mary lou williams

NEW BOOK! The pioneering jazz pianist-composer Mary Lou Williams (1910-81) often said that “jazz is love.” Deanna brings Williams’s generous, soulful legacy to communities across the country via performances, talks, and her new book,
Mary Lou Williams: Music for the Soul (pub date: 9/15/21).

“A beautifully written and expertly researched biography of one of the most fascinating Catholic artists of our time. Deanna Witkowski, a musician herself, brings to life a whole era in this engrossing new book about art, music, love, perseverance and faith.”–James Martin, SJ, author of Learning to Pray

“Witkowski offers readers a glimpse into the inner life of a ‘musical contemplative,’ who was one of the great jazz pianists, arrangers, and composers of the 20th century. Although befriended, encouraged, and counseled by several priests and women religious, Mary Lou Williams remains unknown among most African American Catholics. This contribution to the People of God series provides an opportunity for us to discover and appreciate the musical talent and spiritual commitment of one of our own.” M. Shawn Copeland, Professor Emerita, Department of Theology, Boston College

OUT NOW! Order your signed copy from Deanna

Buy the e-book from Liturgical Press

Read the press release

Available concert touring: Music for Peace

screenshot_106Music for Peace: A Celebration of Mary Lou Williams features award-winning pianist-composer Deanna Witkowski leading an instrumental trio and an SATB choir in a performance of works by the preeminent African-American jazz pianist-composer Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981).

The featured work on the program is Williams’ 1967 “Music for Peace” (also known as “Mary Lou’s Mass”), a monumental sacred jazz work informed by the Civil Rights movement and Williams’ own deep faith. Her remarkably original settings of traditional liturgical texts embrace a compendium of jazz styles, from blues to bossa nova. The program also includes excerpts from Witkowski’s “Evening Mass” from her recording, From This Place.

MLW Celebration - First page ONLY

Click on the photo to read a concert program with extensive program notes.

Music for Peace is available as a 90-minute concert program with Deanna’s instrumental trio, a core group of vocal soloists, and choirs of various sizes. Perfect for college, community, or church choirs, this jubilant program can be done in conjunction with Deanna’s workshops on jazz and spirituality.

View a menu of programming options here.

View a past concert program with extensive artist bios and program notes here.

Listen to live performance audio samples below.


Gloria (Williams): Sara Serpa, Craig Walter, Deanna Witkowski, soloists

The Lord Says (Williams): Miles Griffith, soloist

In His Day/Peace I Leave With You (Williams): Tammy Scheffer, Dylan Pramuk, soloists

Creed (Williams): Dylan Pramuk, Brenda Earle Stokes, Virginia Mayhew, soloists

Praise the Lord (Come, Holy Spirit) (Williams): Jonathan Hampton, Dylan Pramuk, Roosevelt André Credit, soloists

Evening Mass: Gloria (Witkowski)

Evening Mass: Sanctus (Witkowski)

Evening Mass: Agnus Dei (Witkowski): Leena Conquest, soloist


Deanna in front of a mural of Mary Lou Williams in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Read The City Where Jazz is Love: Pittsburgh and Mary Lou Williams
to learn how Mary Lou Williams brought Deanna to Pittsburgh after spending twenty-three years as a New Yorker.

Read Deanna’s November 2019 interview on Williams in the Pittsburgh Catholic.

Hear Deanna discuss Williams with host Bob Studebaker on WESA’s The Confluence (beginning at 22:02)

Hear Deanna speak with host Jim Cunningham on this WQED interview just prior to debuting with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra playing music by Mary Lou Williams. 

Hear Deanna play live at WQED in this second interview.

With the legendary Jim Cunningham at WQED.

A community mural project along the east busway in Pittsburgh portrays Mary Lou Williams.