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Mary Lou Williams and Deanna’s trip to Pittsburgh

As a musician, the sensation of being “in the flow” occurs when music is easily moving through me; when group interplay rises to unexpected levels; when everything happens with ease. I experience this on many occasions while playing music, and less often off of the stage or away from the piano bench. So on a recent trip to Pittsburgh which yielded new friendships, introduced me to new colleagues, and opened up a plethora of work opportunities, I kept marveling at how “in the flow” my life felt during my ten day sojourn.

In front of Mary Lou Williams’ elementary school in Pittsburgh.

Last spring when Christa Burneff invited me to perform a solo concert in Pittsburgh at the Hillman Center for Performing Arts, I immediately started thinking about making an extended trip to continue my research on Mary Lou Williams. At the time when Christa contacted me, I had recently received an inquiry from the Catholic publisher, Liturgical Press. They approached me with the idea of having me write a book on Williams for their “People of God” biographical series. After the book contract was finalized, I knew that I had to take advantage of the opportunity to spend some time in Williams’ hometown of Pittsburgh.

Leading up to my trip, I started questioning my decision to go to Pittsburgh an entire nine days in advance of my December 8 concert at Hillman. After all, I hadn’t yet made many contacts in Pittsburgh, and I didn’t want to sit around without having meetings set up in advance.

The flurry of events that followed quelled any doubts that I had about the length of my trip.

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