Native District of Columbian Davey Yarborough is the president and artistic director of The Washington Jazz Arts Institute. In 2019, Davey retired from Duke Ellington School of the Arts after 40 years of service as a jazz educator. His lifelong commitment to mentoring young musicians was recognized in 2017 when he was inducted into the Washington, D.C. Hall of Fame, and the following year in the Downbeat Magazine Jazz Educator Hall of Fame.
Davey’s impressive musical career has taken two distinct paths – those of accomplished performer and dedicated educator. Earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and performance, his university studies were augmented by studies on flute with the venerable Frank Wess, and on saxophone with the legendary Sonny Stitt.
As a performer, bandleader, composer and arranger, Davey has worked with Sir Roland Hanna, Keter Betts, Billy Eckstine, Buck Hill, Shirley Horn, Lena Horne and Joe Williams, to name a few. He has also collaborated with trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis, performing on Marsalis’ Making the Music series on National Public Radio (NPR).
As an educator, Davey was recruited to teach saxophone and created the jazz orchestra at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., which is now an internationally recognized Jazz Studies program.
Established in 1998, The Washington Jazz Arts Institute is an extension of the District’s legacy of artistry, education and mentoring. Co-founders Esther Williams and Davey Yarborough, along with his accomplished staff, guide young musicians through instruction, lecture, professional workshops, mentor opportunities and performance with their peers for diverse audiences.
Davey has twice received the coveted “Mayor’s Arts Award” in Washington, D.C., for Excellence and Dedication to the Arts and Education. Connie Chung featured Davey in a sensitive, insightful piece on ABC’s 20/20 chronicling his efforts on behalf of his students. Davey received the coveted “Whitney M. Young, Jr. Community Service Award” from the Greater Washington Urban League for his work with students and within his community as a whole. He also received a “D.C. Emancipation Day Image Award” and the D.C. Youth Orchestra’s “Distinguished Alumni Award.” He and his wife Esther Williams received a Community Service Award from Kids In Trouble; and Davey was honored by The Society Inc. of D.C., for his dedication to the education of young people.
Davey received the title of “Jazz Educator of the Year” from The Berklee Conservatory through the Jazz Education Network at their annual conference. He was also a semi-finalist in the Grammy’s “Music Educator of the Year” award the same year. Davey is a past recipient of the Music Educators National Conference (MENC) – Lowell Mason Award. The honor of “Excellence in Teaching” was conveyed upon him by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and he received the Benny Golson Jazz Masters Award given to distinguished Howard University jazz alumni. Davey also received the Kennedy Center’s Stephen Sondheim “Inspirational Teacher” award. Upon his retirement from The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Channel 9 television host Bruce Johnson interviewed Davey and featured Davey’s inspirational career in his Off-Script series.