Lynn Orman

Lynn Orman Curator WOB - Web

Lynn Orman Weiss, Curator

Curator Lynn Orman Weiss is a photographer, print & broadcast journalist and founder of the Women of the Blues Foundation. This show is dedicated to Koko Taylor, the Queen of the Blues (September 28, 1928 – June 3, 2009), and features over 80 photographs of ‘Blues Women’ from all ages and backgrounds who represent Blues styles ranging from Southern Soul Blues to Chicago Blues and Rock Blues. It honors these soulful singers of truth who embody the essence of the blues and the photographers who capture them.

“I love photographing and collecting pictures of Blues women,” says Lynn Orman Weiss, “recording their emotions, their beauty, and the visceral expressions exuding from their souls. When we come together at awards shows and festivals there is a powerful sisterhood. It is my vision that this exhibit captures the heart of the observer and gives them reason to discover more about these extraordinary performers.”


Ella Jenkins © Lynn Orman

Ella Jenkins

Ella Jenkins was born in St. Louis, Missouri at Barnes Jewish Hospital and grew up in predominantly lower-middle-class neighborhoods in the south side of Chicago. Although she received no formal musical training, she benefited from her rich musical surroundings. Her Uncle Flood introduced her to the harmonica and the blues of such renowned musicians as T-Bone WalkerMemphis Slim and Big Bill Broonzy. Uncle Flood worked in the steel mills Her family frequently moved around the south side and, as she moved to different neighborhoods, she learned new children’s rhythms, rhymes and games. Gospel music became a part of her soundscape as neighborhood churches broadcast their services onto the street.[1] She also enjoyed tap dancing lessons at the local theater and was able to go to the Regal Theater to see such performers as Cab Calloway, Count Basie, and Peg Leg Bates. Cab Calloway is the person who she credits with getting her interested in call and response singing. She attended house concerts with Big Bill Broonzy, Blind Arvella Gray, Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Bob Gibson & Barbara Dane. [While attending Wilson Junior College, she became interested in the music of other cultures through her Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican friends.[1] In 1951, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with minors in Child Psychology and Recreation from San Fran Cisco State. Here, she picked up songs of the Jewish culture from her roommates who taught her Yiddish and Hebrew and Ella shared many Friday night shabbat services, prayers and songs with the girls. Upon graduating she returned to Chicago where she began her career.

Back in Chicago, Jenkins began writing songs for children while volunteering in recreation centers.

 She subsequently was hired as a Teenage Program Director for the YWCA in 1952. While working at the YWCA, she was invited to perform on the Chicago public television show, WTTW, The Totem Club. She was soon offered a regular job as the host of its Thursday program, which she entitled This is Rhythm. She invited guests from diverse cultures to share their music’s rhythms on her show.

In 1956, Jenkins decided to become a full-time freelance musician, a vocation she has pursued for over 50 years. She began her career as a children’s musician touring school assemblies in the United States, often sleeping in a different place each night and encountering racial discrimination. As she performed in more varied venues, she began to write music about her experiences. Later that year, a friend and mentor, the great folk singer, Odetta recommended that she bring a demo tape to Moses Asch, the founder of Folkways Records. Asch was receptive to her music and in 1957, her first album, Call-And-Response: Rhythmic Group Singing, was released by Folkways. Since then, Folkways Records and, more recently, Smithsonian Folkways Records have released 39 albums, including the popular ‘You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song which has been inducted into the Library of Congress.  Her 1995 album Multicultural Children’s Songs is the most popular Smithsonian Folkways release to date. She has not only been an important force in children’s lives, but in the lives of parents and fellow music educators as well. She has participated in many conferences on music education, and has offered workshops for music educators, parents, and caregivers all over the world.

As a performer and educator, Ella has traveled extensively, performing her songs on all seven continents (even Antarctica). As she travels, she not only shares her music and experiences but also learns about the cultures of the people she is visiting, taking with her musical traditions and languages that she then shares with her audiences. She has also made television appearances on shows including NBC’s Today Show, CNN’s Showbiz Today, and PBS programs such as Barney and Friends, special appearances Mister Rogers NeighborhoodThe Me Too ShowLook at Me, and in films shown on Sesame Street. She performed at America’s Reunion on the Mall in 1993, America’s Millennium Celebration in 2000, and at Smithsonian’s 150th Birthday Party on the Mall in Washington, DC in 1996. In collaboration with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, she has acted as a U.S. delegate to Hong Kong, the People’s Republic of China, and the former Soviet Union.[1]

As a recording artist, Jenkins has gained extensive recognition. The honorable Maggie Daley presented Ella with a proclamation proclaiming it  Ella Jenkins Day in Chicago every December 11th and presented her with a key to the City of Chicago. Her recordings have received many accolades and she is the first African American woman to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from ASCAP for children’s music. Parents’ Choice awards and Grammy nominations in the category of Best Musical Album for Children. In 2004, she was recognized with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Ella has been lauded by the Lawyers For The Creative Arts, Engineer and Recording Society, Chicago Metro AEYC, NAEYC, And in 2015 the City of Chicago honored Ella with the highest honor for the arts, a Fifth Star Award presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. First Lady, Michelle Obama said, ‘Ella Jenkins is the First Lady – before I ever was one – a national treasure.’ In 2016 Ella received the Chicago Lawyers Committee For Civil Rights Lifetime Achievement Award.