Did you know that the stories you hear from us on NPR and our podcast are excerpts of interviews pulled from the StoryCorps Archive? Participants visit one of our recording locations with a friend or family member to record a 40-minute interview with the help of a trained StoryCorps Facilitator, or record a conversation using the StoryCorps App. We’re sharing this unedited interview from the StoryCorps Archive with you in its original form.

In this interview, Harlem jazz legend Marjorie Eliot talks with her close friend, Steve Zeitlin, about growing up in a musical family and how she started hosting weekly jazz performances in her home. This interview was recorded back in 2005 at our StoryBooth, formerly located at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.


During the interview, Ms. Eliot recounts the essential role music played in her family, and talks about “not remembering a time when she did not play piano.” In her family, learning to read music was just as “important as learning to read books.” She cites that music was a part of being a “whole person” and was central to her development.

It was music that helped her find her way through her grief. Ms. Eliot found solace in music after the death of her son, Phillip, and has cited music for saving her. In 1994, Ms. Eliot started a concert series to honor her son and continues to host these events every Sunday at 4pm in her Edgecombe Avenue apartment to this day.

The interview is a beautiful conversation between two friends with a couple of musical interludes included.

All material within the StoryCorps collection is copyrighted by StoryCorps. StoryCorps encourages use of material on this site by educators and students without prior permission, provided appropriate credit is given. This interview has not been fact-checked, and may contain sensitive personal information about living persons.