Many people have heard of the Grammy Award-winning songwriter and singer Roberta Flack, whose best-known songs are “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” and “Where Is the Love?” But did you know that this famous jazz, folk, and R&B icon was once a public school teacher?
Roberta Cleopatra Flack was born February 10, 1937, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, although she was raised in Arlington, Virginia. Her mother was a church organist, so Roberta grew up in a musical household. At the age of nine, Roberta began to study classical piano, and by the time she was fifteen, she had won a music scholarship to Howard University. She completed her undergraduate work and her student teaching as the first African American student teacher at an all-white school near Chevy Chase, Maryland. Then Roberta accepted a position teaching music and English in Farmville, North Carolina, a gig which paid her only $2,800 per year. She also taught junior high school in Washington, DC, and at the same time she took side jobs as a night club singer. It was there that she was discovered and signed to a contract for Atlanta Records. The rest, as they say, is music business history.
In recent years, Roberta’s contribution to education came when she founded an after-school music program entitled “The Roberta Flack School of Music” to provide free music education to underprivileged students in the Bronx, New York City.
Roberta Flack: Truly a Chalkboard Champion.