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Susan Engle fell in love with biography as a child, reading through her small library's collection of orange-covered books called "Childhood of Famous Americans." Loving music and theater from an early age, she acted and sang her way through high school and college, earning a BFA in theater arts. After her twins were born, writing for children became an interest, and eventually, she became an associate editor at "Brilliant Star" magazine. After retirement, she circled back to the love of biography and currently has worked on three biographies for Bellwood Press, stories of Baha'is who have made a positive impact on culture.

Hazel Scott: Gifted Musician and Defender of Her People

Hazel Scott (June 11, 1920 – October 2, 1981). Photo courtesy of the New York Public Library.

Hazel Scott, the sole survivor of her parents’ seven children, loved the piano from the time she was a very young child. Her mother, Alma, practiced and taught piano in their home in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The sound was as much a part of the child as was her breathing. Later, Hazel would call the piano “that marvel of marvels.”

At three years old, when Hazel’s grandmother, Margaret, fell asleep one afternoon, Hazel wanted to play the hymn Margaret always sang at naptime. “I knew that somehow I could find ‘Gentle Jesus’ somewhere among those keys in front of me.” That was exactly what she did, playing the melody with both hands. When her grandmother woke up, thinking that a student had come into the house to practice, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She called the whole neighborhood in, as well as Hazel’s mother, Alma, to witness this small miracle. Continue reading

John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie: A Luminous Quality, a Distinguished Life

Dizzy Gillespie (October 21, 1917 – January 6, 1993). Photo courtesy of Roland Godefroy, accessed from Wikimedia Commons.

From childhood, John Birks Gillespie—famously nicknamed “Dizzy” in his teens—stood out: in his school, in his family, among his musical colleagues. According to Mrs. Wilson, his third-grade teacher, she would say to him, “John, do you have your lessons?” He would reply, “‘Yeah, I got it, I got it, Mrs. Wilson, I got it.’ And when the time for recitations came, he would know it. How? I don’t know, because he wouldn’t study.” Continue reading