Who is Matthew Kennedy?
Born in the segregated South in 1921, Matthew Kennedy was known throughout his home state of Georgia as a child-prodigy. At age 12, he attended a concert given by the famous Russian pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff in Macon, Georgia in 1932. He is one of few surviving witnesses of Rachmaninoff’s magic. In his filmed interviews, Mr. Kennedy vividly describes what he remembers of the concert from his perspective in the segregated balcony for “Colored.” He was also the star of his own radio show broadcast from Macon in the early 1930s. (At that time, Matthew’s stage name on radio and in the cinema – where he played the organ to accompany the silent films – was “Sunshine.”)
Eventually, he attended the Juilliard School in New York, traveled the world as a concert pianist, and directed the world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers of Nashville, Tennessee from 1957 to 1986.
Founded in 1871, the Fisk Jubilee Singers are best known for their a cappella renditions of “Negro Spirituals,” and traveled the world to raise money for the fledgling Fisk School, one of America's first HBCUs. They sang for the crowned heads of Europe, and Queen Victoria proclaimed “… they sing so beautifully they must be from the ‘Music City.’”
A music scholarship at Fisk University has been named in honor of Matthew Kennedy and his wife: The Matthew and Anne Gamble Kennedy Scholarship Fund.
Matthew Kennedy: One Man’s Journey
Directed and produced by Nina Kennedy
WINNER OF THE ROSETTA MILLER PERRY AWARD FOR BEST FILM BY A BLACK FILMMAKER AT THE NASHVILLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
This award-winning documentary film tells the story of the charmed life of Matthew Kennedy, African-American concert pianist, composer, and former director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers.