Roger Humphries

2022 Living Legacy Awardee

Headshot of Roger Humphries. Mr. Humphries wears a white shirt with French cuffs. His chin leans on one hand which holds a pair of drum sticks. Mr. Humphries is a mature Black man.

Display caption

Image: Roger Humphries. Credit: Ahmed Sandidge.

Roger Humphries, percussionist extraordinaire, educator, and philanthropist, began his musical career early. By the time he was 3½ years old, his talent was recognized and nurtured by his immediate family. At age 16, he was performing with his band at Carnegie Music Hall.

During his early years, Humphries played with well-respected musicians in the jazz industry, including the legendary Horace Silver Group, whom he toured for three years and recorded three influential albums, including Song For My FatherCape Verdean Blues, and Jody Grind. He also toured Europe with the Ray Charles Big Band and the dynamic Richard Groove Holmes.

His distinguished career has included performances at the Village Gate and Apollo Theater in New York, Ronnie Scott’s in London, the Jazz Workshop in Boston, Shelly Manne’s Manhole in Los Angeles, and many other venues around the world. He’s also appeared with Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Shaw, Nancy Wilson, Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard, and many more.

Humphries stands amongst world-renowned musicians in the World Encyclopedia of JazzDownbeat Publishing Library, and a host of other media libraries. He was acknowledged as a legend in the jazz world on February 23, 2008, when he received proclamations from Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. He is highlighted in a publication entitled Pittsburgh Born and the May 2011 issue of Modern Drummer Magazine.

For well over 28 years, Humphries was an educator at the School of Performing Arts through the Pittsburgh Board of Education Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) Program. The first and longest-serving percussion instructor at CAPA, his students have national and international acclaim in jazz and commercial idioms. Additionally, he taught at the University of Pittsburgh and multiple clinics at Slippery Rock University and Mellon Jazz Masters Class.

He founded the Roger L. Humphries Music Scholarship Program for students in the arts, hosting an annual jazz cruise where some scholarship recipients perform. The opportunity to nurture and develop the next generation of young musicians provides immense personal satisfaction for him. Humphries has retired from the CAPA Program and is now traveling with RH Factor Jazz Quintet and the Roger Humphries Big Band. He has two CDs, Don’t Give Up with his big band and This N’ That with his quintet. Additionally, in June of 2011, during his annual boat ride, he released his new CD entitled, Keep the Faith.

He was awarded the inaugural JazzLive Legacy Award in 2018. In 2019, he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from West Virginia Wesleyan College. In 2019 he also received the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Governor’s Award Recipient.

Humphries has been blessed with a talent that enables him to pursue a profession that he loves. That gift has opened doors for him to meet other creative and talented people in the rarified strata of professional musicians. As much as he appreciates the opportunity to travel the world, he has been equally blessed with a beautiful wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, as well as a vast extended family based in Pittsburgh.

He has every intention of continuing to enjoy life, his family, and his first love – music.

*Bio from Award presentation.

Watch the 2022 Living Legacy Jazz Award Roger Humphries tribute video.