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One of Ella's fans; School of Business director says Fitzgerald's career an example of success

By Melony Leazer

For the last eight years, Dr. Bill Rayburn has had a fascination with the career of music legend Ella Fitzgerald.

Rayburn, director of the Austin Peay State University School of Business, enjoys hearing, almost daily, the female vocalists music. With a collection of 30 Fitzgerald CDs, he listens to her songs in the office – even on his iPod when he exercises.
By Melony Leazer

For the last eight years, Dr. Bill Rayburn has had a fascination with the career of music legend Ella Fitzgerald.

Rayburn, director of the Austin Peay State University School of Business, enjoys hearing, almost daily, the female vocalist's music. With a collection of 30 Fitzgerald CDs, he listens to her songs in the office — even on his iPod when he exercises.

“There's hardly a day that goes by that I don't listen to Ella Fitzgerald,” Rayburn said during a recent interview in his office where two of Fitzgerald's record album covers grace the top shelf of his bookcase.

Rayburn's interest goes beyond the aesthetic appeal of the singer's music. He considers her singing career, dominant in the 1950s and 1960s, a success story, noting her ability to adapt to technological advancements in the recording industry and work with a number of large-name musicians.

“I not only love her music, but I also like to look at Ella Fitzgerald as an example of success,” Rayburn said. “She was able to attract top musical talent to work with her and be able to use the best material. And, she had access to the finest technology of the era.”

Fitzgerald perhaps is best known for her rendition of “A Tisket A Tasket,” a nursery rhyme from the 19th century. In 1938, the rhyme was used as the basis for a song written by Al Feldman and Fitzgerald. She recorded it again in the 1950s.

“You can tell a difference between the two versions,” Rayburn said. “There's a maturity to her voice in the latter recording, yet it still had a lot of vitality and energy that you can hear in the first song.”

Fitzgerald's collaboration with other music giants of her day — Duke Ellington and Ira Gershwin, for instance — also indicates the level of stardom she achieved, Rayburn said.

Although Rayburn has read Fitzgerald's biography and researched thoroughly her music career, he doesn't regard himself as an expert of the jazz and ballad icon. However, he is trying to connect Fitzgerald's music career and business concepts to produce scholarly work.

“I would love to link the two somehow so I can write an article,” said Rayburn, who has taught business and management courses at Austin Peay since 1993. “I am a fan of hers first, but if I find a way to write about it academically, I will try.”