Monday, February 13, 2017
Seven-time Grammy winner and Milwaukee Public Schools alumnus Al Jarreau was in Milwaukee in October 2016 to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award in Music from the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music. He took time to visit with students and listen to their performances at Milwaukee High School of the Arts (MHSA) and Lincoln Center of the Arts (LCA) while in town. With his passing on February 12, 2017, he will be remembered fondly as an MPS alumnus who achieved international success as a performer and recording artist.
Jarreau graduated from Lincoln High School, now Lincoln Center of the Arts, in 1958. He had begun singing around age five and formed his first musical group while attending Ripon College. Jarreau would eventually record more than 20 albums, earn dozens of award nominations, and receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He remained passionate about promoting music education for children and considered it some of his most important work. When children’s author Carmen Rubin wrote a book about Jarreau in 2009 called Ashti Meets Birdman Al, the pair also worked to promote literacy in children.
During his visit at two MPS schools in 2016, Jarreau made a real connection with students. “Our students were truly inspired by Mr. Jarreau’s stories and the chance to talk more about their musical journey,” said Anthony Soyak, Music Curriculum Specialist for MPS. Jarreau was impressed by the students’ passion for music and encouraged them to keep nurturing their talents.
Barry R. Applewhite, MHSA principal, shared that he is thrilled that students had the chance to meet Jarreau before his passing. “A visit by someone with Mr. Jarreau’s reputation lets students know that they are valued and deserving,” said Applewhite. “It helps our students realize that they can achieve great things, just like Mr. Jarreau did.”