Ocean Hill actress, blues singer, community leader, and former broadcast news director Beareather Reddy embodies the meaning of self-reinvention.
After spending nearly 30 years working as an associate director for the graphics department for two ABC news programs, Reddy decided that she would retire and return to her passion of music and community involvement.
“My mission is to introduce community youth to blues music,” says Reddy, who has a CD entitled, “Beareather sings the Classic Blueswomen,” featuring Perry Bradford songs and Ma Rainey classics. “If I say my mission is to keep blues alive, then in my opinion, the only way you are gonna do that is to pass it on to the next generation.”
Reddy’s love of the blues was nurtured in her early years growing up in Georgia. She set up free community workshops in her home, transforming her apartment into a studio dedicated to music, music theory, and blues education. These days she is a board member of the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, and the founder and executive director of her own production company, Big Eyed Enterprises. Her popular jazz festivals — she performs in them herself — welcome blues artists from across the country, including Bobby Rush, Vinnie Knight and BET Gospel Video Award nominee Gary Samuels.
The Woman of Distinction’s students are also doing her proud, making music across the borough at such venues as the Brooklyn Historical Society and Kumble Theater.
“I’m really a vocalist, but I want to see people have fun,” says the Woman of Distinction, who earned a degree in performing arts from the University of Massachusetts, where she performed with such notables as Max Roach and Archie Shepp, and even made an appearance on the David Letterman Show with a gospel group led by singer Lady Peachena.
Although blues musicians have reached out to Reddy for performance opportunities, she says she struggles with marketing and profit earnings. Not only does she self-fund her projects, rent theaters and host the workshops from her home, she also pays the performers who play at her festivals.
“I can’t ask people to do things for free, I don’t know how to do that,” says Reddy, who has written and performed one-woman showcases about women in jazz, and sang and performed skits on television.
Sylvia Ryan, a retired financial analyst who met Reddy at the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium, is impressed by her work with children in Central and East Brooklyn.
“It’s really a lot for a person to do,” says Ryan. “There’s a lot of energy involved with all that, especially to be a singer, herself, too.”
Reddy helped Ryan reconnect with the blues — a music genre African Americans can have a complex relationship with, Davis adds.
“A lot of African Americans think of the blues as depressing or related to slavery, and they think, ‘Oh, I’m not going back there!’ ” says Ryan. “You have to open their minds to it.”
Neighborhood: Ocean Hill.
Occupation: Vocalist, actress, and producer.
Company: Big Eyed Enterprises.
Claim to Fame: “Producer of the annual Big Eyed Blues Festival.”
Favorite Brooklyn Place: Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Woman I Admire: Harriet Tubman.
Motto: “Keep blues alive.”