Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Wilson, Flossie (Beatrice Dow)
Wilson, Flossie (Beatrice Dow), singer, educator, lyricist, composer; b. Buffalo, NY, 14 October 1941. She was the eldest of four children born to Richard Canty Dow (1912-1991) and Flossie B. Dow (born McCormick, 1916). She has a sister, (Mary, b. 1942) and two brothers (Richard, b. 1944; George, b. 1945). In June 1946, her family moved from Buffalo to the New York City suburb of St. Albans, Jamaica in the Borough of Queens, where her father established Dow Cleaners, despite de facto racial discrimination. In his youth, her father had been a professional bass vocalist in Camden, SC's traveling gospel quartets. He was a member of New York City's Eva Jessye Choir, which sang off-stage musical accompaniment to theater productions. Possessing a basso-profundo voice, his most important performances were for the opening of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" on Broadway in 1935 as a member of the Eva Jessye Choir. He was very proud of being chosen to compete against Paul Robeson. Her mother was a vocalist in and around Fayetteville, NC as a young woman. In 1939, her parents met as vocal students at Chauncey Northern's Carnegie Hall studio, marrying in 1940.
Flossie's educational background includes Public School 36Queens (1946-1955), Andrew Jackson High School (1955-1959, Academic Diploma), Queens College (1959-1962, Art Education, unfinished), a correspondence course with the Famous Artists School (Commercial Art, Illustration and Design, 1970-1971, unfinished), Color Theory and the Rudiments of Music Theory (Queens College Continuing Education, Fall 1968).
Flossie was a concert performer in every school that she attended, as a member of choirs, chorales, ensembles, and as a soloist. Her church choirs also featured her as a soloist from the age of four until adulthood. She learned to sing Italian, French, and German arias and recitatives, concert arrangements of Negro spirituals, modern art songs, religious cantatas and oratorios, popular show tunes and jazz songs, French ballads and folk tunes, rhythm and blues, hymns, modern gospel songs, and jazz instrumental melodies. Her vocal training with Samuel J. Daniels had developed a two-and-a-half-octave contralto that was always compared to Marion Anderson's voice. Her current study has expanded her range to three-octaves.
She began her professional career in church, singing at weddings and funerals. After becoming a professional singer, Flossie was an active member of the National Association of Negro Musicians (1967-1972) in the B Sharp Branch. Flossie was a member of the Choral Arts Society (1958-1962), the Queens College Community Chorale (1959-1962, 1966-1969). Although college studies had been interrupted when she became a mother, she continued to sing in local church services and concerts as a choir member and as a contralto soloist. In the late sixties, she was recommended for theater, but family responsibilities and a lack of finances kept her from pursuing more extensive vocal studies.
Flossie has had three husbands: Robert E. Wilson (common-law 1962-1965); Earl L. Thomas (married 1970-divorced 1979); Ronald Wilson (married 1983-deceased 1993). She has 3 children: Robert E. Wilson, b. 1963; Kenyatta L. Wilson, b. 1964; Samantha M. Thomas, b. 1973).
Since both of her parents were singers, home study and tutelage included a capella choral and solo singing beginning in early childhood (1945-1959). Basic musical education included private piano lessons from Floyd White (1952-1955) and from Samuel J. Daniels (1955-1962), as well as private voice lessons from her choir director and music teacher, Samuel J. Daniels (1961-1962, 1967-1968). She received instruction in Theory, Sight Singing, and Ear Training in the Calvary Baptist Church Choir Music Workshops (February 1978-June 1978), organized by Vincent Knight.
Voice training has included the Langston Hughes Cultural Library Workshop performances using excerpts from Johnny Barracuda's musical plays, "Tell Pharaoh" and "Sisters" (Johnny Barracuda, 1978-1979); Black Spectrum Theater's Music Workshop (Lonnie Beckles, 1979); private lessons in jazz theory, sight singing and vocal coaching (Ray McKinley,1979); performance, ear training, improvisation and theory classes in the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in Queens' Jazz Vocal Workshop (Enos Payne, 1989-1996); performance, ear training, improvisation and theory classes in the Bill Jacobs Music School's Vocal Workshop (Weldon Irvine, 1991-1994; James Weidman, 1994-1995; Kevin Osborne, 1995-1996); theory, ear training and interpretation in Barry Harris' Vocal Workshop (1995); vocal placement for songs, arrangements and interpretation (Stan Hope,1995-1996); and performance enhancements (Sister Mekea Keith, 1995-1996).
Piano studies have been done at Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in Queens (Enos Payne, 1992; Terence Conley, 1993) and Bill Jacobs Music School's Jazz Piano Workshop (Norman Hurt, 1992; Kevin Osborne, 1997).
Flossie has performed as contralto soloist in the Brooklyn Academy of Music (ca.1977), and in St. Patrick's Cathedral (ca.1979). She has performed in jazz venues in Queens and Manhattan, also in several branches of the Queens Public Library. She is a member of Rachiim Sahu's Jazz Gospel Choir. Flossie is the co-founder of A Joint Effort with bassist Sydnye Thomas, performing jazz vocal and instrumental standards using contemporary and traditional treatments. She has performed in a special church service (February 2003); participated in a Summer Gospel Fest (Peekskill, August 2002). She traveled to Rome, Italy with the Harlem Gossi gospel choir for a two-week tour (December 2001); was the featured vocalist for The Tonal Artistes Orchestra, a 16-piece traditional swing band (1998-2002); was a featured vocalist for the MilesAhead Ensemble (1995-1998). Her 1995-1996 performances at the Jamaica Farmer's Market Jazz Jamathons with alto saxophonist Harold Ousley have been broadcast on Queens cable network QPTV's "The Jazz School." She was a vocalist with The Traveling Jazz Workshop (a cooperative of jazz vocal workshop students who hired themselves out for gigs (1994-1995); lead vocalist and background vocalist on several recording sessions (1981-1983). Flossie was the leader of several duos in her name (1980-1983), performing in Queens, Manhattan and Long Island venues. She has performed with Ed Stoute, Enos Payne, James Spaulding, Gilly Coggins, Stan Hope, James Weidman, Weldon Irvine, Harold Ousley, Bennie Waters, Walter Perkins, to name a few.
Flossie taught basic vocal techniques to children and adults at The Drum Extraordinaire School in Rochdale Village's Community Center (1997-1998). She is currently a faculty member at The Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music (since 2000), one of the oldest community music schools in the country, where she teaches Beginning Vocals, Vocal Articulation for Japanese students of English, and Jazz Vocal Workshops in both Community and Diploma Program Divisions. She has compiled a Study Book for her private students. She has collaborated with other faculty members to develop a four-year vocal studies curriculum, and a compilation of study materials for the Jazz Vocal Workshop.
Recordings, broadcasts and films:
Live television performances (Howdy Doody Show, Joe Bostic Show (ca. 1950); Checkin' It Out, self-produced demo cd (1996-1999); Two, self-produced 15-song demo cd with Charles Carrington on piano (July 2004); Numerous private cassette tapes and about 25 videotapes of performances from the mid-1970s on, with Calvary Baptist Church choir, Samuel Daniels, Walter Perkins, Hank Edmonds, Fragile Package, Ray McKinley, Enos Payne, Weldon Irvine, James Weidman, Stan Hope, MilesAhead Ensemble, Tonal Artistes Orchestra, among others.
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