Known as West Virginia's "First Lady of Gospel Music," the gifted Ethel Caffie-Austin is a pianist, singer, choir leader and educator.
With a big, passionate voice and mighty two-fisted piano style, Ethel Caffie-Austin
home gospel train with a fiery intensity and élan.
The daughter of a Pentecostal minister, Caffie-Austin was born in Alabama and raised in Mount Hope, West Virginia, in the heart of the coalfields.
Among the songs and stories passed on to her
family and neighbors were veiled references to the Underground Railroad, and the community's participation as a way station on the road north to freedom.
began playing piano at the age of 6, started accompanying church services when she
was 9, and directed her
first church choir at the age of 11.
began directing choirs for the Churches of God in Christ when she
was 14, and has been active in that church ever since.
Today, she serves as the pastor of Rimson Memorial Church of God in Christ in Charleston, and Minister of Music of the West Virginia Jurisdiction of the Churches of God in Christ.
Outside of the church, Ethel received a teaching degree in Language Arts from the West Virginia Institute of Technology, and, several years later, was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Arts degree from that institution.
In addition, Caffie-Austin
has received a number of other awards, including the Jefferson Award for Humanity and West Virginia's Brotherhood Award.
has appeared on public radio's Mountain Stage, at the Kennedy Center
in Washington, D.C., and with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra.
has taught numerous vocal and piano workshops in the United States and Europe, where she
incorporates spirituals and other pre-gospel styles into her
presentations in order to expose people to the wide range of African American sacred music.