Throughout her life, Ronnie Wells was a major force in the jazz scene of Washington, D.C., not only as a singer but as a concert and festival producer and as an influential educator. Wells (who was born Veronica Burke) sang in her church choir, leading her own group when she was 13, both as a singer and as a pianist. She attended Howard University during 1960-1962, majoring in liberal arts while being largely self-taught as a singer. She had long engagements at the Tallery and the Top O' Foolery in Washington, D.C. Although she often had a day job, Wells also toured Europe and South America, often performing in a group with her husband, pianist Ron Elliston. She worked and recorded with the Widespread Depression Orchestra and recorded regularly for her own Jazz Karma label. Wells was an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland's Department of Music during 1983-2002. She developed and designed its first jazz vocal techniques workshop. She also worked with her husband, running the Elliston Music Studio for Jazz Studies; founded the Fish Middleton Jazz Scholarship Fund; and was one of the founders and directors of the five-day East Coast Jazz Festival, which began in 1992. Ronnie Wells was active until shortly before her death at age 64 from lung cancer.
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