CASSANDRA WILSON Biography - Musicians


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Name: Cassandra Wilson                                                             
Born: 4 December 1955 Jackson, Mississippi, United States                           
Cassandra Wilson (born December 4, 1955) is an American jazz musician, vocalist,   
songwriter, and producer from Jackson, Mississippi.                                 
Cassandra Wilson is the third and youngest child of Herman Fowlkes, Jr., a         
guitarist, bassist and music teacher; and Mary McDaniel, an elementary school       
teacher who eventually earned her Ph.D. in education. Between her mother's love     
for Motown and her father's dedication to jazz, Wilson’s parents sparked her     
early interest in music.                                                           
Like many jazz musicians Wilson's formal musical education consisted of             
classical lessons; she studied piano from the age of six to 13 and played           
clarinet in the middle school concert and marching bands. When she tired of this   
training, she asked her father to teach her the guitar. Instead, he gave her a     
lesson in self-reliance some Mel Bay method books. She explored the instrument     
on her own, developing what she has described as an intuitive approach. During     
this time she began writing her own songs, adopting a folk style. She sang and     
played guitar in a folk trio with fellow students David Clark and Jack Ritter       
during high school. She also appeared in the musical theater productions,           
including The Wizard of Oz as Dorothy , crossing racial lines in a recently         
desegregated school system.                                                         
For college, Wilson attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University. She     
graduated with a degree in mass communications. Outside of the classroom, the       
busy student spent her nights working with R&B, funk, and pop cover bands, also     
singing in local coffeehouses. The Black Arts Music Society, founded by John       
Reese and Alvin Fielder, provided her with her first opportunities to perform       
In 1981, she moved to New Orleans for a position as assistant public affairs       
director for the local television station, WDSU. She did not stay long. Working     
with mentors who included elder statesmen Earl Turbinton, Alvin Batiste, and       
Ellis Marsalis, Wilson found encouragement to seriously pursue jazz performance     
and moved to the New York City area the following year.