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The Kennedy Center

Artists Featured in Book

Horace Gray

Photo of Horace Gray

Like many artists, Horace Gray has led a double life, balancing a steady job with the pleasure of performance. Whatever his day job, Horace is a musician heart and soul.

During an Air Force stint in Korea, he discovered the music of Lionel Hampton and the Vibraharp.

"The minute I bought them I could play them. By the time I got to England, guys got after me to put a band together.... I always wished I could be a full-time musician. Seems like there was always the service to keep me from it."

He became a postal worker and played with Preston Johnson. Eventually, diabetes necessitated a leg amputation. After his wife died, it became difficult for him to get along without support, so Horace moved into the Delaware VA Hospital. He wasn't much interested in getting into art and ceramics. But through VSA arts Delaware's program, Horace received a financial award to purchase an instrument of his own, and was once again given an opportunity to "gig".

"I got back into it quick...I thought I wasn't going to play anymore. "He says, "If I was sitting here right now without music to play I don't know what I'd be doing. I think I'd be half crazy. That was my life, it's been my life ever since I was little... When I first came here I thought I was falling away... just thought it was a matter of time before health was going to pull me away. But now, ever since I started getting into music here, I've just picked up my pace. Now I'm going to play until they don't want me to play anymore."