DeBerry and Weldon Announce Their Engagement

Jerry Weldon and Virginia DeBerry

Virginia, born in Wadesboro, NC. the daughter of Juanita DeBerry (Fisk University) and the late John L. DeBerry II. She also has a sister, Valerie DeBerry and a brother, Dr. John L. DeBerry III., (Victoria) son-in-law of Tennessee Tribune Publisher Rosetta Miller Perry. 

Virginia DeBerry is a former high school English teacher from Buffalo, New York. She attended Fisk University and is a graduate of State University of New York at Buffalo, where she graduated with a BA. After almost 10 years in the classroom, she moved to New York and started a successful career as a plus-size model. She was frequently featured in catalogs, advertising, magazines and appeared on several television programs including Today.

During this time she met co-author, Donna Grant, who was also a plus-size model vying for the same assignments. Their modeling careers led to the opportunity to launch Maxima, a fashion and lifestyle magazine for plus-size women, where Virginia was editor-in-chief and Donna the managing editor. When publication of Maxima ceased, Virginia and Donna decided to try writing a book together. Virginia and Donna, best friends for more than 30-plus years, have turned a friendship into the most successful collaboration to date in African-American fiction.

Their first effort, Exposures was published under the pseudonym Marie Joyce (for Donna Marie and Virginia Joyce). It was also published in Spain as Instantaneas. Their next book, written as DeBerry and Grant, was Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, which was a critical success, an Essence Magazine Bestseller, as are all three of their books, and won the Merit Award for Fiction from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, as well as the 1998 Book of the Year Award from the Blackboard Bestseller List/African American Booksellers Conference-Book Expo America. More than that, it hit an emotional nerve with tens of thousands of readers from all over the world who continue to write to Virginia and Donna ten years after the book’s publication. Far From the Tree became a New York Times Bestseller, and Better Than I Know Myself received two Open Book Awards, and was included on the Best African-American fiction of 2004 lists of both Borders and WaldenBooks.

In addition to speaking at book fairs and literary festivals around the country for the past eight years, Virginia and Donna have been keynote, motivational/inspirational speakers and served on panels for a wide variety of meetings, organizations, companies, churches, cultural and educational institutions, including: DELL North America, Women Work!, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Speaking of Women’s Health (Procter & Gamble) & the Texas Conference for Women. Their honest and powerful messages have received praise from literary, business and academic audiences. They have also appeared on CNN, Good Day New York and been featured on the pages of Essence Magazine, Glamour (magazine), American Woman, and Black Issues Book Review. In 2009 they spoke at the first annual California Book Club Summit and were part of a panel discussion on the unease of African Americans about the publishing industry. 

In 2010 DeBerry became one of three co-founders with Jim Lenihan, and Mike Tublin of the New Bruswick Jazz Project. They wanted to bring jazz music to their city and by 2015 had presented around 700 free shows, many featuring recognized jazz musicians.  Her involvement is ongoing. 

DeBerry talked about her varying interests.

Clearly, I don’t pick things that are easy to do, … noting how she has added the jazz promoter hat to her resume in the last five years. I can reach a point where I have maximum interest in something. I don’t want to say I get bored, and I don’t want to say I’m a dilettante, because I taught school for 10 years and then I worked in fashion for 10 years, but I pick things that appeal to me in some way. Everything I decided to do because I really felt compelled to do it has turned out well. It’s been successful enough to be self-sustaining, and I haven’t gotten rich doing anything, but I don’t know what else you can want out of life than that, and I know I’m not going to get rich doing this, but that’s okay, 

Internationally renowned veteran sax man Jerry Weldon, has been a player on the jazz

Sax player Jerry Weldon

scene for more than 35 years. With eight CD’s as a leader and more sideman sides than even he can count…or remember, this native New Yorker’s performance/recording résumé reflects his venerable tenor tenure and reads like a virtual “Who’s Who of Jazz.”

After graduating from Rutgers University Jazz Studies Program in 1981, Jerry joined the legendary Lionel Hampton Orchestra and continued his association with Hamp into the new millennium. Next came a long, rewarding stint with master organist Jack McDuff & his “Heatin’ System.” Additionally Jerry has worked with organists Jimmy McGriff, Joey DeFrancesco, Bobby Forrester, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Mel Rhyne, trombone great Al Grey, piano giants George Cables and Cedar Walton, drum legends Roy Haynes and Jimmy Cobb as well as guitarist/singer George Benson, guitarist Earl Klugh, bassist Keter Betts, singer Mel Tormé and a host of other legendary musicians.

In 1990, Jerry became a charter member and featured soloist with Harry Connick Jr.’s newly formed big band. Since then Jerry has toured the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia with Harry and was also part of Connick’s Broadway musical production, “Thou Shalt Not” and appeared on stage as well as in the orchestra.  Now, thanks to his talent, and long association with Connick, Jerry can be seen daily as part of the “house band” on HARRY, Connick’s new daytime television variety show. HARRY is produced and distributed by NBC Universal and has been sold to 99% of the U.S.,  including Fox, Sinclair, Hearst, NBC Owned Stations, CBS, Scripps, Tribune and other station groups. The program airs in the coveted 4PM time slot in most markets.

Jerry, a “musician’s musician,” who is also a first class showman in the truest sense of the word, blows his horn with his entire body and delights audiences with his all-in, soulful playing. Depending on the tune, Weldon’s warm fat tenor sound can roll and roar like a thunderstorm or gentle you like a warm summer breeze…and it always, always resonates far beyond the listener’s ear, Whether he’s walkin’ the crowded bar at Showmans in Harlem or wending his way through packed candlelit tables at Birdland in Midtown, Jerry Weldon is a tenor force that cannot be contained.  He becomes the music and brings the audience with him on a communal tuneful journey. This mastery of the message, and the medium, has kept Weldon working steady for nearly four decades. Jerry’s latest recording, “On the Move,” spent two months on the Jazz Week charts and he at work on a new CD

When Jerry was fourteen, his jazz fan father took him to see Stan Getz at The Village Vanguard. In that moment, the young saxophonist knew he wanted to have a life in music.

“Then you have to be good,” Jerry Sr. cautioned.

Clearly, Jerry Jr. listened.

In addition to his daily TV gig, Jerry continues to perform as a bandleader and in-demand sideman at festivals and jazz venues around the world.

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