulmer, Bill Laswell, Henry Threadgill , Archie Shepp, Charlie Haden and many other great musicians.
Amina premiered her IMPROVISATIONAL SUITE FOR CHORUS, PIPE ORGAN AND PERCUSSION ( sixteen voices, pipe organ and two percussionists, showcasing operatic voices in an improvisational setting) in N.Y. Other large works include, WHEN THE BERRIES FELL (eight voices, two percussionists, piano and electric organ. An odyssey through the world of music) FOCUS (a mixed media event with piano, voice, electric bass and slides of Blackwell , Arkansas), INTERIORS (a chamber orchestra piece with eleven instruments including a string quartet) BALCOR and PARK PEOPLE(compositions for big band). A VIEW FROM THE INSIDE ( a one time completely improvised performance of an inside look of the creative mind with a New Orleans chef, a weaving designer, a choreographer, pianist/composer and composer/guitarist/trumpeter and AGA (compositions for violin, cello and piano.)
Continued ongoing collaborations include recordings and performances with Sola Lui a wonderful chinese composer, designer and vocalist. This combination of Chinese and African American cultures has performed in Europe and the U.S. Myers has also worked with the exciting choreographer Diane McIntyre to recreate a work by Helen Tamaris titled HOW LONG BRETHREN (Negro Protest Songs written during the thirties). Myers directed the symphony orchestra and chorus at George Mason University in Va.and Western Univ. in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Myers' works of blues, jazz, gospel and extended forms continues. She teaches privately, giving lessons in theory, composition, piano, voice, organ, classical piano and assisting clients interested in stage/ performances. Amina has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Iridium Club, Birdland and other sites with her groups and with other artists and still continues to perform nationally and internationally.