Eye on UMSL: Tribute to a great musician

On Saturday, musicians from the Jim Widner Big Band raised their instruments in a fitting tribute to the life and achievements of their band’s eponymous founding member at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Jim Widner, professor emeritus of music and longtime director of the jazz studies program, died on October 3 at the age of 75 after years of encouraging young musicians and jazz studies within the ‘UMSL and beyond.

During his 18-year tenure at UMSL, Widner helped create the jazz studies program, brought the UMSL Jazz Ensemble to festivals in Austria and Italy in 2019 to receive rave reviews and won the second of two Outstanding Jazz Educator Awards from the Missouri Association for Jazz Education. He helped found the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival and the Jazz Education Network. Widner also enjoyed a long career on stage as a bassist with Kenton, Woody Herman and the Glenn Miller Orchestra conducted by Buddy DeFranco, among others.

Widner is survived by his 48 year old wife, Lana; son, Lance Widner; daughter, Jamie Perrin, daughter-in-law, Stephanie Kiefer; son-in-law, Jason Perrin; stepfather, Marvin Enloe; and three grandchildren.

Members of the Jim Widner Big Band who performed on Saturday include, on saxophone: Jason Swagler, Kwanae Johnson, Mike Goldsmith, Paul DeMarinis, Matt Schultz; on trumpet: Andy Tichenor, Dustin Schrum, Kyle Allen, Dan Smith; on trombone: Cody Henry, Dave Dickey, Gary Brandes, Brett Stamps, Pete Madsen; Rick Haydon on guitar, Ken Kehner on piano, Mike Owens on bass and Joe Weber on drums.

For more information on Widner’s life and accomplishments, read this online obituary.

This photograph was taken by UMSL photographer August Jennewein and is the last to be featured in Eye on UMSL.

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