I sat down with Linda at her home the other day, to discuss her induction into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame (BMHOF). As I waited while she took a call from, of all people, one of the BMHOF committee members, I couldn’t help but notice the plaques that hung on the wall over her baby grand piano. It was nestled in one of the corners of her home. Recognition from all levels of government, private institutions, for her work in music education. It reaffirmed my thoughts, this induction is well earned.
Linda will be inducted with the class of 2015, which also includes Vince Blasio, Dolly Durante, The Boys of Summer, Eli Konikoff, Billy Nunn, Robert ‘Freightrain’ Parker, Process and the Doo Rags, Fred Raiser, John Connelly, Jim Brucato, Jim Wynne, and Flash. The induction ceremony will be held Thursday October 9 at The Cove, 4701 Transit Road in Depew.
Throughout the discussion, I was able to learn so much about her musical journey, and the many lives she has touched via her music.
Linda started teaching in the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) in 1975. She worked at a number of different schools in the beginning, and eventually became a part of an integration program, under the direction of Dr. James Heck. The program was designed to help facilitate the integration process going on with bussing in the schools, bringing about a peaceful acceptance to segregated neighborhoods through music. It was at the start of the magnet school program.
She found a home in the late 70s at Olmsted 56, where she spent 22 years as the music teacher, and director for the children’s choir. Some of the highlights from those years included a part in the traveling production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 1995. Sam Harris was the star. “There was a huge audition process, people came from all over to audition,” she told me. Her choir landed the gig, and performed with the production at Shea’s. The choir performed for Sandra Day O’Connor, and Hillary Clinton. They also performed at Mayor Anthony Masiello’s inauguration.
She then moved on to City Honors for four years, and formed the highly acclaimed gospel choir there. They were scheduled to go to Dortmund Germany, for the Advent Festival in 2001. “That was cancelled as a result of 9/11,” she recalled. The choir would go on to perform in Albany for the State Legislature, and also opened for Mama Dee’s Girls at Shea’s.
Buffalo Select Choir was born from her departure from City Honors, due to parental concern about losing her talents for their children. For 6 years, she grew the choir from 6 students to over 35, from over 12 different high school. They produced 6 cds which featured some of Buffalo’s best musicians, including Walter Kemp, Deshawn Jackson, RiShon Odel Northington, and 3 time Grammy nominated keyboardist Joseph Wooten. For 6 years, recording artist Ani DiFranco allowed them to use Babeville, her way of giving back to the community, since she was a product of the public school system. “We baptized that performance space, we were the first musical anything to perform there,” she remembered fondly.
Linda ended her teaching career at South Park HS. This choir was also a part of another musical – High School Musical at Shea’s. While at South Park, she was involved with Music in Action, run by Bob James, a subsidiary project of Robby Takac. The students were able to make a cd, Be True You. They also recorded with Grace Stumberg, before she worked with Joan Baez.
From 2009 to present, Linda has been the writer for the Artist in Residency program. Its core mission is how to be a better person, and a stronger musician. The program has been a part of over 40 schools thus far.
Today, Linda is an adjunct professor at Villa Maria College, since September 2013. She is also on the board of directors for The Colored Musicians Club, and has run Queen City Jazz Festival for the last 3 years.
There were many, many assemblages that she was a part of. Too many to list, but you get the picture. Probably the most important part of Linda’s story is her children. She tells me, “I share this award with my daughters Venezia and Zuri who have been there for me and WITH me every step of the way, who throughout years of my teaching and performances, have always given me that opportunity to perfect my talents to become a mother, woman, and educator that I am today.”
While we spoke, I had the opportunity to share my experience with the BPS music programs with her. I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of the countless of students who benefitted from Linda’s commitment to her students, and her passion for music. I was one of those kids, except with different teachers. So many of the kids who passed through her classrooms continue to perform today, and Linda continues to be loyal to them, often showing up at their performances. She is a musical nurturer, builder, a fairy godmother so to speak. So often, people like this go unnoticed, but it is musical educators like Linda who built the foundation for so many to shine, on their own musical journey. This induction is well deserved.