maestro

“MAESTRO” MATTHEW KENNEDY

Fisk Jubilee Singers Retired Director
Fisk University Alumnus

STORYTELLER OF THE YEAR AWARDEE, 2014

Fisk University alumnus Matthew Washington Kennedy led the world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers for more than two decades. A prodigy of piano and choral music, Kennedy, who was born on March 10, 1921 in Americus, Georgia, earned a diploma in piano from the Juilliard Institute of Music in 1940 before enrolling in Fisk.

As a Fisk student, Kennedy became the piano accompanist to the historic Fisk Jubilee Singers under the direction of Mrs. J. A. Myers on their tour of Europe, North Africa and Israel. Drafted into the United States Army in 1943, he served in Southern Europe and North Africa before returning to Fisk graduate cum laude with his bachelor’s degree in 1947. His legendary career at Fisk began the same year. In 1956, he married Anne Gamble, another pianist who taught at Fisk, and was appointed director of the Jubilee Singers the following year. For the next twenty-three years, he mentored hundreds of young students under his tutelage. Along the way, he enjoyed his own solo piano debut at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1958 and was a member of the Gamma Phi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., the National Association of Negro Musicians and was an inductee into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia. In 2003, Kennedy released his first album, Familiar Favorites which he dedicated to the memory of his late wife and to their daughter, Nina who made Matthew Kennedy: One Man’s Journey, a documentary film of his life and times. Decades after his retirement in 1986, Kennedy remained active in the life of his church and in the Nashville community. A well-respected figure and beloved member of the Fisk family, the maestro died on June 5, 2014 but generations of Fiskites will remember him as the man who could always be counted on to so graciously climb the steps of the Fisk Memorial Chapel’s stage, whip out his baton, and lead them in the signing of the alma mater: “The Gold and The Blue.”

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