Pamella Windham, A True Rialto Jazz for Kids All-Star
In Atlanta in 1940, a swinging sextet played the tunes of Bennie Goodman at Rich’s Tea Room downtown. The guitarist was 18 year old Pamella Windham, future member of United States Coast Guard, teacher, GSU alumna, and major donor to Rialto Jazz for Kids. Pamella started playing music in the 6th grade when her father took her to Ritter Music Company on Auburn Avenue and let her pick out a Gibson guitar.
When Pamella was four years old she moved from New Orleans to Marietta. Her father, a mechanic and veteran of WWI, was offered a job at a new Ford dealership. Early in her life her father got the idea that he wanted to play the guitar, so after work he took lessons and learned to play the Hawaiian guitar. Pamella’s father wanted her to learn the Classical guitar but she preferred to play jazz.
After graduating from high school in the midst of WWII, Pamella joined a program called National Youth Administration where she learned the fundamentals of radio and Morse Code. She spent two years in the United States Coast Guard in the Women’s Reserve using her skills. Later those same skills helped her land a job with Delta Air Lines taking reservations. In those days a reservation would be sent by Morse Code.
After the Coast Guard Pamella attended Tift College, then Peabody College (now part of Vanderbilt University) for her master’s in Education. After many years of teaching she came to Georgia State University to earn her six-year certificate. Pamella taught elementary school for 32 years. She started out in 4th grade but eventually moved to 1st and 2nd grades. She brought her love of music into the classroom by playing her guitar and letting the children sing.
In April, 73 years since she played her guitar at Rich’s Tea Room, Pamella gave the gift of music education by donating $20,000 to the Rialto Jazz for Kids program. The number of lives that will be influenced by this gift is immeasurable. Pamella is truly a Rialto Jazz for Kids All-Star.