Thursday, March 18, 2010

Urban Views Weekly: Undine Moore Was 'greatest musical inspiration' of Pianist James Pettis

[James Pettis (Photo from]

by Cesca Janece Waterfield
March 17, 2010
“After 50 Years, Concert Pianist James Pettis is Breaking Ground Again
Where you’ve heard him: Recipient of an NAACP Freedom Award, James plays piano for many official city and state events. He appeared numerous times on the long-running CBS soap opera, 'Guiding Light.' He’s accompanied James Earl Jones and played for photographer, journalist and film director, Gordon Parks. He was recently honored in Detroit as the recipient of the E. Azalia Hackley Award and filled auditoriums in both the Motor City and Chicago. Sitting before his piano at home in Northside, James recalls with a resonant laugh, 'As I entered the front door, every floor that I went on, I saw my poster. It was a mind-blowing experience. It was packed and it went over quite well.' Last October at the Henrico Theatre, he celebrated the 50th Anniversary of his public debut.

“Overture: The son of Estelle and James Pettis Sr., James was a protégé, stunning teachers with his natural abilities in piano. At only 5 years old, he began studying with pianist Janie P. Hill. Then he met who he calls his 'single greatest musical inspiration:' Dr. Undine Moore of Virginia State University. As a teen, he won many piano competitions, including one at Virginia State University while he was still a student at Armstrong High School. Each summer during high school, he studied at the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. After graduating high school in 1968, he was awarded a scholarship to The Juilliard School in New York City and studied under internationally renowned pianist, Eugene List, graduating in 1973.

“In fine company: James holds the distinction of being the first African American concert pianist invited to perform on the Queen Elizabeth II. 'After you ate dinner in your tux, you came to hear Jim Pettis,' he recalls. 'I did that three days and three nights a week for two years.'” “His new show: James was recently asked by PBS Television to develop a series of instructional programs for piano. He explains: 'The title is “Piano 101”. It’s basically a half hour weekly show in 13 parts. I’m going to develop that. I’m going to copyright it and get a distributor. But I’m going to control my art. In other words, I’m going to control my destiny. It should be ready around June. I’m going to sell the DVDs and the whole works.'”

No comments: