Guthrie Ramsey: May 23, 2013

Dr. Guthrie “Guy” Ramsey hails from the South Side of Chicago and realized his passion for music early on. By five years old, he was making music in local churches. As a young man he played the bass guitar as well as the organ, but settled on piano as his first instrument.

Many experiences cultivated Dr. Ramsey’s passion for music including his involvement in musical organizations, playing in the high school jazz band and then finally learning how to play solo, with the encouragement of teachers and other mentors. One high school teacher was particularly instrumental in inspiring Dr. Ramsey to forge ahead with a career in music. Dr. Ramsey became a professional musician at eighteen and toured nationally with a variety of bands, gaining experiences that would then shape his own personal style as a musician and as a music historian.

Dr. Ramsey began his career as a teacher of both elementary and high school music in his hometown of Chicago. He then went off to pursue a PH. D in musicology at the University of Michigan and taught at Tufts before becoming a music professor at Penn in 1998. A few years later he released his book, Race Music: Black Cultures From Be-Bop to Hip Hop (University of California Press, 2003), which was named outstanding book of the year by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Dr. Ramsey also has the distinction of being recognized as a Thurgood Marshall Dissertation Fellow at Dartmouth, a DuBois Institute Fellow at Harvard, and a recipient of the Lowens Award, from the Society for American Music for best article on an American music topic.

After setting down roots in Philadelphia, Dr. Ramsey found gratification in his ability to make an impact by teaching music and making music. In a 2006 interview with Shaun Brady, he said with regard to his teaching: “I couldn’t believe that people would actually think this deeply about something that I was just playing or listening to… and I found it very motivating.” When he is not in the classroom, Ramsey is an integral part of the musical culture of Philadelphia; playing piano, composing, and arranging music with his band Dr. Guy’s Musiqology. The sextet features their own distinctive sound which blends Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Gospel, and Neo Soul. Musiqology has performed at many local venues with tremendous success, and has released a CD entitled “Y the Q”? The reason for the title Ramsey explained is that it is “a catchy way to never forget. It is that one question that everyone asks, so why not stick with it?”

Ultimately, Dr. Ramsey’s professional goals include “making more music, recording more music, writing more books, and participating in more gainful collaborations with people.” His recent work includes a study of the jazz pianist Bud Powell, an exhibition for the Smithsonian Institute on the history of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and collaboration with Ramsey Lewis on a composition celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

Dr. Ramsey is a father of three children; a son and two daughters, and his musical influence is certainly not lost on them. His son “makes beats, one daughter is a singer, and another, a former violinist turned major music consumer.” Ramsey’s influence is not lost on his Penn students either.

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