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Charles T. Watts courtesy Chuck Haddix

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Professor Charles T. Watts

Many early Kansas City jazz musicians studied under Professor Charles T. Watts. Slender and dignified, Watts directed the instrumental program at the public elementary schools and operated a music studio. Watts, a multi-instrumentalist, attended the Chicago Musical College, Chicago University Conservatory and Quinn Conservatory in Boston. After graduation, he toured nationally with theatrical organizations and toured Europe with Earnest Hogan's Pickaninny band before settling down in Kansas City.

In 1914, he opened a piano repair and tuning business. A gifted arranger and conductor, Watts served as music director for Lincoln Electric Park, an amusement park for African Americans at 19th and Woodland. He managed the Winn School of Popular Music and in 1919, established a music studio for beginning and advanced studies.

Ben Webster, Clarence Love, Julia Lee, Pete Johnson and scores of other Kansas City jazz musicians studied under Watts. Love fondly recalled attending Watts' studio:

"My mother paid a dollar a lesson ... I studied violin and I had to learn the piano ... He had the job as supervisor of music of the public schools (we weren't integrated back then), all the black schools ... At the last of the year he'd combine all the schools together and we'd have a big concert, with marches. No popular tunes at all. Concert music...."

After graduating from Watts' studio, Love and other students further honed their skills under the watchful eye of Major N. Clark Smith at Lincoln High School before launching their professional careers.

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