Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Teacher and Half of Popular Duo April 17, 1943 - May 1, 2018

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Teacher and Half of Popular Duo April 17, 1943 - May 1, 2018

Article excerpt

Frank LaVelle went into a dive bar one night to hear Joseph Kennedy III play piano and was impressed.

He told Mr. Kennedy, "Hey, I can get you a lot more money. I can sing, but I can't play," said Peggy Ligons, Mr. LaVelle's wife. "And he said 'If you'll come with me, we'll be on an amazing journey.' And Joe did."

That night was the beginning of Kennedy & LaVelle, a popular musical duo that performed show tunes at clubs and private affairs around Pittsburgh for decades. And while Mr. Kennedy was well-known in the region for his partnership with Mr. LaVelle, it was far from his only involvement in Pittsburgh's music scene.

Mr. Kennedy, a music teacher in the Pittsburgh Public Schools who was one of the first African Americans to perform as part of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, died Tuesday from a heart attack at his home in Fox Chapel. He was 75.

Mr. Kennedy was born in Pittsburgh on April 17, 1943, to Joseph J. Kennedy, Jr. and Thelma M. "Jennifer" Kennedy.

His father was a classically trained musician who moved to Richmond, Va., because as an African American he couldn't find work teaching music in Pittsburgh. Mr. Kennedy Jr., a violinist, joined the Richmond Symphony in 1963 and went on to become the director of the jazz studies program at Virginia Tech University.

Mr. Kennedy, who moved to Richmond with his family when he was young, returned to the city to attend Duquesne University's music program.

Mr. Kennedy himself took an interest in music education. Like his father, he wanted to teach in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and he was able to get the job.

"They were both deeply committed to music education," said Joseph Kennedy III's son, Joseph Kennedy IV. "Both of them sacrificed their whole musical careers so that they could advance others and teach others."

Mr. Kennedy taught music in the Pittsburgh Public Schools for 42 years and became a highly rated instructional leader. …

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