Founder and Director
Juan Huey-Ray, born in the South into a family of musicians and raised in the Midwest by a great-aunt, is steeped in the music of the African American heritage. Huey-Ray began singing in the All-City Boy Choristers in St. Louis, Mo. while in the fifth grade. Growing up in the Fifties, he was part of an award-winning doo-wop group. It distinguished itself by singing the selections of the Four Freshmen and the Hi-Lo’s in addition to the more popular R & B tunes of the era. It was his gift of a musical ear that enabled him to teach the complex harmonies and rhythms of jazz to his peers.
Relocating to Chicago in the early Sixties, Huey-Ray began his formal music education at the Woodrow Wilson Junior College (now Kennedy-King College). His acumen was such that he was awarded a scholarship to the American Conservatory of Music. However, his musical studies were interrupted by the explosion of the civil rights movement. He enlisted in the struggle and joined the SCLC Operation Breadbasket organization. Having music in his genes, he gravitated to the music department and served in a number of positions including section leader for the choir, advance man and eventually, road manager for the choir and band. Having an epiphany during this period, he returned to school, obtained a BA degree in Business Administration and moved to Seattle, Washington to attend the University of Washington’s School of Law. While administrative law in public service is his professional career, one needs only to watch him and hear him speak of music to realize that therein lays his passion. He attributes this passion, particularly for the Negro Spiritual, to his upbringing by the great-aunt who was born shortly after the end of legal slavery. “Within the spiritual is a message of survival, of hope, of love, of our connectedness to God,” he declares, “and that is the message I want to convey to our audiences.”
Among his many accomplishments, Huey-Ray has served as rehearsal director for Jester Hairston, and as Minister of Music at the First AME Church of Seattle. He was recruited to teach and sing with the Seattle Peace Chorus on a peace mission to the then-Soviet Union. In 1987, he was chosen to assemble a choir for the convention of the International Association of Ministers’ Wives and Ministers’ Widows. Under his direction, this choir’s performance of spirituals with some drama for good measure and gospel brought the crowd of over a thousand to its feet. Among the attendees was Winnie Mandela, the wife of the revered Nelson Mandela, who applauded enthusiastically. This was the birth of The Sound of the Northwest (The Sound), a community chorus dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the Negro Spiritual. Since 1987, The Sound has performed with the Seattle Opera and the Seattle Choral Society. It has produced many concerts including collaboration with other choirs of note in the Seattle community. Its latest triumph was the opening of the Northwest African American Museum bringing tears to the eyes of Quincy Jones (lifetime achievement award winner). back to the top
Board of Directors
Chrystal Weinberg was born in the Midwest, but her family migrated to Seattle when she was only six weeks old. She was educated in the Seattle and Lake Washington school districts, respectively, before going back east to pursue higher learning in music. Having matriculated at Bennett College in N. C. and Howard University in Washington, DC, she received a B. A. Degree in Music Education/Vocal Supervision. She earned her Masters Degree from Catholic Univ. of America (WA, DC) in Vocal Performance with a minor in Choral Directing. Later she returned to her home state where she participated in opera workshops and in the Oratorio Choir and Madrigal Chorus at the University of Washington. She also performed in "The Consul" by Gian Carlo Menotti. Among her list of credits is a role in "Tremmonisha,” an African American opera composed by Scott Joplin and produced by a Seattle community group. Chrystal affiliated with The Sound in its infancy and served as the choral ensemble's assistant director and business manager until her retirement and relocation to Arizona.
Talented beyond the realm of music, Chrystal is contracted as an organizer/bookkeeper for a number of businesses and organizations. Her diversified career includes positions as a retail store manager (New York), a medical office manager, a travel agent, etc. (Seattle). She contributes to her community through various projects and enjoys a long and happy marriage with her husband, John. Her hobbies include watching all types of sports, especially baseball, and reading.
Doris Huey-Ray was born in Louisiana and after a short stay in Texas, and at the age of one, she and her parents arrived in Seattle. The second of two daughters, Doris grew up in a loving family, observing her parents sharing that love with their community as well. Doris describes her early life as “sheltered,” but fulfilled. As an active member of First AME Church, she participated in various youth groups and singing groups. She is a self-taught pianist, starting on a toy piano in grammar school. In junior high she played the viola in the performing orchestra and in high school she taught private piano lessons while singing with the “Hi Fi’s” (five young women who performed popular music on radio). Her piano skills were at such a high level that she often played for the adult choirs at church including Handel’s “Messiah.”
