Pianist Marcus Roberts Lends Voice To Literacy Project


Marcus Roberts is among the artists who have recorded videos to promote Mighty Writers, a non-profit organization that teaches reading and writing to low-income and marginalized students.

(Photo: Courtesy Literary Hub)

Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts is among the artists who have recorded videos for Mighty SONG Writers, a series that aims to highlight the importance of literacy and raise money for Mighty Writers, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that teaches reading and writing to thousands of low-income and marginalized students.

In the videos, the artists perform songs, answer questions and talk about the importance of reading. In Roberts’ video, he says, “I lost my sight when I was five-and-a-half years old,” and he goes on to explain that his mother made sure that his blindness wouldn’t prevent him from learning to read and write. Roberts performs several songs and shares his reflections on iconic musicians, such as Thelonious Monk and W.C. Handy.

“Thelonius Monk was one of our great, great composers, one of our immortal jazz pianists,” Roberts says in the video. “He is one of the few musicians I’ve ever heard where everything they play makes sense. He never played anything he didn’t want to play, and it’s always related to some melodic conception or melodic theme that you can hear.”

Mighty Writers, in conjunction with media partner Literary Hub, began posting the videos on July 8 with plans to post a new video each week. Other participating artists include Americana stars Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell, vocalist and banjoist Rhiannon Giddens, hip-hop musician Phil Augusta Jackson, Grammy nominee and best-selling author Jewel, acclaimed singer-songwriter Valerie June, Matt Quinn of the indie-folk band Mt. Joy and GLAAD Award-nominated pop songwriter Wrabel.

“There’s never been a more important time for kids to think clearly about the world they’re living in,” Tim Whitaker, executive director of Mighty Writers, said in a press statement. “At Mighty Writers, where we teach writing to over 3,000 kids annually in economically-challenged communities, we believe that writing has magical powers, chief among them the ability to think critically and express oneself with clarity. In light of COVID-19, and unprecedented social unrest, we are doubling our efforts at Mighty Writers to reach kids and provide both guidance and venues that allow them to express what they’re feeling through the written word and are thrilled to have the support of these world-class musicians.”

Founded in 2009, Mighty Writers offers daily afterschool academies, long- and short-term writing classes on nights and weekends, teen scholar programs, mentorships, college preparatory courses and college essay-writing classes. DB

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