It stands to reason that I was drawn to books at a young age, and that today I splurge perhaps a bit too often on new purchases. My mom is a librarian and my grandmother taught English, and both women filled their spaces with as many books as they could afford, scouring church sales and used bookstores to find precious new additions to their bookshelves. Today, I couldn’t keep moving forward without the inspiration and direction of the authors creating all around us. Some of my favorites are below, and I hope they can inspire you as well. What are you reading?
Where Are All the Black Female Composers? by Nate Holder
A brand new book from British composer, author and saxophonist Nate Holder is a delightful collection of bios about past and present women composers of color. Even better, this contains charming illustrations which make it a lovely way to teach younger students. There is even a tuba! My next purchase is his Why is My Piano Black and White?
Swing Shift, “All-Girl” Bands of the 1940s by Sherrie Tucker
I talk about this book wherever I go. It’s more than a history of women we didn’t learn about in the existing history of jazz curriculum. She digs into why the jazz culture has resisted including the work of these women, and especially the women of color who are such strong role models in this arena. Sherrie has several articles in this area in addition to this book, and focuses a good deal on the art of interviewing and storytelling.
Hildegard of Bingen by Fiona Maddocks
Many of you know I have performed and composed music in honor of Hildegard von Bingen, the medieval abbess and composer, for many years. This biography is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Hildegard, containing her own words as well as those of her social circle. Her letters and books provide a new understanding of her world and made me realize how little we know about women in this era. I found it fascinating to read her correspondence with intellectuals across Europe, and to read about what is present today, should we want to take a road trip to Germany to honor her life and work. My newest solo ElevenTwelve was composed as a map of her first convent, and I enjoyed reading about all that happened there.
By and By: Charles Albert Tindley, the Father of Gospel Music by Carole Boston Weatherford
This wonderful children’s book, illustrated by Bryan Collier, showcases the inspirational life and work of American minister and songwriter Charles Albert Tindley. Having recently arranged some of his music (find some of his hymns in my store), I was happy to find this lovely tribute to his creative energy and leadership. The perfect gift for the young at heart in your life.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
I listened to this in the audio book format, read so beautifully by Michelle Obama herself. She kept me company as I drove across the country, to attend the International Women’s Brass Conference held at my alma mater, Arizona State University. Her story of her strong family and the struggle for her successful career was very inspiring, as was her honesty about her experience as First Lady, and her life as a professional and a mother.
Officer Clemmons by Dr. François Clemmons
I was so excited to learn that our much loved character from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood fame was a professional musician. This autobiography is very special, and provides an honest look at the life of this well-known character in his own words. Recently retired as Professor of Music at Middlebury College in Vermont (I am so happy he ended up in my home state) his candor about race, sexual identity, and the close relationship with Fred Rogers make this a must read.
The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Performance, Practice and Wellness by Gerald Klickstein
A leader and advisor in the music business, Gerald Klickstein and I have worked together often, and I value his direct approach. As a lifelong educator, Gerald led teams as the Founder and Director of the Music Entrepreneurship and Career Center at the Peabody Conservatory, after teaching in the UNC system here at University of North Carolina School of the Arts. In this book he discusses performance motivation, nerves, maintaining health and creativity.
The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations by Michael Kaiser
I return to this one a good bit in my role as a non-profit leader. Michael starts with ten rules for successful arts leadership. Then he explains in detail five case studies of troubled arts organizations he assisted as leader, and how he was able to shift them towards growth and success. I love that his focus is on strong support of artists and their product as the main objective, and advocating out-of-the-box thinking to break the status quo. He has several great books in this series, focusing on strategic planning, marketing, and fund-raising.
Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown
Brené’s books are all very important for a shift in attitude we need, regarding how we view our work and our teams. She encourages us to lead with courage and stand up for being really honest with ourselves, and get rid of the lone leader approach. Another I have and like is her Dare to Lead.
Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way by Steven Pressfield
When I re-read this one, a small, slim volume that packs a punch, I end up texting friends shots of the pages every time. This is a book to get us un-stuck and through a project, to kick us in the pants with true realities. I am a huge fan of all his work and find I need to get my head out of the dreamy clouds of being an artist, and need his solid and blunt reality check every so often.