JazzFest History

Skeets Ross

Awarded: 2007
Born: Chattanooga, Tennessee

"He was a humble guy that played better than even he gave himself credit for."

- Joe Mosbrook


In 1934, Robert “Skeets” Ross started learning piano by watching his sister take lessons. After the teacher left, he’d take his place on the bench and recreate what he had seen and heard. Lessons were fifty cents per child, more than his family could afford. Ross was a quick learner and played his first professional gig, a tea party, at age ten, earning $5.00. Ross became one of Cleveland’s most treasured jazz pianists. A musician’s musician, he was a favorite of many jazz vocalists, always seeking to bring out the best in their performances. In 1991, the gifted pianist began a regular engagement at the Renaissance Hotel in Cleveland’s Public Square, always dressed in a tuxedo. He was a featured pianist for Keep Vintage Jazz Alive, a non-profit organization, and a member of the Northeast Ohio Jazz Society.

Skeets Ross Life