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Fri, 02.17.1928

Betty Jackson King, Pianist and Choral Conductor born

Betty Jackson King

*Betty Jackson King was born on February 17, 1928. She was a Black pianist, singer, teacher, choral conductor, and composer.

Betty Jackson was born in Chicago. She first started learning music from her mother, Gertrude Jackson Taylor. King's father, Reverend Frederick D. Jackson, a Community Church of Woodlawn pastor, helped expose her to church hymns and spirituals. Along with her mother and sister Catherine, she sang in the Jacksonian Trio. 1969, when King began teaching at Wildwood High School in New Jersey, she integrated the high school's public school teaching staff.


Jackson studied throughout her life. She began at Wilson Junior College, studying under Esther Goetz Gilliland. Jackson then went to the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in piano and a master's degree in composition from the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University. Here, she studied different aspects of music: voice, composition, and piano.

She also studied music at Glassboro College in New Jersey, Oakland University in Michigan, Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. King went on to teach at the University of Chicago Laboratory School, Roosevelt University, Dillard University, and Wildwood High School, where she received the Teaching Recognition Award from former New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean.

King's compositions were often vocal. Her music is part of the "early Chicago classical music tradition," its style is known for its extended harmonic language, thick chord clusters, and layers of sound. King wrote arrangements of spirituals, operas (Saul of Tarsus, My Servant Job), a cantata (Simon of Cyrene), and a requiem. Saul of Tarsus has had several performances since it premiered in 1952. She wrote a ballet, Kids in School With Me, and other chamber and choral compositions.

King's works for solo keyboard, including Nuptial Suite, her only known organ work, Aftermath (A Tone Poem), and Four Seasonal Sketches for piano. She was president of the National Association of Negro Musicians from 1970 to 1984. She was married to Vincent King and had a daughter, Rochelle. King retired from teaching in 1989.  Betty Jackson King, best known for her vocal works, died in Wildwood, New Jersey, on June 1, 1994.  

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