Years ago, when Dr. Robert L. Jefferson wanted to teach students Gospel piano, there were no teaching resources available. So he decided to create the materials himself. He wrote How To Play Gospel Music For Beginners which was followed by How to Play Gospel Music for Beginners Book 2, Gospel Music Performance Practice and Technique Volumes 1 & 2 and Spirituals and Gospel Music Performance Practice: A Dual Curriculum that Bridges the Cultural Divide. Through his books, which are available from major distributors and bookstores across the country and abroad, he’s been able to teach a complicated genre to hundreds of students, some of whom have had no knowledge of the piano. A master of the sacred genre, Dr. Jefferson holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Grand Canyon University, Phoenix, Arizona, a Master of Music degree from the University of Houston, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Maryland.
“During the time that I taught music in high school and college, several of my students expressed an interest in learning to play Gospel Music,” says Jefferson. “Like many other teachers, I began looking for a piano method which I could recommend to my students that focused on playing Gospel (this way, I wouldn’t have to constantly wrack my brain trying to figure out what I was doing ´naturally´). After calling music stores across the country from New York to California, and even being referred to Europe, I was told the same thing over and over again: ´We do not have such a book, nor do we know of any such book in print on this subject.´ So, I figured, if no books were out there, I might as well write one! After analyzing what I was doing, and researching Gospel Music in more depth, the end result was my first edition entitled, Precious Lord! How to Play Gospel Music, first published in 1989. The Jefferson How to Play Gospel Music books are being used as textbooks by several colleges and universities both nationally and internationally.”
In addition to teaching piano and voice lessons in Gospel music, he has also developed a certification program for Gospel music in conjunction with Nazareth College and Seminary. Students can receive certification in Gospel music performance and master teacher certification in Gospel music. The College also offers the course, How To Play Gospel Music For Beginners. There are weekend intensive residency courses available as well. Dr. Jefferson has also developed a curriculum for Gospel music for secondary education. With hopes of having the curriculum available in universities and colleges nationwide, Dr. Jefferson believes Gospel music, like jazz and classical music, should be taught in the best schools in America.
His path to Gospel music began as a youth. His early training started with sacred music through the church, playing by ear and learning classical music through his private piano lessons. Jefferson´s first piano teacher was Mary O. Lewis. In addition to Lewis, he had numerous mentors including Alma Androzzo, the composer of one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most favorite songs, “If I Can Help Somebody.” Androzzo instilled in him at an early age the importance of writing down and sharing what he had learned with others.
Although many pianists and musicians learn the genre by ear, Dr. Jefferson sees the benefit of understanding sheet music as well. “Although I realize that it is not everyone’s desire to be able to play for all styles of worship services, I personally believe that the ability to play both by music and by ear has literally opened up the world to me. Some say that it is not good to be a “Jack of all trades and a master of none,” but I feel that you can be a “master of many trades.”
His exceptional musical talent has opened doors for him. Dr. Jefferson has performed with such notable organizations as the Houston Grand Opera, the United States Air Force Pacific Air Command Ensemble in Tokyo, Japan as well as the Soldiers’ Chorus of The United States Army Field Band, Washington, DC. He has also performed with major symphonic orchestras and in concert halls including Strathmore, Meyerhoff, Boston Symphony and Carnegie Hall. For more information about Dr. Robert L. Jefferson, log on to www.jeffersonpresents.com . Connect with Dr. Jefferson on Facebook and Twitter ( @HowToPlayGospel ).