Davey Yarborough’s impressive musical career has taken two distinct paths – those of accomplished performer and dedicated educator. Earning bachelor and master’s degrees in education and performance, his university studies were augmented by studies on flute with the venerable Frank Wess and saxophone with the legendary Sonny Stitt.
As a performer, bandleader, composer and arranger, he 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).
From 1988 to 1991, Davey’s sax was part of the memorable background music for The Bill Cosby Show. His composing and arranging talents are heard on the musical soundtrack for the movie “Uptown Angel.” In addition to performing at the “East Coast” jazz festival, “San Remo,” and “Montreux” Jazz festivals, Davey produced the recording “Collaboration” with Hilton Felton, “It’s Time for Love,” “Lovetones,” “Beautiful Friendship” and “In the Spirit” with vocalist Esther Williams. Davey appears as a guest soloist on many recordings.
Davey can be heard on The Lincoln Center Orchestra’s arrangement for the opening theme for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He has performed at the Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center’s Jazz Club, and Dr. Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center – Terrace Theater Series.
As an educator, Davey was recruited to teach saxophone and created the jazz orchestra at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, which is now an internationally recognized Jazz Studies program.
Established in 1998, The Washington Jazz Arts Institute is an extension of Washington, DC’s legacy of artistry, education and mentoring. Founders Esther Williams and Davey Yarborough with his accomplished staff, guide young musicians through instruction, lecture, professional workshops, mentor opportunities and performance with their peers for diverse audiences.
Davey, as a jazz emissary, has traveled to Finland and Kenya to give workshops on the teaching of jazz to young musicians. He has also formed relationships with the Korean, French and Russian embassies in DC, providing opportunities for students and adults to exchange music and ideas.
Davey received the coveted 1998 “Mayor’s Arts Award” in Washington, D.C., for Excellence and Dedication to the Arts. During that same year, Connie Chung featured Davey in a sensitive, insightful piece on ABC’s 20/20 chronicling his efforts on behalf of his students. In 2000, 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 “DC Emancipation Day Image Award” for 2001, and the DC Youth Orchestra “Distinguished Alumni Award” in 2006. He and his wife Esther Williams received a Community Service Award from Kids In Trouble In DC. Davey was also honored in 2004 by The Society, Inc., of DC 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 in 2013. 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. Most recently, the honor of “Excellence in Teaching” was conveyed upon him by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in December of 2014, and Davey received the Benny Golson Jazz Masters Award given to distinguished Howard University Jazz Alumni. This year Mr. Yarborough received the Kennedy Center’s Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher award.