Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Mathis, Nick (Doris Marie Mathis)

Mathis, Nick [Doris Marie Mathis], singer, actor, songwriter, recording artist; b. Marlin, TX, 13 March 1936.  When she was five, her family moved to El Paso, TX. (her parents divorced there).  She has three sisters, Josephine, Ramona, and Denise, and four brothers, Ollie Jr. (played trumpet in Douglass High school band), Herbert, Shelton (deceased), and Raymond (deceased).  (Her mother Jewel Grigsby-Dunn, b. 16 August 1916, d. December 1966; had one sister, Josephine, and four brothers Wayne, called Buck; Shelton, called Cutch, Walter, called Tan, and Clarence, called Pap; their parents were Maude Dunn Grigsby (daughter of Freeman Steve Dunn), and Waymond or Raymond Grigsby.  Nick's father, Ollie James, b. 17 September 1908, d. December 1963, had one sister, Lillie Mae, and one Brother, Troy; their parents were Ida Mae Thorton Mathis, and Johnie Mathis. 

For about a year, Nick, around age 12, and her sister Josephine took piano lessons from Mrs. Crenshaw, the wife of the minister of Second Baptist Church.  At her first piano recital, Nick performed fifteen memorized songs including Trees, and Moonlight Sonata.  Before she was a teenager, Nick played piano for the Myrtle Avenue Methodist Church Sunday School, and at Douglass High School, where she accompanied vocalists at assembly programs, and she sang in the school Chorus Club.  Nick also sang in and later played for and directed the Youth & Senior church choirs at her church for which she received numerous awards/citations, the most recent, on 19 May, 2002, singing, accompanied by her cousin, pianist/singer Joyce Roberts.  Her cousins & sisters themselves, the late Alberta, and Marilyn Joyce Kyser-Mason Roberts followed in the family tradition of singing and playing in Second Baptist Church in El Paso, TX. In Hartford, CT Nick formed her own Afrikan Amerikan Jazz Band in 1985 with Jim Argiro piano, Paul Brown, bass, Emmitt Spencer, drums, Lenzy Wallace Jr., guitar, and Jr. Ortiz, conga.  She played local venues, and in Springfield, MA with Emery Austin Smith's Trio, Norman Gage's Quartet, the late Harold Holt Musical System, Kent Hewitt. Nick married Willie Barber June 7, 1952, separated from him in l954 and was divorced in l957.  She has two sons Donald Elbert b. 5 September 1952, and Willie, Jr. b. 10 December 1953 who played percussions for a band in Lompoc, CA. Nicki gained fame as a jazz vocalist with the late Jerry Sandifer s Modern Jazz Trio, Nelson Sanders, Pete Morris. They opened the First Pass of the North Jazz Festival in El Paso, TX, 1959, featuring Dave Bruebeck, Eugene Wright, Joe Morello; Chico Hamilton with Eric Dolphy; Lambert, Hendricks and Ross; Chris Conner; and Maynard Ferguson with Anne Marie Moss; the concert master of ceremonies was Leonard Feather. She sang with Jerry for two years, then with The EJ s; Freedom 70 s with Nadine Kennedy; Joe Licon, and Ray Stidham, until 1972 when she moved to New York City. Nick received her Graduate Equivalency Diploma in 1971 (same year her youngest son graduated from Austin High School), and attended the University of Texas at El Paso; and State University of New York at Buffalo.  She received her Master of Education Degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education, 5 June 1980 (the same year Willie Jr received his Associate Degree.  Her concentration: Administration, Planning, and Social Policy, Communications, Community Organization, at the Kennedy School of Government; Public Health at Harvard s School of Public Heath; Community Fellows Program at MIT; French and Kiswahili at Harvard College. In Hartford, CT Nick formed her own Afrikan Amerikan Jazz Band in 1985 with Jim Argiro. From 1987 to present, 2002, produces/directs/stars in The Many Colors of a W*O*M*A*N all female jazz orchestra/concert. She has had speaking, singing and dancing roles in a number of theatrical productions, has been a dancer at Artists Collective., Hartford, CT, Oct 1978 to   2000; and has been a freelance writer for The Hartford Inquirer, Hartford CT; The Interpreter, El Paso,TX; The Dispatch, Greenville, NC. The following poets have written poems about her from 1987 to the present: Lisa Brown Ross, June Johnson, L. Merchie, Linnet E. Carty, Doris Turner, and others. She performs in New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, The District of Columbia, North Carolina, Texas, Mexico, Japan. She sings in English, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

Make Some Kind of Magic Ebony Woman (1986); Itapua (2001); Nicki Mathis' Afrikan Amerikan Jazz (2003); Nicki Mathis' Afrikan Amerikan Jazz Latin (2004)
Unissued recordings:
1987 - 2001, about 60 hours of private video/cassette tapes of performances

Television and radio broadcasts:
WCNI 91.1 FM. Jazz Feast, New London, CT
WTMI, 93.1 FM, Best of Everything and a Whole Lot of Love, The Mah j, China Valles, Host, all night jazz show,  Miami, FL,  featured debut album, 1987
KROD, Channel 4, KTSM, El Paso, TX  March of Dimes Telethon, 1962
WVIT, West Hartford, CT, Black Women Speak, Black Perspective series (NBC), Channel 30
HCT, Hartford community Television, Hartford Showcase
WPOP, radio, Hartford, CT
WKND, AM, What s On Your Mind?;  The Mayor s Corner; Jazz Transformation, Windsor, CT
WRTC-FM, Afternoon Jazz
WNLC, Insight, Fred Edwards, Radio Host
KTEP, 21st Century Journal, Talk Show hosted by Michael Brown, Executive producer/Host, Center JAE Production, University of Texas at El Paso
WWUH FM, West Hartford, West Hartford, featured debut recordings, IWJ Impact Award announcement
KDBC CBS TV Channel 4 Mid-Day Liz Kern, host 17 June 2004
KTEP FM Radio Dennis Woo, host 18 June 2004

Manos, Soundtrack:  Magic Circle
University of Massachusetts and Penfield Productions Ltd Audio and Visual communications production, as Dr. Mallor

Jazziz magazine July 2004 issue pp 60, 61 Celebrating Their Own by Bill Milkowski.
Hot House Jazz Nightlife Guide September 2004 Jazzwomen! p 19 by Elzy Kolb.
Bridging The Gap, Volume VI Number 2, Spring 2001, El Paso, TX
New York Jazz Spotlight News, by Silvia McGriff
The Neighborhood Interpretor, by Leona Washington
The Monitor, Remembering The Past, February 27, 1999
American Visions Magazine, August/September 1993, p.52; August/September 1999, p.57
The HARTFORD ADVOCATE, STREET TALK By Janet Reynolds, January 1992, p.5
The El Paso Times Sundial, Sunday Magazine, Sep 8, 1968

Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism Distinguished Advocate for the Arts Award 15 June 2004
1st Runner Up Ms Senior CT 2004
1st Black female Choir Director to sing at Liberty Hall, El Paso, TX (Second Baptist Church tenure)
Fellowship, Greater Hartford Arts Council, Individual Artist 2002
International Women In Jazz Impact Award, 25 March 2001
Key to the City, El Paso, TX 28 January 1992;
Commissioners Court of El Paso County appointment to Admiral in The El Paso Navy, 1992
Billboard 2d Annual Song Contest Certificate of Achievement Award for Make Some Kind of Magic
Mother of the Year Award, 8 May 1983
El Paso Chamber of Commerce Citywide Talent Contest Winner, 1961

Contact information:
Nick Mathis
P.O. Box 260072
Hartford, CT.  06126-0072

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