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Scholarship Named For Renowned Jazz Organist, Shirley Scott, To Benefit CU Music Students

June 22, 2012

The Shirley Scott Scholarship, named in honor of former jazz organist and Cheyney University teacher, Shirley Scott, has recently been designated to assist students participating in the study of music. 

Ms. Scott's daughter, Nicole Turrentine, was instrumental in creating the scholarship.  "Why did she set up this scholarship?  Number 1, she was an alumnus and loved Cheyney University.  Number 2, she loved young people and wanted to help children, students,  who were interested in music so they could have the opportunity to get an education.

"Mommy was born and raised in Philadelpia and attended Girls High.  After many years in the music field, she got her BS at the age of 57.  She started  from scratch, taking placement tests like everyone else.  She sat down with her grandchildren and did her homework along with them, sharing by example. She believed you're never too old to learn.  And while she was in class during the day, she was still performing in clubs at night."

Born in 1934, Scott studied piano and trumpet in high school before switching to the organ in the mid-1950s. According to "All About Jazz," Shirley Scott began playing piano and trumpet in her native Philadelphia. By the mid 1950s, she was playing piano in the city's thriving club scene - often with the very young John Coltrane. A club owner needed her to fill in on organ one night and the young Shirley took to it immediately, crafting a swinging, signature sound unlike anyone else almost from the get-go. Scott’s real breakthrough came in 1958 when she began a series of recordings for Prestige that lasted into 1964 and made her famous in the jazz world.

Her playing consistently possessed one of the most graceful and lyrical touches applied to the bulky B-3. But it was her deeply-felt understanding of the blues and gospel that made her playing most remarkable.

She was married to  tenor sax player Stanley Turrentine (1961-71) and the two made some of their finest music - together - for the Blue Note, Prestige, Impulse and Atlantic labels. Shirley Scott resided in Philadelphia up until her death in early 2002. She occasionally performed locally (on piano, mostly) and was musical director of Bill Cosby's short-lived 1992 show You Bet Your Life.

In the 1980s Shirley Scott taught jazz history at Cheyney University in Pennsylvania and was also the music director for her church. She remained a vital force on the jazz scene until her death in 2002.

Professor M. Dantonio-Fryer, Humanities and Communication Arts Chair remarked, "This scholarship will be most helpful in supporting talented Cheyney University students who participate in the band and choir. We are most appreciative of this support for the students."