Reel Black List: George (Geo) Cooper

Geo Cooper
Geo Cooper

Native Chicagoan,
Fisk University alum,
Fisk Jubilee Singer,
gifted pianist
and Founder of the
Ella Sheppard School
of Music

Geo Cooper attended Fisk University and toured with the world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers. He remains active in the Jubilee Singers Alumni (JSA) and part of the JSA Advisory Board.

Given the nickname “Maestro,” Geo is a gifted pianist and conductor. His mastery of classical music has taken him all over the world. The world-class pianist has recorded for Polygram and Capitol Records and toured with Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, Peabo Bryson, Natalie Cole and his home girl Chaka Khan.

Geo Cooper
Maestro Geo Cooper

Geo did a series of instructional videos on, “Secrets of the Chopin Etudes.” He has performed as a solo artist and part of the group of Fiskites R&B band, “Autumn” and heads the GIII Jazz Trio.
He is presently the Director of the Lutheran School Gospel Chorus. He is the Assistant Minister of Music for the church where he grew up, St. Mark AME Zion, and the Minister of Music at the Congregational Church of Park Manor.
In 2009, Geo Cooper founded the Ella Sheppard School of Music (ESSOM) in his home town CHICAGO where he teaches free music lessons to children 2-14.

Geo Cooper, Founder of Ella Sheppard School of Music

Geo is also an Ambassador for the Henry Hendricks Weddington School for the Performing Arts (HHW). HHW is an open walls school serving children from all over Chicago. They audition for acceptance and get paid for their participation.

Geo has been teaching Master Classes, doing arrangements and composing for the HHW for many years.
A true believer that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Geo will keep you and the children he comes in contact with informed of their Black history. For that reason, Geo Cooper is included in The Reel Black List.


What was your first break?
I wrote a song called “Shadow” with a high School friend, Denise DeVeranez. We were attending Fisk University together when a then recent Fisk graduate, Tony Wells, heard the song and recorded it for his debut album. From there, I formed a band with 3 other schoolmates and within 4 years we had our first record deal.

Worst thing that ever happened to you to remind you that you are Black?
In high school I along with another schoolmate was attacked on 63rd and Western by a mob of 5 or 6 White Kids. We ran into a store and were told by the managers to “take it outside.” Hey, they’d chased us in there. We fought them off with only a few cuts and bruises (my friend was cut across his back with a razor) but we weren’t seriously hurt.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are Black?
Went to Fisk University where black history abounds. I became a member of the world renown Fisk Jubilee Singers. WOW!

Work you are most proud of?
A few things. As I pianist I feel I accomplished what I set out to do and that was to be able to play whatever I wished. Nothing is really beyond my technical ability. I have written some great songs but I’m most proud of my piano composition, “Voyage of the Drum.” Lastly though, I founded The Ella Sheppard School of Music which for the past 10 years has provided free music lessons for over 1,000 kids!

How has the business changed since you broke in?
Record Companies are in trouble. Artists have more direct access to the public yet, the ability for the general public to access music without paying has hurt.

Trapped on an island, what essentials must you have?
Piano….maybe my Mac Book Pro!

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self?
Finish that Masters Degree. I’d be more certified to help my Alma Mater Fisk University in growing the school of music.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why?
Some music giant. Quincy jones, Stevie Wonder, John Work, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie….one of those guys.

To see the up-to-date Reel Black List, click here.