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George J. Grella

(b Arlington, MA, Dec 17, 1954). American composer, singer, broadcaster, and journalist. He taught himself to play drums, piano, and guitar as a teenager, after seeing Soft Machine open for Jimi Hendrix when he was 13. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design (BA 1976), where he played jazz piano, sang, composed chamber music, and organized free-jazz ensembles. He moved to New York and worked as a graphic designer and illustrator, producing work for Paul Bley’s label Improvising Artists and for composer La Monte Young, while making music on the side. Garland followed the twin paths of piano improvisation and composition for chamber ensembles in the minimalist style and later joined Nigel Rollings’s band Ad Hoc Rock; with Rollings he sang and played drums, guitar, and keyboards and appeared at The Kitchen, Carnegie Hall, and in the Noise Fest at White Columns (1981). In ...

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Karen M. Bryan

[Douglas, Lena ]

(b Kansas City, KS, 1885; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 24, 1974). American critic, composer, singer, and pianist. After receiving a BSc from Western Ontario University in Quindaro, Kansas, Holt studied at the Chicago Musical College and earned the first MusM in composition awarded to an African American (1918). During the 1920s she performed as a singer throughout Europe, studied composition briefly with Nadia Boulanger, and developed close friendships with Harlem Renaissance figures such as Carl Van Vechten and Langston Hughes.

While Holt’s career included periods in which she composed (only one of approximately 200 compositions survive) and performed (she sang extensively in private venues during her travels), she always returned to music journalism. She served as critic for The Chicago Defender from 1917–21, becoming the first woman music critic in the United States. During this same period she published Music and Poetry (1919–21), in which she included new compositions (including her own)....

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Mark Anthony Neal

(b Chicago, IL, Jan 8, 1967). American R&B singer, writer, producer, and arranger. Kelly was born on the South side of Chicago. Raised, with his three siblings, by a single mother, he was encouraged to pursue a musical career by his high school music teacher and mentor, Lena McLin, who was the chair of the music department at the Kenwood Academy and the niece of the legendary gospel music composer Thomas Dorsey. In high school Kelly formed the group MGM (Musically Gifted Men), which won a $100,000 grand prize on the television talent show Big Break, hosted by Natalie Cole. The group eventually signed with Jive Records, though after creative and financial tensions, three of the members were replaced and the group renamed R. Kelly and Public Announcement. After a moderately successful debut that produced the hit singles “She’s Got That Vibe” and “Honey Love,” Kelly left the group in early ...