© 2024 WXXI Public Broadcasting, 280 State St. Rochester, NY 14614, (585) 325-7500
Celebrating 50 years on FM 91.5
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Since 2003 WXXI and the Al Sigl Community of Agencies have worked together with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community to help break the ingrained stereotypes about individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. The year-round project called MOVE TO INCLUDE, is designed to motivate individuals to take action and include more people with disabilities in the workplace, in schools, neighborhoods and in all aspects of society. Dialogue on Disability, a week-long spotlight initiative takes place every January, and is supported by the Fred L. Emerson Foundation with additional support from The Golisano Foundation.

African American pianist and composer Valerie Capers

American pianist Valerie Capers
American pianist Valerie Capers

African American pianist and composer Valerie Capers was born into a musical family that introduced her to classical and jazz music. Her father was a jazz pianist, her brother played tenor sax, and family friends included Fats Waller and Ramón Santamaría Rodríguez.

At age six, Valerie contracted a severe streptococcal infection which took her sight, but that did not stop her from pursuing the music she loved. While attending the New York Institute for the Blind, she learned Braille music notation from her piano teacher, Elizabeth Thode. Thanks to her encouragement, Valerie continued her music studies at the prestigious Julliard School, obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and becoming the first blind graduate of the school.

Upon graduation, her brother encouraged her to study jazz and begin composing. Although initially she had trouble getting a teaching job, she eventually was hired by the Manhattan School of Music, where she was an advisor to blind students and developed a jazz curriculum.

Her compositions incorporate elements of jazz, gospel, blues, and classical, and include a Christmas cantata titled Sing About Love, and Sojourner, a work described as an "operatorio" about the life of Sojourner Truth. In 2000 a book of Capers’ intermediate jazz piano compositions was published, “so that piano students who were being trained classically could be exposed to jazz.” And in November 2022, Dr. Capers Trio accepted a month-long residency of weekly performances of originals and standards at Lincoln Center’s Sidewalk Studio.

WXXI Classical promotes and supports inclusion for musicians of all abilities through programming and special events. WXXI’s Move to Include Initiative is made possible by a generous grant from the Golisano Foundation.

MUSIC: Valerie Capers: Sweet Mr. Jelly Roll - William Chapman Nyaho, piano, CD MSR 1708

We'd love to get your feedback on these Move to Include musical vignettes? You can provide your comment here. Simply choose "Other" to question #1 and specify "Music to Include on Classical."