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Notable Alumni

Rev. W.R. "Smokie" Norful, Jr. is an American gospel singer and pianist, best known for his 2002 album, I Need You Now and his 2004 release, Nothing Without You won a Grammy at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2004. He is also pastor of Victory Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois. Art Porter, Sr. (1934 - 1993) was an American jazz pianist from Little Rock, Arkansas. He performed with the Art Porter Trio founded in 1962 and the Art Porter Singers, founded in 1976. Porter was also known as an educator and a 1954 alumnus of AM&N College with a BA in Music Education. He is known for his musical influence on former United States President Bill Clinton. In 1993, Porter received the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Jazz and Heritage Foundation.

Henry Wallace Shead, Sr., whose musical repertoire is virtually unlimited, was a pianist, singer and songwriter extraordinaire Shead was awarded a scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. After graduating He moved to Los Angeles where he made his acting debut appearing with Henry Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss and Jane Alexander in William Saroyan's "The Time of Your Life". He wrote and arranged music for stage plays and television He did studio work on a Johnny Mathis album, and recorded for the Liberty/United Artists and Cream labels. Shead created national radio jingles and appeared on network television with Dinah Shore, Johnny Carson and Jerry Lewis. He performed at parties for the Rockefellers, Pearl Bailey, The Carpenters, President Lyndon Johnson, President Bill Clinton, Henry Mancini, Sergio Mendes, Ed McMahon and Barbra Streisand. In 2006, Henry was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. James H. Leary is a double bass player, who played with the Count Basie Orchestra. Leary was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and studied at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He has won two Grammy Awards.

Larry Braggs
Larry Braggs is a first generation college graduate. He attained a degree in music at UAPB. He is the lead singer in the famed jazz band Tower of Power.
Jonathan “Jwhite” White is a jazz saxophonist that graduated from UAPB with a degree in music in 2004. He was a member of M4,the Jazz Ensemble and the Wind Ensemble.
Jamil Nasser, born George Joyner (June 21, 1932 – February 13, 2010) and also credited on some of Ahmad Jamal's recordings as Jamil Sulieman, was an American jazz musician. He played double bass, electric bass, and tuba.

Benjamin “Skip” Pruitt
Skip Pruitt is a premier saxophonist with a platinum sound. He has played nationally and internationally with the likes of Luther Vandross, The Winans, Keith Washington, Michael Bolton, Toni Braxton, Paul Riser, Jenifer Holliday, Phyllis Hyman, Chuck Brown and Earl Klugh.
TeRoy Betton, Jr., a musician, arranger, and composer, was known for his love of music and his outstanding performance in the field of music. He gained recognition as a distinguished trumpeter in the early 1950's in his home town of Little Rock, Arkansas and all throughout the region. In addition to the B-Flat trumpet, he performed solo work on the flugelhorn and the piccolo trumpet. After graduating from AM&N college (UAPB), he continued his work in the entertainment industry and became the leader and manager for several music groups in the Little Rock area including TeRoy Betton and the Spiller's Allusion and The Fabulous Playboys. He also played trumpet with the Art Porter Trio. A multi-faceted musician, Betton played with many world renowned performers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Ray Charles, Nancy Wilson, The Spinners, and Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Sonelius Smith
A classically trained pianist, Sonelius Smith received a music scholarship to Arkansas AM&N College, now University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff, studying piano and theory with Josephus Robinson. Upon graduation Sonelius toured Europe with The New Directions, featuring John Stubblefield, James Leary, Larry Ross and Benjamin Jones. He then moved to New York.
John Stubblefield (1945 – July 4, 2005) was an American jazz saxophonist, flautist, and oboist. Stubblefield was an adaptable musician; he was stationed with the World Saxophone Quartet (´86-´88), Reggie Workman (´89-´93), McCoy Tyner (´84 Clark), Freddie Hubbard (´85), and George Russell (´85). Benjamin L. Pruitt, Sr. is a graduate of Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal (AM&N) College, presently the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. He is currently serving as the Director, Office of Fine Arts Education for the Detroit Public Schools and has distinguished himself as a music educator and musician since beginning his professional career in Arkansas in 1961. His teaching and performing experiences are extensive.

James “Jimmy” McKissic
The late Jimmy McKissic is a native of Pine Bluff who was a world-renowned pianist who performed for three U.S. presidents and on stages across the globe. He studied with Marjorie Kirby, Alan Johnson and Grace Wiley and earned a B.S. in Music Education form A.M.&N. College (UAPB); followed by additional study with Marjorie Petray of Berkeley, before receiving a Hertz Scholarship to further his piano and musical training in Geneva, Switzerland. He worked at the American Church in Paris, where he was in charge of young adults for two years.

Establishing residency in Cannes, France, Jimmy’s personality led him to become one of Europe’s most popular entertainers. He performed concerts all over the globe including Switzerland (Geneva, Lucerne, Davos), Franc (Paris, Biarritz, Nice, Cannes), Morocco, England, Kenya (Nairobi, Mombasa), Syria, Holland, Bangkok, Singapore and Brazil, among others. He performed in numerous cities and states in the USA including Arkansas, California, Mississippi, Texas and New York. During his lifetime, while spending 49 years of his life abroad Jimmy played for three U.S. presidents. He also performed 28 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

A PBS documentary, “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall,” (Sandy Northrop Productions) is Jimmy’s story, chronicling his odyssey from Pine Bluff to New York, with scores of stops and detours in between.

After that debut, Jimmy considered it a privilege to invite people to attend his concerts “without charge”. He would say, “To whom much is given, much is required”. He was known for his nontraditional Program Notes offering dedication to Mama, Daddy, his teacher, Delores Wiley, his sister, Jocelyn, and his Swiss friend, Geanie. He would even occasionally include Letters to God. He often closed his classical concerts with hymns and/or popular songs as a reminder of his roots and his celebration of the universal nature of music. People from all over the world would come to hear him play from as far away as Australia or as close as Washington, D.C.