Blackbyrds Take Flight for Group's Founder

Stacy M. Brown | 4/3/2013, 2:27 p.m.

"We were always under the microscope. We had to be conscious at all time of what we did while we were performing, what we were wearing and how we were wearing it," Killgo said.

"There was no part of our mental or physical anatomy that he didn't scrutinize. It was like being in the Army," Killgo said.

The band produced a number of Top 10 R&B albums in the 1970s, including, "Happy Music," "Street Lady," "Stepping into Tomorrow," and "Place and Spaces."

They also recorded the lead song for the soundtrack, "Cornbread Earl and Me."

By the 1980s, Byrd's focus had shifted. He honed in totally on education and received a doctorate from New York's Teachers College.

He taught music at North Carolina Central University, Rutgers University, the Hampton Institute, New York University, Queens College, Oberlin College, Cornell University, and Delaware State University.

Byrd earned a masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music and two masters from Columbia University.

He created a curriculum called, Music + Math (equals) Art, in which he transformed notes into numbers to simultaneously teach music and math.

"There's no doubt, Byrd was a genius," said Gorham, 60. "He knew his music and he was a great educator."

Byrd, whose 1980s, "Love Byrd," album featured the late Isaac Hayes on drums, received the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the highest jazz honor in the country.

"Byrd has always nurtured and encouraged young musicians," the famous jazz musician Herbie Hancock said.

Hancock said he learned a lot from Byrd and his collaborations with the jazz master led to Hancock creating such hits as "Rockit," and "Sound-System," both Grammy award-winning hits.

"He [was] a born educator, it [seemed] to be in his blood, and he really tried to encourage the development of creativity," said Hancock, 72.

In short, Byrd was an avid, eternal student of music until his death," said Bugnon, 54. "That's what I try to be everyday," he said.

Flautist Bobbi Humphrey, whom some music critics laud as, the "First Lady of the Flute," is scheduled to perform in Byrd's honor during two tribute shows at THEARC in Southeast on April 12 at 7 p.m., and 9:30 p.m.

Humphrey was one of the first female instrumentalists to record for the famed Blue Note Jazz record label. She has performed with Duke Ellington, George Benson and Stevie Wonder and once was named Best Female Instrumentalist by Billboard magazine.

"We're going to give audiences what we've been doing all of our lives, which is what Byrd taught us. To go out, make great music and entertain our fans," Killgo said.

Two shows will be held on April 12 with separate seating at 7 and 9:30 p.m. General admission tickets for each show are $20. VIP tickets, which include reserved seating and admission to a wine and cheese reception, are $35.

Parking is free and, for more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.thearcdc.org.