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Pianist Art Porter was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on February 8, 1934. Porter, the Arkansas Jazz Statesman, never officially worked as a touring musician, choosing instead to perform, teach, contribute to his church as well as to other charitable causes in his hometown and state. There were two exceptions: In 1977 at FESTAC 77 (the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture) and at jazz festivals in Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands during a 1991 European Tour with his son, saxophonist Art Porter, Jr.
Porter graduated from Dunbar High School in 1950, and attended AM&N College in Pine Bluff, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education in 1954. He went on to earn a Master of Science in Music Education from Henderson State University in 1975. He taught at Mississippi Valley College, Horace Mann High School, Parkview High School and Philander Smith College. He also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Shorter College and was pianist/organist/choral director at Bethel AME Church in Little Rock.
Porter formed the now legendary Art Porter Trio in 1962. This group continued to work in Little Rock and around the state through May of 1993. The group performed jazz in local Little Rock night clubs such as The AfterThought, Cajuns Wharf (for 8 years), The Brown Bottle, The Camelot Hotel, Profiles, in a club bearing the name 'Art's Place' and other locations too numerous to mention. Many musicians became part of the famed Art Porter University. His formation of the Art Porter Singers in 1976 and the musical mentoring of and friendship with President Bill Clinton is still felt even today.
Porter produced two ground breaking programs on the Arkansas Educational Television Network: "The Minor Key": a weekly series portraying black culture in Arkansas, and "Porterhouse Cuts", a series of 10 shows which were aired throughout the southeastern region covering 14 states. He produced several albums including "Little Rock A.M." and "Something Else." His latest recording, "Portrait of Art," was released after his death, on February 8, 1994 (his birthday), with proceeds going to help promising young musicians realize their musical dreams.
Porter has appeared on stage with Pharoah Sanders, Steve Allen, O. C. Smith, James Leary, Al Hibbler, the Northwest Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Little Rock Jazz Machine, and many others. His groups have performed at the Eureka Springs Jazz Festival, Jazzlites, Wildwood Jazz Festival, Music Festival of Arkansas, Hot Springs Arts Festival, and at the Arkansas Jazz Heritage Foundation'ss Monday Jazz Series. Porter was the first recipient of the Arkansas Jazz and Heritage Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.
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