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Rushen, Patrice (30th September 1954-Present)

She is a singer-songwriter, pianist, composer and music director born Patrice Louise Rushen in Los Angeles, California who started to play the piano when she was three years old and within another 3 years, when she was six, had become a classical recitalist.  She took studies at Locke High School and went on to the University of Southern California where she earned her music degree.

She performed with her band a the Monterey Music Festival after winning a competition when she was 17 years old which led to her being signed up by Prestige record company.  With the label she recorded and released the 1974 album Prelusion, 1975’s Before the Dawn and Shout it Out in 1977.

In 1978 she changed record labels and started to work on the Elektra label.  She released Patrice that same year which wen to No. 5 on the US Jazz chart and No. 27 on the US R&B chart, although only hitting the US Billboard 200 at No. 98.  The following year her Pizzazz came out and reached No. 2 on the jazz chart, No. 11 on the R&B chart and saw more success on the Billboard 200 chat when it reached No. 39.  It produced the chat single “Haven’t You Heard” which became her first international hit single which reached No. 7 on the US R&B chart, No. 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No.62 in the UK.

When the 1980s came around she released Posh in 1980 and in 1982 she released the successful Straight from the Heart which produced the singles “Forget Me Nots” that reached No. 4 on the US R&B chart, 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 and 8 on the UK chart, where it achieved silver status, and “Number One”.   Both of these singles were nominated for a Grammy Award in 1983.

In 1984 she released Now which reached No. 7 on the US R&B chart, No.40 on the Billboard 200 and NO. 73 in the UK.  She married Marc St. Louis in 1986 and they have a son and a daughter.  Watch Out! was issued in 1987 which was less successful on the charts when it reached No. 19 on the R&B chart and No. 77 on the Billboard 200.  The following year she received the ASCAP Songwriter’s Award.

Into the 1990s and she received the USC Black Student Assembly Legacy of Exellence Award in 1992 and her next album Anything but Ordinary was released in 1994.  Another three years later Signature came out with this album reached No. 11 on the US Jazz chart and was nominated for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance at the 1998 Grammy Awards.

The new millennium saw her releasing Jazz Straight Up in 2000 and 5 years later she was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.  Her next album release was  Standards in 2006 and ten years later A Place in Time in 2016.  In 2019 she was presented with the California Jazz Foundation NICA Award for lifetime achievement, in 2020 the Ramo Music Faculty Award, in 2021 the Trailblazer Award, Salute Them Awards and in 2023 the Make Them Hear You Award from the Hamilton Garrett Center for Music and Arts.

Aside from working as a solo artist she has been a member of The Meeting and the jazz fusion CAB.

Her work as a composer has seen her writing music for the soundtracks of many TV shows and films.  She has also written a symphony and symphonic works, that were commissioned, which she has performed with various philharmonic orchestras. In the 2000 and 2001 concert seasons she was the Composer in Residence for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and in August 2004 she was the Composer in Residence at the Henry Mancini Institute.

Her compositions have appeared on numerous recordings and compilations by other artists and her songs, often “Forget Me Nots”, have been sampled by many artists that include Mary J. Blige, Shabba Ranks, George Michael and Kirk Franklin and are also used on various film soundtracks such as Men in Black.

As a music director she has worked on Janet which was the world tour of Janet Jackson and on several events for television.  She has also been the only woman to be the music director of the TV show The Midnight Hour and the first woman to be the music director of the Grammy Awards from the 46th to 48th year.  She was also the music director for 3 Annual Walk of Fame ceremonies honouring Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson from 2002 to 2004, for the Emmy Awards and for 12 years of the NAACP Image Awards.

She owns the publishing company Babyfingers Inc. which gets its name from her own nickname and the fact that she has small hands.  She is the ambassador of artistry in Education at Berklee College of Music and also the chair of popular music at USC.

In the field of musical education she became a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2008 where her course is entitled “Patrice Rushen: The Value of Music Education”.  She also works with the NARAS “Grammy in the Schools” program.