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Valerie Capers (born May 24, 1935) is an African-American pianist and composer who is most well known for her contributions in jazz.[1]

Valerie Capers
BornMay 24, 1935 (1935-05-24) (age 84)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Musician, composer
LabelsAtlantic, KMArts, Columbia
Associated actsMongo Santamaria, Ray Brown, Slide Hampton, James Moody, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie

Early lifeEdit

Capers was born in New York City to a musical family that introduced her to classical and jazz music.[1] Her father was a professional jazz pianist who was friends with Fats Waller, and her brother Bobby later played tenor sax and flute with Mongo Santamaria’s Afro-Cuban band.[2]

Capers has been blind since the age of six, when an illness deprived her of her sight. Her early schooling took place at the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind, where she studied classical piano with Elizabeth Thode.[1] Thode taught Capers to read Braille music notation; Capers had to learn all of her pieces by memorizing them in Braille before playing them.[1] With Thorpe’s encouragement, Capers continued to study at the Juilliard School of Music, where she obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.[1] She was the first blind graduate of the Juilliard School.[3]


Valerie Capers formed her own trio and debuted as a recording artist on the Atlantic label. In 2000, Oxford University Press (OUP) published an intermediate jazz piano book called Portraits in Jazz.


Year recorded Title Label Notes
1966 Portrait in Soul Atlantic With John Daley (bass), Charley Hawkins (drums), Vincent McEwen (trumpet), Robin Kenyatta (alto sax), Frank Perowsky (tenor sax), Richy Landrum (congas)
1982 Affirmation KMArts With John Robinson (bass ), Al Harewood (drums)
1995 Come On Home Columbia With John Robinson, Bob Cranshaw (bass), Terry Clarke (drums), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Paquito D'Rivera (alto sax), Mongo Santamaria (congas)
1999 Wagner Takes the "A" Train Elysium With John Robinson (bass), Earl Williams (drums), Alan Givens (tenor sax, soprano sax, flute), Mark Marino (guitar)
2001 Limited Edition Valcap With John Robinson (bass), Earl Williams, Al Harewood (drums), Alan Givens (tenor sax, soprano sax, flute), Mark Marino (guitar)


  1. ^ a b c d e Walker-Hill, Helen (2007). "Valerie Capers". From spirituals to symphonies : African-American women composers and their music. University of Illinois Press. pp. 250–281. ISBN 9780252074547. OCLC 487041169.
  2. ^ Walker-Hill, Helen (1999). "Capers, Valerie". In Floyd, Samuel A. (ed.). International Dictionary of Black Composers. Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College, Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn. pp. 200–206. ISBN 9781315073941. OCLC 301489374.
  3. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Valerie Capers | Biography & History | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 19 November 2016.

External linksEdit