The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI) has announced the first Seattle’s Harlem Renaissance Award winner, Oscale Grace Holden (b. 1930), an international pianist and voice of jazz and African American music who was born and raised in central Seattle. The award will be presented at the LHPAI Gala Meet Me at the Savoy on Saturday, June 29 by Jacqueline D. Moscou, artistic director, LHPAI. Proceeds from the Gala will support the LHPAI Youth Performing Arts Academy and Summer Musical; tickets are available now at brownpapertickets.
“Ms Holden is a legend. She exemplifies the deep community and artistic roots that are at the heart of what we do,” said LHPAI executive director Royal Alley-Barnes. “We are so proud to count her in our community and pleased to be able to offer this recognition of her long contributions to the Seattle Diaspora community.”
Holden was born to Leala and Oscar Holden in 1930. Oscar Holden (1886-1969) was known as the patriarch of Seattle jazz, and the Holden children, Grace, and her brothers Oscar Jr., Dave, Ron, and Jimmy were all musicians who played in Seattle in the late 1940s and beyond. By 1930, when Grace was born, Oscar Holden was a seasoned, highly successful musician. Born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1886, Holden moved as far away from the South as possible, distancing himself from his past, and the prejudices he felt growing up there.
Grace was influenced by the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Lena Horne and Dinah Washington. She played jazz with young Quincy Jones in Charlie Taylor’s pioneering swing band in the 1940s with her brother Oscar Jr. Performances at Jazz Alley, Club New Orleans, Root’s Picnic, Festival Sundiata, Experience Music Project and Admiral Congregational United Church of Christ have put Grace on the national and international Jazz map. Grace Holden still sings in her church’s gospel choir.
Grace Holden’s family maxim to “never stop learning and never stop trying to learn,” fits particularly well with the mission of LHPAI and LHPAI’s youth and young adult performing artist programs.
The above account of Holden’s life is excerpted from HistoryLink.org; more on Grace Holden here.