Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Homer, Alaska. WCRX-LP culture correspondent Joanna Tornes reports on death of jazz musician.

In her regular culture dispatch, Joanna Tornes reported the death of jazz musician Howard Hedges.

The students and faculty at the Capital University jazz program and the rest of the WCRX-LP Bexley audience will recall Hedges as a prominent jazz trombonist who played in the Stan Kenton Band and in bands for singers Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Ray Charles and Tony Bennett. He also played in the Lionel Hampton Band.

Besides his work in jazz, Hedges played in pit orchestras for the road companies of Broadway musicals such as Pippin and Chorus Line.

Hedges and his wife Kathy became residents of Homer, Alaska while he was still an active musician. He said he liked the friendliness and quirky character of the town.

Since most of his work was touring with singers, he said he could as easily go on road tours from Alaska as anywhere else.

Hedges was a native of Pompano Beach, Florida and his wife was from California. When they were first married, Hedges and Kathy lived in South Florida but Kathy wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about the location. On a summer vacation to Alaska, they visited Homer and liked the friendliness of the town.

They drove up a bluff behind the town to look at the mountains and Katchemak Bay. The breath-taking vista they saw convinced them where they would move without any discussion.

Kathy found employment as a case manager at a local mental health center. Hedges took on some local music students and joined a local blues band. He also hosted a jazz program “Jazz to Nowhere.'' on KBBI, the local public radio station. He was also a member of the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra.

In 1993, Hedges suffered a stroke and was diagnosed as diabetic. The Homer community responded with help, financial and practical. He worked at his rehabilitation and was successful enough that he eventually returned to playing music locally. He also became a disability advocate until his death on October 15 following an accident. He is survived by his widow Kathy and their son Michael.

Memorial donations for his son Michael’s education may be sent to John Hancock, P.O. Box 17603, Baltimore, MD 21297-1603. Checks should be made out to Freedom 529 Plan FBO Michael Hedges.

Donations may also be made to the Howard Hedges Performance Arts Scholarship Fund through the Homer Council on the Arts.

Other topics covered in the Tornes dispatch included the recent health fair and Veterans Day events in Homer, Alaska.

Tornes reported her dispatch during the Joe Contino Show.

The portions of Tornes’ dispatch dealing with Howard Hedges are based on the reporting of Tom Kizzia with the Anchorage Daily News.

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