Music can connect people who don’t speak even the same language. It is a common tongue that cuts to the heart of human society. Ora Reed uses the power of music and faith to connect with people around the globe, serving as an ambassador for her home state and her culture.
Whether you know of Ora Reed or not, she represents the soul, arts, and culture of not just the people from her native Mississippi, but of creole people around the globe. Serving as the official Cultural Ambassador of Mississippi since 2006, she continues to perform around the world, putting a good foot forward for creole people everywhere.
Roots in Mississippi
Ora Reed was born in the rich cultural hotbed of Mississippi, in the city of Greenville, and grew up with her mother in the city of Lexington. Her mother recognized her potential from an early age, enrolling her in piano lessons at three, where she excelled at playing the “ABCs” on the piano. Throughout her elementary and high school years in Mississippi, and into college at Jackson State University, she continued working on her ability with the piano, clarinet, and violin.
However, despite all of this time practising on various instruments and perfecting her skills, it wasn’t clear from the beginning that she would enjoy the career she has followed. Before moving to Baltimore, Maryland, to teach in the city’s public school district, she performed at the world-famous Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.
In an interview with a hometown radio station in her native Mississippi, Ora had the following to say about this momentous occasion:
“I was a piano player and occasional singer before being invited to perform in Las Vegas. I told my friend, ‘well, I’m not a singer!’ I wasn’t sure I could sing in front of others, but I figured if he believed in me, then I could do it.”
The experience at Caesar’s Palace was surprisingly comfortable for Ora. It was also her first singing job and introduced others to the type of music she would go on to sing for years to come.
Every artist develops a style that is uniquely their own, and Ora is no different than any other artist in this respect. Although she is often classified as Jazz standard performer, her music touches on much deeper styles and topics than simply Jazz music alone. She is a woman of deep faith, and as such writes, performs, and sings music from genres such as Worship and Praise, Spirituals, Gospel, and even Pop.
“I primarily perform Jazz standards, but I also perform Christian concerts because my faith is the foundation of my life. It is the foundation of who I am.”
Using Music to Call Attention to Important Issues
Ora is more than just a singer and piano player to many people. Her music and albums, such as, “Simply Black and White”, call attention to issues of racial and religious tensions, and efforts to reconcile those problems.
Perhaps the most common theme in her music is her Christian faith. Ora is a devout Christian, and as a four-time survivor of cancer, she credits her faith in God for her ability to face down and defeat cancer on numerous occasions. She uses her music and position to call attention to women’s health issues, and focuses on the importance of faith in life. Her music has touched lives in various corners of the world.
Cultural Ambassador for Mississippi and Creole People
Ora’s voice, whether you hear it in a song or listen to her give an interview on the radio, captures the imagination. She is quite clearly a person with a wonderful disposition who believes in spreading faith, joy, and personal strength to others. In her own words, “no matter what continent you are on, or country you are in, music is truly a universal language. I am so aware of this when I share in a church service where no English is spoken and I know the message of music has touched hearts”.
As her musical career began to blossom, she found herself performing around the globe in front of audiences of various faiths, nationalities, and cultural identities. She has performed concerts, both Jazz and Worship, in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates. Her voice has graced the inside of Carnegie Hall, and she has performed at home with the Mississippi Orchestra.
Away from her life as a musician, though still connected to it, Ora has served in many organisations. She has been an administrative assistant to a Mississippi state senator, to the President of the National Baptist Convention, worked as a concert promotions manager, and even as a PR consultant to Mission Mississippi, and in a Christian organization that works to bridge the racial and religious divides in her native state.
Serving as the Cultural Ambassador for Mississippi, Ora believes in always putting her best foot forward. She views her role as a representative of Mississippians and creole people as critically important. She observes, “When you meet foreign people who do not understand where you’re from, as a cultural ambassador, you are going to contribute to the impression people develop of that region”.
After years of living abroad, including six years in Japan and one year in Brazil, Ora has returned to live part-time in her native Mississippi. She continues to work as a cultural ambassador for the state, and supports the blossoming arts and culture of the people of Mississippi. The Riley Center at Mississippi State University is the state’s hub for performing arts, including an opera hall and smaller performing arts centre that Ora loves to perform at in support of arts and culture in her home state.
Today, in addition to seeing Ora at the Riley Center, those interested in her soulful, faith-based music and Jazz standards can catch her at smaller venues as well, such as events like “An Evening with Ora Reed”.