Jazz Insights: Lilyan Lipson

Lilyan (“Lill”) Lipson was one of the last silent movie pianists in Rhode Island. Lill was one of eight children and grew up on the East Side of Providence. She and her two sisters learned piano on the old beaten upright spinet that took up space in the family second floor. Her skills elevated her to become a professional performer in the Providence area.\

At the peak of her career, she was employed playing for the silent movies throughout the city. She became well known for her jazzy upbeat piano renditions during the “flicks” at the old Majestic, the Strand, the Metropolitan, the Empire, the RKO Albee, the Olympia and the Windsor theaters.

Lill performed matinee and evening showings. Though the general admissions were five cents each, she worked seven days a week (including the matinees) and was paid a total of one dollar for the entire week’s performances.

She claimed that she would give 50 cents to her mother (to help support their large family) and used most of the remaining 50 cents buying several 2-cent hot fudge sundaes for her close friends (and an occasional boyfriend). Any remaining cents were banked, with her mother.
Lill passed away at age 86 at her retirement home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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