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They became legendary singer-entertainers—and their overwhelming talents made them so famous that we still know them just by their first names: Ella, Judy, Peggy, Barbra, Nat, and Ray. In his Curious Minds debut, pianist and music educator Jordan Klapman hosts a virtual music festival that will celebrate some of the greatest popular songs ever written—timeless standards that became the soundtrack of the 20th century, beloved by millions around the world. As he explores their artists’ fascinating life stories, you’ll enjoy historic recordings and performances and witness the transformation of six uniquely gifted vocalists into awe-inspiring global entertainers.


Led by music educator Jordan Klapman, who has taught over two dozen courses on 20th century popular music at universities, colleges, and continuing education centres since 2003. As a professional musician, Jordan has gained insight into this extraordinary music— by having performed it for more than forty years.

Course registration: $49 (Hot Docs Members: $33, $27, Free)

Curious Minds Speaker Series sponsored by

Hollywood Suite


The six lectures in this series are now available to stream. You can access each lecture at your leisure by clicking the "Watch Now" button in your confirmation email, or by visiting your My Shows page.

Lecture 1: Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song
The most popular female jazz vocalist for more than half a century, Ella’s flawless approach and eternally youthful voice defined both the sound of jazz and The American Songbook. But although she always sounded young and optimistic, her life was anything but easy.

Lecture 2: Judy Garland, A Superstar Is Born
One of a kind, Judy literally grew up onstage. Despite immense adversity and personal insecurities, she became a complete “triple threat” performer—a singer, actress and dancer who developed into one of the most beloved and emotionally expressive entertainers of all time.

Lecture 3: Nat “King” Cole: Jazz Goes ‘Legit’
For a gentle, mild-mannered man, superbly gifted pianist/vocalist Nathaniel Adams Coles was a pioneer in confronting racism— and he managed to become a highly controversial and inspirational public figure during his brilliant 30-year-long career as a multi-talented entertainer.

Lecture 4: Peggy Lee: ‘Music Is My Life’s Breath’
Arguably the most talented all-round popular singer-songwriter of the mid-twentieth century, Peggy’s uniquely alluring voice, immense charisma, vast repertoire of popular and original songs, and performing talent garnered her an Oscar nomination, 13 Grammys, and induction into The Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Lecture 5: Ray Charles: Music Without Limits
Jazz, R&B, Pop, Gospel, Country— Ray became one of the world’s greatest entertainers by mastering all of them over a stellar fifty-year-long performing career— all the more remarkable, given that he was born into rural poverty and abject racism, and then lost his sight at age six.

Lecture 6: Barbra Streisand: The Greatest Pop Diva, Ever?
A fixture on lists of the Top 10 musical artists of all time, Barbra is the best-selling female vocalist ever—and the only one in modern history who doesn’t work in rock ‘n’ roll. Her electrifying voice and steely ambition helped her become the greatest Pop Diva in history.

Streaming for all Curious Minds lectures is available worldwide. Need assistance? Visit our FAQ page or email us at [email protected].

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