The Curtis Family C-Notes.
Top row, L–R: Maestro Curtis (Papa C.), Nola Curtis (Mama C.), Nile Curtis, Zahara Curtis
Bottom row, L–R: Phoenix Curtis, Isis Curtis, Kiki Curtis
Photography by Michelle Kilfeather
The Curtis Family C-Notes' star is on the rise, y'all.
In this episode, the San Francisco family shares their story with us. We dive into Papa C.'s past in Louisiana and San Francisco. Then we learn a little about Mama C.'s time growing up on the Peninsula.
Papa C. (Maestro Curtis) can't remember when he started playing musical instruments. He was asked to perform for family members from a very young age. He owes his lifelong work ethic to his growing up, as well. He spent time between Louisiana and San Francisco, but it was out here that he got involved in martial arts and positive social change.
After getting into some trouble in his high school years, Papa C. took a scholarship to Grambling State University in Louisiana. Then he spent seven years in the Army.
Mama C. (Nola Curtis) grew up a competitive ice skater. She's Tongan and grew up in San Mateo surrounded, essentially, by so many famous professional skaters. Looking back, she enjoyed performing, but not so much competing. Her father passed away when she was 14 and one of the effects of her grief was that she stopped skating.
She turned to books, especially reading stuff that wasn't assigned at school. To help her graduate on time, she took a history of jazz course at a community college, and that's where she first heard Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Billie Holiday. That class and those performers inspired her to start singing. Soon, she was asked to start a band with some folks, but she decided lessons were the first step.
Nola met her future husband in this context.
Be sure to check back Thursday for Part 2.
Lavay Smith and Chris Siebert (Part 1 / Part 2)
We recorded this podcast in collaboration with Bitch Talk Podcast at Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in the Fillmore in June 2021.