DeVonne Gardner is Philadelphia born, and one of twelve siblings, who at the age of three knew that she would be a singer. By the time she had graduated from high school at the age of sixteen she had sung in every choir in every school she had attended, being too shy to ever sing solo.
The summer of DeVonne's graduation, she met a woman, Mrs. June Read, a close friend of Duke Ellington's, at a picnic at Mrs. Read's home. Though DeVonne was having fun with friends by singing, Mrs. Read was listening very attentively, and recognized the unique talent of this young teenager. She later called Ms. Gardner to ask if she would like to audition for Duke Ellington, who had written his second Sacred Concert. She won that audition and later toured with the Duke for eight years through the United States and twenty countries in Europe.
The Sacred Concerts were performed in some of the world's great cathedrals and concert halls, including Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Westminster Abbey, Carnegie Hall and many others. Ms. Gardner remained with Duke Ellington until his death, and remained with the band two years after performing with Mercer Ellington, Duke's son. Ms. Gardner holds the record for singing more Sacred Concerts than any other soprano; she is the only soprano to sing with both father and son in these concerts.
Classical studies have only enhanced Ms. Gardner's ability to sing both jazz and popular music. In recent years the talents of this most sought- after soprano have been utilized by many choirs, civic groups and orchestras. These associations have taken her to places like Israel, Jerusalem, Jordan, England, and most recently Paris and Spain. She has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Israeli Philharmonic, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Springfield Orchestra, and the Main Line Symphony Orchestra. She has sung under the baton of such conductors as Eugene Ormandy, Zubin Mehta, Av Ovstroski, and singer/conductor Bobby McFerrin. Her performances played to sold out audiences and rave reviews.
In between her many engagements, Ms. Gardner is a vocal instructor at the Point Breeze Performing Arts Center, the Canaan Institute of the Arts, and director of the Singers' Workshop. She is retired from the School District of Philadelphia.
Bruce Frazier … noted trumpeter, arranger, and bandleader. His lyrical tone quality and melodic phrasing has created a demand for his music at venues ranging from solo-concerts to conventions. His career, is rooted in the church. The Philadelphia native has been trumpeter in residence, at the White Rock Baptist Church, in Philadelphia for nearly thirty years. He has performed at several national and local conventions, including the National Baptist Convention, USA, the North American Pastoral Musicians Association, and The Episcopal Tribunal. He completed eight recording projects as ensemble director with Dr. Harrilese DuRant Miles and her 90 voice Festival of Hymns Choir, to “preserve the hymns of the Church”. In a collaboration with American Baptist Churches, USA, Mr. Frazier performed on their live national telecast, Mission Advocates Commissioning and Celebration (Odyssey Network).
Much of Mr. Frazier’s musical passion is devoted to the music contracting company Grace Notes Incorporated. Mr. Frazier leads, arranges music for small music ensembles that bear the Grace Note name. Grace Notes is an ensemble of church musicians that perform music in multiple styles mixing classical, jazz, sacred, and other popular sounds to create a particular brand of music called liturgical jazz. Grace Notes Inc. has produced two recordings of liturgical jazz; In the Midst, and That Old Time Religion: Now and Then. Both recordings feature Mr. Frazier as trumpeter and arranger.
Frazier is an advocate of the arts and an educator. He has taught mathematics for twenty-five years, and served as a school administrator. He’s taught music at the elementary level and served as adjunct trumpet instructor at Lincoln University. He served on the advisory boards of the Philadelphia Gospel Seminar, Inc. and the Germantown Branch of the Settlement Music School. He holds both a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master of Education degree from Temple University.
Distinguished composer, conductor, educator, and pianist, Roland Carter is retired as the Ruth S. Holmberg Professor of American Music in the Department of Music at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). His accomplishments as a leading figure in the choral arts include concerts with major choruses and orchestras in prestigious venues nationwide; as well as lectures, workshops, and master classes. From presidential inaugurations to the smallest church, from scholarly presentations for national gatherings of musicians, educators, and preservationists to private coaching with individual singers, Mr. Carter lends his keen ear, bright mind, and talented hands to projects of every sort.
In recognition of his stature, he has served on National Endowments for the Arts’ Heritage, Access and Choral Panels and received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Shaw University. He was one of the 2003 Tennessee Governor’s Arts Awards in the Distinguished Artist category. In 2004, Carter was elected to honorary membership of the internationally acclaimed Morehouse Glee Club, joining the ranks of only two other musicians so honored during the history of the award – Robert Shaw and Leonard DePaur. Historic Abyssinian Baptist Church (NY) honored Carter with a program of his arrangements and composition in July 2005. For his outstanding contributions to American Music, Carter was given honorary membership in the nation’s largest music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and elected to the charter class of Signature Sinfonians. Most recently, he served as guest conductor of the 2008 Yale University High School Festival, and his arrangements were featured in a special recognition program by the 175th Anniversary committee of the Metropolitan AME Zion Church of Hartford , CT. In summer of 2009, The Chamber Choir of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, under the direction of Dr. Kevin Ford, released the Volume I of THE CHORAL MUSIC OF ROLAND CARTER. Volume II was released late 2015.
Carter is especially noted as an authority on the performance and preservation of African American music, having produced and appeared on programs for national and international radio and television networks in support of these aims. He is founder and CEO of Mar-Vel, a music publisher specializing in the music of African American Composers and traditions. Carter has directed the Chattanooga Choral Society for the Preservation of African American Song for 19 years, and s erved music advisor and principle guest conductor of the Houston Ebony Opera Guild, Houston, TX for twelve years.
Unquestionably gifted composer-arranger, it is Carter’s arrangement of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” that is most often used to present the anthem in formal settings. His arrangements and settings have and continue to be performed by orchestras and choirs throughout the world. A colleague of his once shared her belief that the angels sat upon his shoulders and whispered the score for his arrangement of the spiritual, In Bright Mansions Above.
In addition to performance and academic pursuits, Carter has served on several boards including the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Southern Arts Foundation, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga. Chattanooga African American Museum/Bessie Smith Hall, and the National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music. Presently he sits on the boards of the League of American Orchestras, the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera Association, and is an honorary member of the board of directors of the Negro Spiritual Foundation, Orlando, FL, and the African American Music Foundation, San Diego, CA. Carter recently completed his sixth and final year as president of the National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., the nation’s oldest organization committed to the performance and preservation of African American music. He serves the music ministries of the Cascade United Methodist Church (Atlanta, GA) and the Christian Faith Baptist Church (Raleigh, NC).