Janna Tull Steed

Janna Tull Steed is internationally known as an authority on the sacred concerts of Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, composer and jazz orchestra leader. Her work with this material includes writing, speaking, consulting, producing, preaching, and singing.

In 1999, Ellington's centennial year, Steed's book Duke Ellington was published in Crossroad's Lives & Legacies series of spiritual biographies. It is unique among Ellington biographies in stressing the significance of Ellington's faith and his sacred music for understanding his genius and achievement.

Steed was also co-producer and writer of an hour-long segment on his sacred music for the Duke Ellington Centennial Radio Project, a series narrated by Stanley Crouch and aired on Public Radio International stations. Steed's articles have appeared in The Christian Century and Christianity and the Arts magazines and on the AllAboutJazz.com Web site.

On October 27, 2002, she will be heard on the program Encounter an ABC Radio National (Australia) broadcast, in a show featuring Ellington's sacred music, produced by Susan Clark.

A minister in the United Methodist Church, Steed received her Master of Divinity (1979) and Master of Sacred Theology (1993) degrees from Yale University. While a research fellow at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, she produced performances of Ellington's Sacred Music at the University's Battel Chapel, the Yale Arts Gallery, and also in local churches.

At mid-life she began studying jazz vocal style and singing jazz standards and the Ellington sacred music in club, concert, and church settings. She has appeared at Manhattan School of Music, the Scaritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee; Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts; the University of Colorado at Boulder; national and regional meetings of the American Choral Directors Association, the 1998 and 2000 international Duke Ellington conferences, the New Haven, Connecticut, showing of the Smithsonian's traveling Ellington exhibit Beyond Catgory. She has joined with jazz musicians - including David Berger, Jim Cullum, and Dan Knight - to lead special worship services in various churches around the country.

Having grown up in Arkansas, Steed graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Before beginning her research on Ellington, she served as a pastor to churches in Connecticut and California.

Since 1995 Steed has made her home in Creston, Iowa. In June 2001, Steed received a living-donor liver transplant after coping for many years with a progressive liver disease. She resumed her Ellington projects the following November.