“Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her music retains a standard of quality that is timeless.”
— Duke Ellington
Mary Lou Williams was a leading figure in jazz from the late 1930s onward who covered virtually all styles of the music and served as a mentor to countless musicians. Photos of Mary Lou during the 1940s show her alongside many of her then-students, including people like Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell, Tadd Dameron, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Art Blakey. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mary Lou came through the band of Andy Kirk, making her mark alongside such masters as Erroll Garner and Art Tatum.
Ms. Williams was a master pianist, an innovator, and a composer who left behind over 300 compositions in a myriad of styles from bebop to chorale music, classical pieces, funk tunes, modal tunes, the blues and beyond. She also started her own publishing company, Cecilia Music Co. and did extensive community work to assist musicians facing adversities during the 1950s. She was a formidable figure who bridged not only gender relations in music, but also defended the integrity of a great number of musicians. A matriarch in jazz if there ever was one.
It is with great honor that I announce my recent appointment as the new Executive Director of The Mary Lou Williams Foundation. I look forward to working with the Foundation to ensure that Ms. Williams’ legacy and musical message are actively extended to the public and that her goals of social outreach and community engagement through music are successfully met for years to come.
Woody Louis Armstrong Shaw III, Executive Director
The Mary Lou Williams Foundation, Inc.