Winner of the ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Book Award in Pop Music
2022 Catholic Media Association honorable mention in biography
In Mary Lou Williams: Music for the Soul, Deanna Witkowski brings a fresh perspective to the life and music of the legendary jazz pianist-composer Mary Lou Williams (1910-81). As a fellow jazz pianist-composer, adult convert to Catholicism, and liturgical composer, Witkowski offers unique insight gleaned from a twenty-year journey with Williams as her chosen musical and spiritual mentor. Viewing Williams’s musical and corporal acts of mercy as part of a singular effort to create community no matter the context, Witkowski examines how Williams created networks of support and friendship through her decades long letter correspondence with various women religious, her charitable work, and her tireless efforts to perform jazz in churches, community centers, concert halls, and schools. Throughout this fascinating story told with equal amounts of deep love and scholarly research, Witkowski illumines Williams’s passionate mantra that “jazz is healing to the soul.”
Deanna Witkowski is an award-winning jazz pianist and composer who recently relocated to Mary Lou Williams’s hometown of Pittsburgh after spending twenty-three years as a New Yorker. Her seven recordings include the forthcoming Force of Nature (MCG Jazz) featuring all Williams compositions, and Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns (Tilapia Records), featuring 14 jazz arrangements of classic hymns alongside a companion sheet music book. As a frequent guest music leader, Witkowski has shared her original liturgical jazz in over one hundred churches throughout the United States. She has lectured and performed the music of Mary Lou Williams at venues including the Kennedy Center, Duke University, Fordham University, and with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. She is currently a PhD student in jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Visit Witkowski online at deannajazz.com.
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