John Andrew Ross was an accomplished African–American composer, organist, choral conductor, and jazz musician. Ross was born in Boston on December 15, 1940. In 1957, he entered Boston University where he concentrated in church music. He received degrees from the College of Liberal Arts in 1960 and the School of Fine and Applied Arts in 1964.In 1970, Ross became the music director at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, which closed in 1990, and its parent organization, the National Center of Afro–American Artists. Working with these organizations, he lead two widely recognized music ensembles, the Voices of Black Persuasion and the Contra–Band. Starting in 1970, Ross became the musical director of the highly acclaimed Langston Hughes gospel play "Black Nativity", a position he held until his death in 2006.
Outside of this work, Ross was a member of the American Guild of Organists. On November 12, 1995 he was ordained as the Minister of Music at the First Parish Church in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he had begun serving as music director nine years before. Ross's work can be heard on his CD, "Comin' up Shouting: Gospel Songs and Spirituals Newly Arranged." Co–producing with folklore author John Langstaff, Ross has written musical arrangements for two books, Climbing Jacob's Ladder: Heroes of the Bible in African–American Spirituals and What a Morning: The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals, the latter of which won the Coretta Scott King Book Award. He has also received multiple regional Emmy Award nominations. In 1981, he won a regional Emmy with Billy Wilson for "Blues and Gone," a part of the series "Say Brother" produced by Boston's public broadcasting station WGBH. His awards include the1990 Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. Musical Achievement Award from the City of Boston, the 2000 New England Conservatory Anna Bobbitt Gardener Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2005 Music and Theater Award from the Tri–Ad Veterans League, and the 2006 Friends of the Urban League Lifetime Achievement Award.