Jazz pianist, educator and radio host Billy Taylor died Tuesday (12/28) in New York, his daughter, Kim Taylor-Thompson, announced Thursday on his official website. The cause of his death at age 89 was heart failure.
Long an advocate of music education, Taylor graduated from Virginia State College before heading to New York in 1944 to seek a career playing jazz. He played with virtually all of the greats of the time, but also managed to earn a PhD in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts and served as a Duke Ellington Fellow at Yale University.
During the jazz era Taylor served as Program Director for WLIB-AM New York and then hosted a show on WNEW-AM New York. In more recent years he hosted three series for NPR: “Taylor Made Piano,” “Jazz Alive” and “Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center.”
On television, Taylor was musical director for an early educational TV program on jazz and more recently profiled many musicians as a special correspondent for “Sunday Morning” on CBS.
Since 1964 his JazzMobile organization has presented free concerts and workshops in New York City to introduce young people to jazz. JazzMobile is planning a special salute for Taylor’s 90th birthday next July – alas, now without his presence.
Taylor was one of only three jazz musicians appointed to the National Council of the Arts. With over 23 honorary doctoral degrees, he was also the recipient of two Peabody Awards, an Emmy and a Grammy.
RBR-TVBR observation: Having attended several tapings of “Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center” and heard him perform live in venues from Bermuda to Florida, it is sad to think that we will never again hear Billy Taylor at the keyboard. Rest in peace Dr. Taylor.