J’Aira Pryor will share the true meaning of Christmas through music in an uplifting concert Dec. 12.
Pryor will headline a holiday fundraiser concert: A Holiday Special with J’Aira Pryor and Friends on New Horizon Theater’s behalf at 7:30 p.m. at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty.
“New Horizon wanted to try something new and they wanted to give a local artist the chance to shine,” said Pryor, a 28-year-old Pittsburgh resident.
Pryor wowed the New Horizon committee with her beautiful voice and her dedication to the art of music.
“J’Aira’s work spoke for itself,” said New Horizon Theater chairperson, Joyce Meggerson-Moore. “She’s very excited about the show and she exemplifies our mission to showcase artists—young artists—and she is a young artist who is known in the community and she has a great body of work.”
Pryor was introduced to music at an early age. Her grandmother took her to see the National Association of Negro Musicians in Chicago when she was nine years old.
NANM was founded in 1919. It provides encouragement and support to African-American musicians. Each year, the initiative holds a week-long national convention in a different city to allow musicians the opportunity to participate in seminars, workshops, lectures and performances. It has branches in Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York, Georgia and California.
Seeing those musicians move people by sharing their talents struck a chord with Pryor.
“Before them I was really shy. Seeing them gave me the opportunity to get out of my shell,” Pryor said. “After seeing them I started taking piano lessons and after that I began competing in classical piano competitions.”
Pryor, a Highland Park resident, graduated from Clarion University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in communications and a minor in music. She currently works as choir director and minister of music at St. Paul Baptist Church in Oakmont. She has been a member of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church for more than 20 years.
When NANM traveled through Pittsburgh, Pryor auditioned and made the cut. She toured with the company for 10 years. The group traveled to Oakland, Calif., Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Dallas.
When Pryor turned 16, she stepped out from behind the piano and began connecting with audiences in another way—with her voice.
She got her chance to showcase her talent during her second run at the Miss Black Teenage Pageant in 1998.
“Behind the piano you play notes and you can touch people but when you are singing, you connect with the audience. Singing lets the audience see that I’m versatile,” Pryor said.
And that versatility is what she plans to show the Kelly-Strayhorn audience during the fundraising concert.
“I’ll be doing gospel songs and some familiar Christmas songs. A lot of the songs have been rearranged by me. I’m wearing many hats right now,” Pryor said.
The concert will also feature local gospel group Praise, Worship and Deliverance, and the mime group, Spirit.
Both groups were hand-picked by Pryor, who is also producing the show.
(Tickets for the concert can be purchased at Dorsey’s Record Shop or by contacting New Horizon Theater at (412) 431-0773 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(Proceeds from the concert will benefit New Horizon Theater.)