All in the Family: NEA Jazz Masters and National Heritage Fellows in the Same Family 

By Carolyn Coons

Almeta Ingram-Miller of The Legendary Ingramettes, 2022 NEA National Heritage Fellows, said in an interview on the NEA podcast that her mother started the gospel group out of necessity. She was raising five children alone and needed a way to keep the family together, so she taught them all to sing, despite her lack of formal training.

“While other children were outside playing, we would be in the house, sitting in a circle,” she said. “[Our mother has] got a stick off the ground, beating time to help us be able to keep time, and she taught each of us to sing our different voices.”

The Legendary Ingramettes are one of many musical lineages that have received an NEA honor. Both the NEA Jazz Masters and National Heritage Fellowships programs have a number of families — siblings or parents and children — that have received these prestigious awards, in some instances together and in others decades apart.

For Black Music Month, we’re highlighting some of these accomplished families who make the case that talent is genetic!


Three women singing on a stage.

The Legendary Ingramettes

2022 National Heritage Fellows 

This gospel group was originally formed by evangelist “Mama” Maggie Ingram, a single mother who steadfastly taught her five small children to accompany her as her “Ingramettes.” Continue reading


Black and white photos of Rafael and Modesto Cepeda

Rafael Cepeda, left. Photo by Louis Reyes; Modesto Cepeda, right. Photo by Frank Elias

Rafael and Modesto Cepeda

1983 and 2017 NEA National Heritage Fellows 

Bomba musician and dance Rafael Cepeda learned Afro-Puerto Rican musical traditions from his father, who learned from his grandfather. Rafael then proceeded to teach his son, Modesto, who also received an NEA National Heritage Fellowship for bomba and plena. Continue reading about Rafael and Modesto


Group portrait of Marsalis Family

Photo by Frank Stewart

The Marsalis Family

2011 NEA Jazz Masters 

The Marsalis Family are the first group award in NEA Jazz Masters history. Patriarch Ellis Marsalis Jr. was a jazz pianist and educator who raised his five sons to be formidable jazz musicians, who play a variety of instruments. The Marsalis family, together and individually, have made significant contributions to jazz through preservation, education, and musical innovation. Continue reading


Photos of Albert, Percy and Jimmy Heath

Albert "Tootie" Heath, center. Photo by Ghylian Bell and Mychal Watts; Jimmy Heath, center. Photo by Tom Pich; Percy Heath, right. Photo by Tom Pich

Albert “Tootie” Heath, Jimmy Heath, and Percy Heath

2021, 2003, and 2002 NEA Jazz Masters 

Albert “Tootie” Heath learned about music from his older brothers Percy and Jimmy, both of whom were already established jazz musicians when Albert was young. Albert was a drummer, Percy a bassist, and Jimmy a saxophonist and flutist. The three teamed up in the 1970s to form a band, the Heath Brothers, which at times also included Jimmy’s son, James Mtume. Continue reading about Albert, Jimmy, and Percy


Three men, one with his hand on another's shoulder.

Photo by Stefan Falke

The Holmes Brothers

2014 NEA National Heritage Fellows 

Brothers Wendell and Sherman Holmes, along with drummer Willie “Popsy” Dixon, have created a distinct style of American music that blends blues, soul, gospel, traditional hymns, spirituals, country, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. Both brothers sang in church and studied piano — Sherman also studied clarinet while Wendell studied trumpet and organ. Continue reading


Photos of Pops and Mavis Staples

Roebuck "Pops" Staples, photo courtesy of Texas African American Photography Archive; Mavis Staples, photo by Tom Pich

 Roebuck “Pops” and Mavis Staples

1998 and 2006 National Heritage Fellows 

In 1963, Pops Staples attended a church service led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Afterward, he told his family, "If he can preach it, we can sing it." Thus a remarkable family of gospel and socially conscious soul singers launched their careers, built around Pops's loping guitar riffs and his daughter, Mavis's powerful vocals. Continue reading about Pops and Mavis.