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Music Makers in Real Life

March is Music in our Schools Month. Music makers come from all cultures and backgrounds, and sometimes the music we enjoy the most comes from surprising sources. Check out some of the musicians and composers featured below. When possible, links to their music are also listed. 

A one-hundredth birthday tribute to the late jazz artist explores his observations about humanity's discriminatory and violent behaviors as well as his efforts to forge world peace through music with the Sun Ra Arkestra.

Listen: The Futuristic Sounds of Sun Ra

Describes how Juan García Esquivel, a Mexican composer popular in the 1950s and 1960s, developed his experimental style of music, based on mariachi and other Mexican music, jazz, the human voice, and the use of unusual instruments.

Listen: Nuevo (featuring Jean Garcia Esquivel)

Tells the story of Arthel "Doc" Watson, a blind country boy who found music in the sounds around him and learned to play that music on his guitar, eventually becoming a Grammy-winning musician.

Jay-Z : hip-hop icon by Jessica Gunderson

In graphic novel format, describes the life of Jay-Z focusing on his music career and business success.

Listen: Lullaby Renditions of Jay-Z and More 

Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Also available in: e-audiobook | video | e-video

Celebrates the 1936 debut of the Benny Goodman quartet with Teddy Wilson in Chicago, considered to be the first widely seen integrated jazz performance.

Listen: Sentimental Journey (features some songs with Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson)

Bird & Diz by Gary Golio

Presents a rhythmic tribute to Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and their creation of bebop.

Listen: The Charlie Parker Story

Introduces the story of Jelly Roll Morton, who overcame poverty and family strife to succeed in performing music, eventually crafting the style of music known as jazz.

Listen: The Pearls

Relates the story of jazz innovator Louis Armstong's rise from street waif to international superstar.

Listen: The Essential Louis Armstrong and More

Little Melba and her big trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown

A biography of African American musician Melba Doretta Liston, a virtuoso musician who played the trombone and composed and arranged music for many of the great jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Includes afterword, discography, and sources.

Tells the story of the legendary jazz musician, from his deeply religious childhood to his career as a boundary-breaking musician who found inspiration in his own unique approach to both spirituality and music.

Listen: The Very Best of John Coltrane and More

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews
Also available in: e-book | audiobook | video

A Grammy-nominated headliner for the New Orleans Jazz Fest describes his childhood in Tremé and how he came to be a bandleader by age six.

Listen: Trombone Shorty

Drummer boy of John John by Mark Greenwood

A story inspired by events in the boyhood of Winston "Spree" Simon, a pioneer in the development of the steel drum, in which he discovers he can create tunes by banging on discarded cans. Includes author's note, glossary, and sources.

Presents the story of the band started by the Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins after the Civil War to provide funds for African American orphans and which successfully toured the United States and Europe and fostered the popularity for "rag" and jazz music.

A celebration of the life and music of the man known as the "King of the Mambo" and the "Godfather of Salsa" covers his boyhood in New York and his years as a musician and bandleader, and highlights the pleasure he gave listeners.

Listen: Tito Puente's Golden Latin Jazz All Stars

A visual introduction to the early years and musical debut of Elvis Presley describes his shy nature and childhood musical experiences before recording a song for his mother's birthday that prompted his discovery and launch into fame.

Listen: Elvis

Tells the story of the young Keith Richards, who was introduced to the joy of music through his beloved granddad, affectionately known as "Gus".

Listen: Keith Richards

A portrait of the legendary country music star is told through lyrical free verse that conveys information about his impoverished childhood and the extraordinary talent that enabled his career and rise to success on the world stage.

Listen: Johnny Cash

An illustrated depiction of Robbie Robertson's early years traces his first guitar lessons at the age of nine through his rise to becoming a central member of The Band and one of "Rolling Stone" magazine's top one hundred guitarists.

Listen: Robbie Robertson