Gaye Adegbalola Open or Close
Gaye Adegbalola, VSU Class of 1978, has performed all over the world individually and as part of the group Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women. She is a blues music award winner (formally called the W.C. Handy Award) and a former Virginia State Teacher of the Year who plays guitar, harmonica, and is a composer. She has recorded 10 CDs and has toured widely across the U.S. and internationally.
James L. Avery, Sr. Open or Close
James Avery, Sr. attended VSU from 1968-1970 on a football scholarship. He left school to enlist for duty in Vietnam and did two tours. He was a classically disciplined TV actor who was best known for his portrayal of the uncle/patriarch and attorney (later judge) Philip Banks in the hit TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, whom Will Smith's character affectionately called him "Uncle Phil."
Deshauna Barber Open or Close
In 2016, Deshauna Barber, VSU Class of 2011, became the first woman actively serving in the United States Army Reserve to win the title of Miss USA.
Joe Bonner Open or Close
Joe Bonner is an accomplished jazz pianist and talented improviser. He is considered to be an excellent interpreter of modal-based music and advanced hard bop. He has appeared on a long list of recordings as a bandleader or sideman, with titles released on Evidence, Muse, Capri, and ABC/Impulse! He has over a dozen sides out on the Steeplechase label recorded during his twelve year stint in Europe, especially Copenhagen. In 2014, Joe released “Current Events” on Cherry Creek Records.
Dr. Rovenia Brock Open or Close
Dr. Rovenia Brock ("Dr. Ro"), VSU Class of 1981, is an award-winning health journalist and television personality known for her easy-to-apply diet, fitness, and health tips for women and families. A leading nutrition coach for over 2 decades, she was recently named by More magazine as one of America's top-five nutritionists. She is the author of "Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Livin' Healthy" (Bantam) - a best-seller praised as a top-ten diet book by USA Today. Most widely known as the host of “Heart & Soul,” the first ever national health and fitness television show for African-American women which previously aired on BET, Dr. Ro is also remembered for her expert reports as Medical Correspondent for “BET News”, Nutrition Contributor for ABC News’ “Lifetime Live,” and Contributing Nutrition Editor to Heart and Soul magazine.
Joe Kennedy, Jr. Open or Close
Touted as "the cleanest violin we've ever heard" by DownBeat magazine in 1949, Joe Kennedy, VSU Class of 1953, is a world-renowned violinist, educator, composer and arranger. He was one of the first African-American members of the Richmond Symphony and was the symphony's resident violinist from 1963 until 1981.
Mr. Kennedy has arranged, recorded and traveled abroad with many musical greats and performed at numerous concerts and festivals throughout the United States and Europe. Compositions like "Be Sure," "Tempo," "Surreal," and "Opticas," have received critical acclaim, and "Sketches for Solo Violin, Jazz Trio and Symphony Orchestra" has been performed by orchestras in Georgia, Delaware and New York. He served the Richmond Public Schools System (Virginia) for 32 years as instrumental music specialist, supervisor of music and supervisor of secondary arts and humanities. In 1999, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Theresa Pollak Prizes For Excellence In the Arts. In addition, he was honored with the 2001 Living Legacy Jazz Award from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and a commendation from the 2002 Virginia General Assembly.
Phil Medley Open or Close
Phil Medley, VSU Class of 1957, a renowned musician and recording artist who is probably most famous for co-writing the hit "Twist & Shout", the song made famous by both The Isley Brothers and The Beatles.
Audrey Miller-Sydney Open or Close
Audrey Miller-Sydney, VSU Class of 1960, has appeared as a soloist in oratorios and as a recitalist throughout the New York Metropolitan area, Bahamas, Ghana, Japan and Virginia. She has performed the role of Micaela in “Carmen”, Susanna in “Le Nozze di Figaro” and Violetta in “La Traviata” with the New York Opera Society. She has also appeared in the role of Amahl in “Amahl” and the “Night Visitors” and performed in the concert version of the opera Nabucco with the Metropolitan Opera soprano Grace Bumbry. She was presented in concert by the Virginia State University Alumni Association at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall with a rave review from the Amsterdam News.
Billy Taylor Open or Close
Dr. Billy Taylor, VSU Class of 1942, is one of jazz's most influential African-American pianists, composers, and educators. As the distinguished ambassador of the jazz community to the world-at-large, Dr. Taylor's recording career spans nearly six decades. He has also composed over three hundred and fifty songs, including "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free," as well as works for theatre, dance and symphony orchestras. He has also hosted and programmed such radio stations as, WLIB and WNEW in New York, and award winning series for National Public Radio.
In the early 1980s, Taylor became the arts correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning. He is one of only three jazz musicians appointed to the National Council of the Arts, and also serves as the Artistic Advisor for Jazz to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where he has developed one acclaimed concert series after another including the Louis Armstrong Legacy series, and the annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival. With over twenty three honorary doctoral degrees, Dr. Billy Taylor is also the recipient of two Peabody Awards, an Emmy, a Grammy and a host of prestigious and highly coveted prizes, such as the National Medal of Arts, the Tiffany Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Downbeat Magazine, and, election to the Hall of Fame for the International Association for Jazz Education.
Camillia Williams Open or Close
Camillia Williams, VSU Class of 1941, was the first African American to receive a contract from a major American opera company, making her the first African-American opera singer. She received critical acclaim for her debut in May 1946 for singing the title role in Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” and sang the role of Bess in the first full-length recording of George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” made by Columbia Records in 1951. In 1954, she became the first African American artist to sing a major role with the Vienna State Opera.
In 1963, she performed in Danville, Virginia, her hometown, to raise funds to free jailed civil rights demonstrators and sang at the March on Washington that same year. Ms. Williams sang for Martin Luther King Jr. when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In 1970, she retired from opera and began teaching voice at Bronx College, Brooklyn College and Queens College, all in New York City. In 1972, she was honored by the Governor, as one of 35 Virginians who demonstrated outstanding national achievement in the arts and humanities. In 1977, she became the first African-American professor of voice at Indiana University.