Professor Allen is currently Director of the Jazz Studies Department at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned a masters degree in ethnomusicology.
Geri Allen, pianist/composer, bandleader, educator and Guggenheim Fellow, is the first recipient of the Soul Train, Lady of Soul Award for Jazz. In 2011 Geri Allen, was nominated for an NAACP Award for her Timeline, Tap Quartet Project. Allen is the first woman, and youngest person to receive the Danish Jazz Par Prize. She is a cutting edge performing artist, and continues to concertize internationally.
She is a product of the Detroit Public School System, Howard University and the University of Pittsburgh. Allen moved to NYC in 1982 after she completed her advanced degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh, and for the past thirty years has recorded, performed and collaborated with some of the most important artists of our time including Ornette Coleman, Ravi Coltrane, George Shirley, Dewey Redman, Jimmy Cobb, Sandra Turner-Barnes, Charles Lloyd, Marcus Belgrave, Betty Carter, Jason Moran, Lizz Wright, Marian McPartland, Roy Brooks, Vijay Iyer, Charlie Haden and Paul Motion, Laurie Anderson, Terri Lynn Carrington and Esperanza Spalding, Hal Wilner, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Dianne Reeves, Joe Lovano, Dr. Billy Taylor, Carrie Mae Weems, Angelique Kidjo, Mary Wilson and the Supremes, S. Epatha Merkerson, Farah Jasmin Griffin, Howard University’s Afro-Blue and many others.
Allen a recent recipient of the Howard University, Pinnacle Award presented by Professor Connaitre Miller and Afro Blue. Ms. Allen has been a faculty member at Howard University, the New England Conservatory, and the University of Michigan where she taught for ten years.
In 2014, Allen was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Music Degree by Berklee College of Music in Boston. The Honorable Congressman John Conyers Jr. presented the 2014 Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Jazz Legacy Award to Ms. Allen.
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra commissioned Geri Allen in 2013, to compose new works for the 50th Anniversary celebration of Dr. Martin Luther Kings iconic I Have a Dream speech. She composed a piece Stones & Streams a work for orchestra, chorus, piano and narrator.
She is the musical director of the Mary Lou Williams Collective, recording and performing the music of the great Mary Lou Williams, including her sacred work, Mass For Peace. Allen collaborated with S. Epatha Merkerson and Farah Jasmin Griffin on two music theatre projects, “Great Apollo Women”, which premiered at the legendary Apollo Theatre, and “A Conversation with Mary Lou”, which premiered at the Harlem Stage, as an educational component for the Harlem Stage collaboration. The featured artist was Carmen Lundy, and Allen’s long time trio members Kenny Davis and Kassa Overall). The University of Pittsburgh hosted the first ever Mary Lou Williams Cyber Symposium where ViJay Iyer, Jason Moran, and Allen performed a three piano improvisation from Harvard, Columbia and the University of Pittsburgh, in real time using Internet 2 technology.
Farah Jasmin Griffin, PHD from Columbia, and Dwight Andrews, PHD from Emory, Eugene Rogers PHD, from the University of Michigan, and Opera Icon Professor George Shirley, along with Fr. Peter O’Brien from the Mary Lou Williams Foundation who presents from The San Francisco Jazz Center in San Francisco, CA, Father OBrien served as the distinguished panelists for the symposium.
Mount V. Allen, Geri Allen’s brother introduced her to this important IT2 technology. Jazz is of course a potent vehicle for expression, and creative exploration. “We are engaged in the process of developing a framework for education equity in the digital place.” The Mary Lou Williams Cyber Symposium and a recent Master Class collaboration with renowned master drummer, Terri Lyne Carrington held a Berklee College of Music, and Pitt in real time, are the first two projects of their kind. We look forward to advancing this important work.
Both Allen’s are the product of a family of educators. Her father Mount V. Allen Jr is a retired Detroit Public School Principal, and her mother Barbara Jean was a defense contract administrator for the U.S. Government. “Our parents insisted my brother and I go to college. We took their advice. I pursued a career as a jazz performer, and completed my undergrad degree at Howard, and my master’s at Pitt. Mount pursued a career as a jazz advocate and presented, completing his masters at Lehigh University. He is currently Director of Operations, at the San Francisco Jazz Center.”
Geri Allen, a mother of three, acknowledges her family for making it possible for her to sustain longevity in a sometimes challenging and always changing field of the music industry.
Allen has enjoyed a very successful thirty-year performing career as a NYC jazz musician. She has now returned to Pittsburgh to continue her legacy as a cutting edge pianist/composer, recording/concertizing artist. Allen is just as passionate about her work with her undergrad and graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh, and she firmly believes that “meaningful access to music is one of the keys to success in any field, and music informs our sensitivity to others”. She is a fierce advocate for all children of all ages to have direct hands on access to music, and the creative and empowering process jazz inspires.
“My Detroit Public School education afforded me the best possible training, and all children deserve the opportunities we had access to. I look forward to continuing to give back in effective and meaningful ways.”