Roberta Flack Foundation Grants Scholarship To a Gifted Young Bronx Musician


Roberta Flack Foundation Grants Scholarship

To a Gifted Young Bronx Musician

Trumpeter Will Attend Manhattan School of Music’s

Summer Program Thanks to

The Musical Legend & Former Scholarship Student

& Music Teacher

(New York, NY) How did Roberta Flack rise from the small North Carolina town of Black Mountain to the top of the record charts and her legendary stature as a 1970s African-American cultural icon? Education, and the support of teachers, mentors and scholarship programs along the way.  

So it’s only natural that the renowned singer/pianist’s Roberta Flack Foundation makes supporting the education of promising young musical talent its primary mission. Most recently the Foundation granted Abdul Akinola, a trumpet-playing student at Hyde Leadership Charter School in The Bronx, a scholarship to attend the prestigious Manhattan School of Music’s Summer Program.  

Flack – beloved by popular music fans around the globe for her enduring #1 hit singles “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Killing Me Softly with His Song” (which topped the charts for five weeks) and “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” and so much more – was herself the beneficiary of community generosity and support in her hometown from her parents, teachers, mentors and church family, who all sensed her potential greatness as a pianist and vocalist at an early age. It helped Roberta win a full scholarship to Howard University, one of the nation’s most-esteemed historic Black colleges  

Akinola competed for the highly-regarded Summer Program after applying and won his place in the course. He did not have the funds to attend until The Roberta Flack Foundation paid his tuition. In addition, The Foundation made a contribution to the school’s popular Spring Social.  

After Flack graduated from Howard she taught music in junior high schools in the Washington, DC area and gave private piano lessons while building an audience for her music in local nightclubs. Her residency at Mr. Henry’s on Capitol Hill became a popular attraction that drew such famed fellow entertainers as Burt Bacharach, Carmen McRae, Ramsey Lewis, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Mathis and Woody Allen to her shows. After jazz star Les McCann heard Roberta there, he helped her win a recording deal with her label, Atlantic Records.  

Flack blazed a path across 1970s popular music that won her six GRAMMY Awards, including the first-ever two-year-in-a-row win for Record of the Year (Billie Eilish joined her in this recognition with her 2021 win) and Lifetime Achievement honors. Also known for her hit duets with Donny Hathaway “Where Is the Love” and “The Closer I Get to You,” and such other hits as “Tonight I Celebrate My Love” (with Peabo Bryson) and “Set the Night to Music” (with Maxi Priest), Roberta is considered one of the greatest songstresses of our time, effortlessly traversing a broad musical landscape over the years from pop to soul to folk to jazz with a voice the BBC describes as “a molten murmur [that] flexes into a cry as pure as a prayer, heartfelt as a confessional. It is elegantly tender, almost unbearably intimate.”  

She has never forgotten the people who encouraged her as a youth and has always maintained the importance of nurturing young people in realizing their dreams through education and mentorship. In 2006, Flack founded the Roberta Flack School of Music in the Bronx, providing music lessons, theory, and performance experience for students regardless of their ability to pay. For a decade, more than 1000 students studied at the Roberta Flack School of Music before it closed its doors in 2016. Flack and her team hope to re-open the school in 2022-2023. Since 1987, Flack has funded an annual music scholarship in Honolulu, Hawaii that provides piano lessons for a year to one recipient. And her Roberta Flack Foundation gave grants in 2019 to the online educational incubator for young women of underserved communities, Shelectricity, and filmmaker Carol Swainson for film about changing the racial narrative in the home for families of young people, to be shown in 2023.  

“When I considered what it meant to me to leave a legacy for future generations, I knew that meant more than just my catalog of recorded music,” Flack explains. “I wanted to provide young people with the opportunity to learn, grow and fully develop their minds.”