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Book Excerpts

Trudy Pitts: Extraordinary Pianist & Master of the Hammond B-3

By Published: August 14, 2012
Child Prodigy: The Early Years

Coming from a musical family, Trudy began formal musical studies at the age of six. With her mother's encouragement, she prepared for a career as a classical pianist. As a child, she applied herself with an uncommon rigor and discipline, a rigor and discipline that were to become the hallmark of her creative process. She has said, "When it comes to this music, I always aspire for excellence."

Raised in South Philadelphia's Shiloh Baptist Church, Trudy learned to play the organ and reached an advanced stage of proficiency by the time she was ten. She played for the Sunday School and accompanied the Senior Choir, prior to becoming a sought after choir director. After graduating from John Bartram High School, she completed her bachelor's degree at the Philadelphia Musical Academy, which has since merged with the University of the Arts. She continued her graduate studies in classical music at the prestigious Julliard School. She completed additional graduate studies at the Connecticut College for Women and Temple University.

Virtuoso: The Complete Musician

An unparalleled pianist and Hammond B-3 organ innovator, Dr. Gertrude Elizabeth Pitts Carney, affectionately known as "Trudy Pitts," distinguished herself as a "complete musician," during a career that spanned 70 years. The fourth child of Ida and John Pitts, she was born in Philadelphia on August 10, 1932 and passed away on December 19, 2010, just weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Fluent in jazz, classical, blues, pop and sacred music, she possessed the kind of down to earth mother wit and effervescent magnetism that endeared her to family, friends and fans. Her laughter was just as magical as her music and her cheerful mantra, "Bright Moments!" She left a profound imprint as a world-renowned performer, composer, arranger, vocalist and educator. Trudy's passing marks the end of an era in Philadelphia's celebrated jazz history.

Yeah, that's my girl. Trudy Pitts. Even though we communicate viscerally on an ethereal level, I just can't dial Trudy up on the phone or send her a text message. I won't be sitting front and center at one of her concerts ever again. As I looked through the glass, focusing on every detail of the miniature piano, I paid full attention to my thoughts about Trudy not being here anymore.

And then I cried.

Couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my face. I just kept repeating to myself: "I love you Trudy and I miss you. Girl, I sure miss you." I continued to fix my gaze on the tiny grand piano. And then I really cried. I had no idea I was going to start bawling like this. Glad nobody's around. Glad I'm all by myself because I wouldn't want to bring anybody else down. But I'm not apologizing for my tears. If they want to come, then they can just come. Now I have my tissue out, blowing my nose in public.

I have no shame. I am standing all alone on Chestnut Street, crying profusely. Yet even though I am stricken, right on the edge of my conscious mind, I become aware that I am pleading with my tears. I hear the dialogue in my head: "You're going into a meeting! They'll be expecting you to be professional. And cheerful as usual. Pull yourself together, Pheralyn." And then more tears, more blowing my nose, more crying out loud, more talking out loud: "I love you Trudy. I miss you Girlfriend." Yeah, Girl. Yesterday I laughed. But today? Today, I just broke down and cried.

Photo Credits

Pages 1, 3: Courtesy of Trudy Pitts
Trudy Pitts
Trudy Pitts
1932 - 2010
organ, Hammond B3

Page 2: Courtesy of Lifeline Music Coalition

Page 4: Ben Johnson

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