Jazz pianist to lead lecture

Published 3:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2016

Acclaimed jazz pianist and Steinway Artist Marcus Roberts will share his incredible talents and story of perseverance while serving as keynote speaker of the 21st annual Helen Keller Lecture at Troy University on March 1.

The lecture, which will begin at 10 a.m. in the Claudia Crosby Theater on the Troy Campus, is designed to promote awareness of people who excel in their chosen fields despite physical and/or mental limitations.

Later that day, Roberts, one of the world’s most prominent modern jazz musicians and composers, will headline TROYs Steinway Artist Performance Series Concert at 7 p.m. in the Long Hall Band Room.

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Both the lecture and concert and free and open to the public.

Roberts’ love of music began at a young age. After cataracts and glaucoma left him blind at the age of five, the future jazz musician answered his musical calling when he began teaching himself to play the piano. When he was 10 years old, Roberts enrolled in the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind where he began his formal musical training. Influenced by his mother’s gospel singing, the music of his local church and jazz greats such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, Roberts dove into his studies and later found himself studying classical piano with Leonidas Lipovetsky at Florida State University.

Today, Roberts is regarded as an icon by upcoming generations of jazz musicians. Not only has he found success on the stage, he’s also succeeded in the areas of composing, arranging, band leading and teaching. In 2014, his contributions and achievements as a musician and a music educator earned him an honorary Doctor of Music from the Juilliard School. However, Roberts states one of his most cherished distinctions occurred in 1998 when he received the “Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award” from the American Federation for the Blind.

Judy Robertson, chair of TROY’s Helen Keller Lecture Series Committee, said she’s delighted Roberts accepted the invitation to speak at this year’s event. “Marcus is an incredible person and a phenomenal artist,” she said. “We’re excited to welcome him to TROY, and we encourage everyone to come be inspired by his personal story at this year’s lecture.”

Entertainment for the event will be provided by The Alabama School for the Blind Ensemble, and Roberts will also treat his audience to a performance of a short piece during the lecture.


In addition, artwork by students from the Alabama School for the Blind and the Alabama School for the Deaf will be on display in the lobby of Smith Hall outside the Claudia Crosby Theater.


The Helen Keller Lecture is sponsored by Troy University along with longtime university supporters including The Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Alabama Department of Mental Health and the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind.