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Doris Green - Biography

When Steel Talks Spotlight


Doris Green


Brooklyn College

New York University,

University of Nairobi, Kenya

Major: Physical Education, African dance/music

Doris Green is an Ethnomusicologist, Fulbright scholar, creator of Greenotation, a system for writing music for percussion instruments of Africa, certified teacher of Labanotation and a U.S. State Department Cultural Specialist. She publishes Traditions Journal which is dedicated to the preservation of African music and dance. Her brillance led her to creating a system that incorporates both music and dance into one integrated score. Her “Percussion Notation,” has been hailed as an outstanding achievement by the OAU (Organization for African Unity), and recommended for use in all schools and universities in Africa.

Doris Green’s extraordinary talents earned her significant acclaim. As a recipient of three Faculty Research Awards from City University of New York (CUNY), she has studied and taught her system of notation in more than 25 nations of Africa. As a lecturer at Brooklyn College, she studied in East Africa with the, “Kalendelele Utamaduni Troupe” in Tanzania. In addition to forming her own dance ensemble, “The Paleozoics,” she was the Artistic Director of, “ Omo Africa,” “The African Cultural Association of America,” and the “AfroSoulfolklore Ensemble.” Her international notoriety, selected her as the recipient of a Fulbright award in the Ivory Coast and Gambia 1986-87. She also served as a US State Department Cultural Specialist, at the University of Ghana, Legon where she taught both Greenotation and Labanotation establishing the first written archive of African music and dance.

Favorite Quotes:
If you make -your bed hard, it is you who will have to sleep in it.
Fly with the crows, die with the crows.
Every dog needs his tail more than once to fan the flies from his ass.

Her writings appear in numerous magazines, journals, and books, namely “The Journal of Performing Arts (University of Ghana),” “The International Encyclopedia of Dance,” and “African Dance: An Artistic, Historical and Philosophical Inquiry.” Doris Green’s autobiography as well as the textbook, “Greenotation: Manuscripts of African Music and Dance.” Her written work is also included in the book, “Go, Tell Michelle” in support of Michelle Obama. Visit

Greenotation is an innovative musical system for writing African Music. It was created because music for percussion instruments of Africa could not be written with western musical notes. Therefore an entire new system had to be created. Students will study this system in relationship to African dance. This course will be opportune for professional development workshops for dance teachers, and music accompanists. Greenotation and Labanotation will be prerequisites for the study of the preservation of African music and dance. Lastly, to provide a forum for dance exhibitions, exchanging ideas, and research. Partnerships will be established with Universities, Colleges, Dance Schools and/or Programs, and the community.

Doris Green is a retired Fulbright scholar to Africa, creator of Greenotation. certified teacher of Labanotation, and U.S State Department Cultural Specialist to Ghana. She is the recipient of a number of awards to study, conduct research and to teach in  Africa. She is publisher of Traditions Journal.

Doris is the fourth child born to mother Addie B. and father Floyd Green, Sr. There were six children in total three boys and three girls. From her earliest recollection, Doris realized that boys were accorded greater opportunities than girls. This would establish a mind-set to challenge the boys and beat them at their own games, thus Doris became a superior athlete. The inequality between boys and girls led Doris to seek ways and to create an occupation that would distinguish her from everyone else.

Institutional racism and devastation beset her on all avenues, particularly limiting her school time to only “four” hours a day during the primary years from kindergarten through the end of the fifth grade. Doris would struggle to overcome this fault and excel becoming part of the honor section in high school, earning a number of honor certificates in route to graduation.

Doris Green was born in Brooklyn. At a very early age she became interested in things rhythmic, which led to formal music and dance training. As a student of Mary Bruce Dance School, she appeared at the Apollo Theater, Town Hall, and Carnegie Hall. Mary Bruce gave her the opportunity to dance to the beat of the Congo drums. Each year as a part of the annual recital at Carnegie Hall, Green had a special solo spot called "Queen of the Jungle Mist." This increased her interest in drumming and African dance. Shortly thereafter she started taking drumming lessons from various African students residing in the US. These teachers included Olatunji, Kobla Ladzekpo, Godfrey Sackeyfio, Asafadje Netty, and Tamba Alpha. Within a short time, she started her own dance group-The Paleozoics- then was artistic director of Omo Africa, The African Cultural Association of America, and the AfroSoulfolklore Ensemble.

Doris was always interested in music and dance and began formal training in her early childhood. She was mesmerized by rhythms and was awarded a solo spot in an annual dance concert at Carnegie Hall, where she would dance the ways of her ancestors. In order to do this, she had to choreograph a new dance routine each year. But the Congo drummers could not  read music and never played the music the same way twice. Therefore she had to use her musical skills to create a system to write music, particularly for drums. Doris was just a teenager, but she had formal music and dance training from early childhood.

She was in a stenography class in high school, the  teacher said any sound could be written with Pitman stenography. She wrote the words “mais oui” on the board. The class understood the symbols to read as “may we” in English, but the symbols represented the French words “mais oui”. Hearing that, Doris took up her pencil and wrote the “ D” stroke three times; then she added the “M” stroke to a fourth D stroke and ended the phrase with the symbol for the vowel “I” which is the same as the word ‘eye’. Doris had written the sounds “do-do-do-dum, chak which were the sounds Congo drummers frequently played. In actuality the symbols represented the drumming actions of three alternating half hand strokes, a closed half hand stroke ending with a slap to the drum. Doris had just accomplished writing symbols for a drum pattern / giving these symbols meanings which could be read and performed from the printed  page. Thus the journey into percussion notation began.