Grenoldo Frazier

From his obituary, December 30, 2018

Frazier worked for four decades as a musician and composer

WILMINGTON — A famed pianist instrumental in shaping Wilmington’s arts scene has died.

Grenoldo Frazier, 65, passed away in his Wilmington home on Red Cross Street, according to friend and colleague Rhonda Bellamy, director of the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County. The award-winning musician and composer had worked in New York and nationally since the 1970s, earning a star on the Wilmington Walk of Fame in 2014.

Bellamy said she had spoken to Frazier just before Christmas, and he had been planning a trip to Colorado to play piano at someone’s 100th birthday. The news of his death was a shock.

“I’m still numb; it was the last thing I was expecting to hear this morning,” she said.

Frazier worked for four decades as a musician and composer

A Wilmington native, Frazier moved to New York City in 1972. According to his biography, he worked as pianist for a pair of touring shows: “Journey Into Blackness” and “Harlem Heydey.”

He went on to perform on Broadway and in the national tour of “Hello, Dolly!”

In his time in New York, Frazier won multiple AUDELCO Awards — honoring African-American theater — for the off-Broadway shows he composed and musically directed. His biography states that he also served for two years as pianist and singer for the Windows of the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center

His credits include working as musical director for the national tour of “Your Arms Too Short to Box With God,” composer and musical director of the gospel musical “Mama, I Want to Sing” and composer and musical director for a tribute to the African-American comedian Moms Mabley. He even premiered on Sesame Street in 1978, performing the song “Disco D.”

After returning to Wilmington, Frazier co-founded the local Black Arts Alliance, along with Bellamy.

Frazier’s life and work were profiled in the documentary film “The Piano Entertainer: Stompin’ Grenoldo Frazier,” made by friend and University of North Carolina Wilmington professor emeritus Maurice Martinez. Martinez mourned his friend in an emailed message Sunday.

“He sang from the heart, on piano he played from the soul, and he moved and inspired anyone so lucky to have heard him,” he wrote.

Bellamy said the news of Frazier’s passing is still too fresh for his friends to plan a memorial, but she expects one to happen.

“I’m sure there will be. About 4 or 5 years ago he had some heart issues, and the music community came out in full force to support him at that time,” she said.

NFT Credits

Credit Type Production Season
PlaywrightHot Dishes! (A Black Retrospective 1) 1978-79 Season
Musical Director Hot Dishes! (A Black Retrospective 1) 1978-79 Season
Musical Director A Thrill a Moment 1988-89 Season
Musical Director God’s Trombones 1989-90 Season
Musical Director Bessie Speaks 1994-95 Season
Actor Birdland 1978-79 Season
Actor Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil 1992-93 Season