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Apr 20th

Scholarship fund memorializes Murray music legacy

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Mary Kay Murray Boyd wrote an impassioned plea to colleagues, friends and members of the Rondo Community in St. Paul: "Dear Friends, Educational research has brought forth valuable information regarding the importance of developing the whole brain of the child. Music and the arts are relevant in that development."
James T. and Lavinia Murray

Mary Kay Murray Boyd wrote an impassioned plea to colleagues, friends and members of the Rondo Community in St. Paul: "Dear Friends, Educational research has brought forth valuable information regarding the importance of developing the whole brain of the child. Music and the arts are relevant in that development."

These words were written as she reflected on her father, the late James T. Murray, Sr., an internationally renowned singer, who along with her mother Lavinia S. Murray, stressed the importance of children and education especially in relation to music and the arts. Boyd is devoted to the continued legacy of her parents as pillars of the Rondo Community, through the music education of youth. Now, twelve years after Mr. Murray's death, his wife will celebrate her 90th birthday and the founding of the James T. and Lavinia S. Murray Scholarship Fund at Walker West Music Academy, 777 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, on Saturday, August 4th from 3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

In 1938 James Murray moved to the Rondo Community of St. Paul as a young adult with his parents. Lavinia Murray came to St. Paul in 1941 to live with family. The two met in at Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Their son Wm. (Bill) J.T. Murray recalls, "The two of them were a team. He was the singer. She was the critic. She was like his agent."

James Murray was known for his beautiful baritone voice and could sing in German, Swedish and Latin. Murray's voice carried him around the world as he performed in major theater productions such as Porgy and Bess, sharing the stage with the future poet laureate Dr. Maya Angelou and other great actors. His signature piece was "Old Man River" from Showboat. His singing career began in high school when a music teacher recognized that he had a voice. So he played football and sang in the school choir. He continued singing in the army. And as a family man he had a vocal coach who promoted him and eventually led him to an international singing career.

Reverend Carl Walker, co-founder of the Walker West Music Academy, accompanied James Murray as a pianist in years past.

Rev. Walker said, "Murray always believed in giving back to the community and dreamed of scholarships for kids to take music lessons. We've been very interested in members of our community, especially people of color that will say music is so worthwhile that we will invest in our young people to allow them an opportunity to study music in a way they would not normally have. James Murray had a reputation in the community and it would be nice to have a legacy to follow him by presenting some promising young student the opportunity to know about him and also to study music."

Music helped Murray face challenges and barriers, especially singing in an era ruled by racial segregation. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and children of color still face barriers in the school system.

Alma Marquez, Program Development Director at Walker West Music Academy said, "There is a 'music divide' in the Twin Cities. More and more as we are entering schools we find that students and parents are unfamiliar with the benefits of music instruction . . . music education is not accessible to all people. There are many barriers including cost and transportation. We hope to work with schools and other organizations to keep music alive and keep musicians playing from their soul."

Boyd can attest to music having a positive impact on a child's life, as the benefits from her relationship with music led to a career in education and social work: "I think that what it's going to take is all of us uplifting, embracing , and believing in these kids; and making some demands on a system that we should hold accountable. And making some demands on a system that w
 

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