Stories from PA History
Story Details
Jazz in Pennsylvania
Loud, improvizational, rebellious, and youthful, jazz was the sound of modern America. John Coltrane, Mary Lou Williams, Billy Eckstine, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Billy Strayhorn, and other legendary figures all made jazz history in Pennsylvania.

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Bring this subject into focus through the following chapters. These stories take exploration of the main story further by providing more detail for you to learn and explore.

Overview: Jazz in Pennsylvania
Chapter One: Jazz in Pittsburgh
Chapter Two: Jazz in Philadelphia and Towns Across the Commonwealth

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon William Strayhorn (Allegheny) marker icon Billy Eckstine (Allegheny)
marker icon Crawford Grill (Allegheny) marker icon Mary Lou Williams (Allegheny)
marker icon National Negro Opera Company (Allegheny)

Lesson Plans for this Story
Take your students back in history with these discussions and activities for the classroom

Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text Nelson Harrison and Charles Austen on the Pittsburgh Jazz Scene in the mid-1900s.
icon full text Mary Lou Williams on Her Musical Education in Pittsburgh, 1954.
icon full text Billy Strayhorn on Duke Ellington, 1955. 

1838 Black Philadelphia bandleader Frank Johnson and his musicians play for Queen Victoria in Britain.
1897 Black musicians in Pittsburgh establish Local 471 of the American Federation of Musicians.
1914 The Standard Theatre becomes the first black-owned and operated theater in the city of Philadelphia.
1920 Prohibition begins in the U.S. Soon widespread disregard for the law, coupled with the interest in jazz music from a younger generation of whites and blacks, leads some to label this era, "the Jazz age."
1921 Ethel Waters releases her first recordings for Black Swan Records.
1929 Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang join Paul Whiteman's Orchestra.
1934 Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey co-found their own swing band.
1941 Mary Cardwell Dawson starts the National Negro Opera Company in Pittsburgh, the first black opera company in the nation.
1941 Kenny Clarke begins working with Thelonious Monk in Harlem.
1944 Billy Eckstine leaves the Earl Hines orchestra to form his own band.
1957 Philadelphia's American Bandstand is broadcast nationally on ABC.
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