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Jazz Legend’s 100th Birthday

Twin counties celebrate the American Jazz Legend and Rocky Mount native, Thelonious Monk, with the 18th Annual Thelonious Monk Jazz Festival. Events will take place on October 6-7, 2017 with concerts, lectures, and book signings throughout downtown Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He would have turned 100 this year.

Who is Thelonious Monk?

Thelonious Sphere Monk was born in Rocky Mount in 1917. His parents moved the family to New York when he was a child.

Monk soon began piano lessons and won music competitions at the Apollo Theatre as a teenager. He was considered an imaginative solo pianist who made immense contributions to the development of jazz. His first recordings, notable for the “unique compositional and improvisational style”, were made in 1947, the year he married Nellie Smith. Monk formed the Thelonious Monk Quartet which included John Coltrane.

Over the years Monk played at the Newport Jazz Festival, the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Considered one of the world’s greatest jazz musicians, his work, including “Round Midnight” and “Blue Monk”, is the most recorded of any jazz composer. Monk was the subject of a 1988 documentary, Thelonious Monk Straight, No Chaser. In 1993 he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006 Monk was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.

A little taste of his genius…


Jazz Festival Schedule

Numerous events are scheduled for the weekend of October 6th:

Friday, October 6th

  • Twin Counties Young Professionals event from 7 p.m to 11 p.m. at the Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences. The event is $30 per person and cocktail attire is preferred. There will be live entertainment by the 7th Hour Grooves Masters Band. Reserve your tickets online.

Saturday, October 7th

  • Thelonious Monk Marker Dedication Ceremony from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Thelonious Monk Park at 920 S. Washington St. Free and open to the public. 
  • “Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original” Book Signing by author Robin D.G. Kelley from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Booker T. Theatre,170 E Thomas St, Rocky Mount, NC 27801.  People will also be able to watch the 90-minute 1988 documentary of the life of the bebop pianist and composer called “Straight, No Chaser.” Free and open to the public. 
  • Jazz Concert by Ernest Turner from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Rocky Mount Mills from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Thelonious Monk Plaza on the Douglas Block. Free and open to the public. 
  • “The RMECDC’s goal is to implement a cultural tourism economic development strategy that will grow into an international festival because Thelonious Monk was known all around the world,” Dickens said.
  • Thelonious Monk Statue Project Fundraiser hosted by Bobby Monk, a cousin of Thelonious Monk from 4 to 10 p.m. Oct. 6 at the DoubleTree hotel, Rocky Mount. The event will be presented by the Monk US Memorial Foundation. There will be music by the Eddie Anderson Project and also other live musical performances. Eddie Ray, operations director and vice chairman of the N.C. Music Hall of Fame Museum will be the guest speaker. Tickets for the event is $25.


To learn more about Edgecombe and Nash counties rich arts culture, visit here.