Upon graduating from high school she attended the University of Washington, majoring in Music Education. Her passion for music has included: assistant director of the Chancel Choir, co-director of the Women’s Chorus; member of other choral ensembles at First A.M.E. Church; and a charter member of The Sound of the Northwest. It was from their shared love of music that a great friendship and loving relationship led Doris and Juan Huey-Ray to unite in marriage, October 23, 1999.
Doris is retired after twenty-five years in auditing and becoming a supervisor for the Weisfield Corporation. When that company was bought, she subsequently became part of an accounts receivable duo that regularly led the western region in collections for the Cintas Corporation. back to the top
Shirley Young was born and educated in Nashville, Tennessee. She attended Fisk University graduating in 1966 with a degree in Mathematics. She worked for the E.I. DuPont Company in Wilmington, DE from 1966-1971 before relocating to Seattle.
In 1971 she began her banking career, which now spans 37 years, with Seattle First National Bank (now Bank of America). After several mergers and acquisitions, Shirley is currently a Vice President at US Bank National Association.
She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and Peoples Institutional Baptist Church. She has been a member of The Sound of the Northwest since 1989.
Jessilyn A. Head brings over twenty-five years of managerial experience to the Board of Cultural Pursuits. Having previously served as Special Assistant to the Governor for Intergovernmental Affairs, Executive Director of Adams Career Solutions, Director of Human Resources at Honeywell Aerospace, etc., Jessilyn has led numerous Boards and advisory councils. Beginning her musical career studying violin and piano, this versatile tenor has directed choirs throughout the country, appeared as Guest Conductor of the Oklahoma City Symphony, and was appointed Outstanding Young Woman of America. She is excited to bring this bevy of skills to The Sound of the Northwest and to the Cultural Pursuits Board Jessilyn looks forward to years of successful service!
James L. Robinson, Jr., is the Sole Proprietor of a consulting business specializing in providing Consumer Credit Education. Jim has written several articles related to consumer credit education that were published by the Seattle Central Community College and printed in several local community newsletters.
He is retired from an extensive career in the financial services industry with over 30 years experience as a commercial and consumer lender, mortgage lender, loan originator and underwriter.
Jim was active for several years as a Board member of the Lake City Chamber of Commerce before retiring and relocating to Mount Vernon, WA with his wife, Karen.
Jim has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and is a graduate of the American Institute of Banking with a diploma in Commercial Lending.
Bettye L. Wilkes-Brooks is a Community and External Relations Leader and Consultant with over 11 years’ experience applying commercial banking, financial management, and business operations skills to the successful delivery of community relations strategies and community and economic development programs for major financial institutions. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Golden State University in San Francisco CA.
As a Senior Vice-President for JPMorgan Chase/Washington Mutual, Bettye oversaw and managed several of Washington Mutual’s community programs, including the Washington Mutual Foundation and the bank’s Community Lending and Investment Division. With over 20 years’ experience in the financial institutions industry, her background also includes working as a Small Business Lender, Senior Commercial Credit Instructor, and Commercial Loan Officer at Home Savings of America, the City of Los Angeles, and Security Pacific Bank in Los Angeles, CA.
Bettye has a strong demonstrated interest in and desire for serving the community. She has served on the Boards of 13 nonprofit organizations in Washington, California, and Texas. Her most recent board affiliations include United Way of King County, Intercommunity Mercy Housing, Rainier Scholars, and Cultural Pursuits in Seattle, WA. Bettye was honored by the Urban Financial Services Coalition for significant contributions to small businesses and economic development in the Los Angeles community. In addition, she was extended the “Outstanding Leadership and Innovation in Community Economic Development Award” by the California Economic Development Lending Initiative in Oakland, CA.
Since the age of five, Bettye has had a strong passion for music, beginning with instrumental musical lessons in piano and clarinet, while strongly influenced by the musical talent of her sister and other musical instructors. She was an active participant in marching band and choral music in both high school and college. In her adult life, Bettye has continued her passion for music by performing as a soprano soloist in several church and choral groups in Pasadena CA and in Seattle WA. Most recently, she has been an active member of The Sound of Northwest, a community-based group of singers who are dedicated to the preservation of music from the African American heritage, and who have delighted and inspired audiences throughout the Puget Sound area since 1987.
A native of Columbia TN, Bettye currently resides in Atlanta GA with her husband, Allen Brooks.