Past Jazz Fest Ambassadors


 

2014 Jazz Fest Ambassador

Zelia Page Breaux

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Zelia Page Breaux (1888 -1956)

Zelia Breaux, a renowned musician and educator, was born to Inman Edward and Zelia Ball Page in 1880 at Jefferson City, Missouri. Her father was principal of the Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City from 1888 to 1898. Zelia Page attained a bachelor's degree in music from Lincoln. On May 1, 1898, Inman Page became president of the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University) in Langston and moved his family to Oklahoma Territory. He hired his daughter, Zelia, as a teacher of piano and instrumental music. She established and developed the music department. On December 6, 1905, she married Armogen Breaux. The couple had one son, Enimen, who became a vice president at Langston University.

The Oklahoma public schools were segregated in 1918 when she left Langston and accepted the position of supervisor of music for the African American schools in Oklahoma City. As head of the music department at Douglass High School, she placed a music teacher in each African American grade school in the system. In addition, she organized the Oklahoma City Community Band, which was composed of many of her former Douglass students.

The Douglass High School band, which she organized in 1923 with twenty-six participants, became one of the most outstanding in the United States. Appearing all over the nation, the band influenced both local and national musicians such as Duke Ellington, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, Sherman Sneed, Edward and Charlie Christian, and Jimmy Rushing. In 1933 Breaux took the Douglass band to the Chicago World's Fair musical festivities, and they performed for a national radio broadcast while there. In 1915 she had bought a controlling interest in the Aldridge Theater on Northeast Second Street, and it became the main location for performances of high school operettas as well as prestigious traveling shows.

During her tenure at Douglass High School, Breaux organized a twenty-four-voice chorus, an eighteen-piece symphony orchestra, and several boy's and girl's glee clubs. In 1932 she organized May Day celebrations, during which the Douglass band would play as the children wrapped the Maypole. In 1936 she took the Douglass band, which had grown immensely since 1923, to the Texas Centennial celebration in Dallas. In 1937 she started the Black State Band Festival, which began with seven participating bands and grew to eighteen.

In 1939 Breaux received a master's degree in music education from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She retired from Douglass High School in 1948. Zelia Breaux died in Guthrie on October 31, 1956, at the age of seventy-six. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association Hall of Fame on July 25, 1991.

© Oklahoma Historical Society / Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture / Hannah D. Atkins

 

2015 Jazz Fest Ambassador

Kent Kidwell

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Professor Emeritus
UCO Jazz Program Founder

Dr. Kent Kidwell, a member of the music faculty at UCO since 1969, recently completed a one year appointment as the Interim Director for the School of Music. His teaching duties over the years have included director of university bands, music education, conducting, music theory, arranging, and he also served as the chairman of the music department for eight years. Since 1974, “Doc” (as his students call him) has helped the UCO jazz program grow to three 20-piece big bands, several jazz combos, a traditional “Dixieland” jazz band, and several applied courses in jazz theory, arranging, and improvisation. The UCO jazz groups have won numerous national and international honors. The UCO Dixieland bands have been national finalists five times, and were twice named “National Champion Collegiate Dixieland Band”. The UCO big bands have participated in jazz festivals and competitions nationwide, including those at Notre Dame, Disneyworld, Wichita, and IAJE conventions in St. Louis, Atlanta, and Columbus. The UCO jazz bands have also participated in European concert tours on four different occasions over the years. Prior to UCO, Dr. Kidwell taught for five years in the public school system of Oklahoma. His professional playing experience includes three years as second trombonist with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and he has been principal trombonist with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra for twenty years. His performance background dates back to his teen years when he played in his father’s dance band and led his own jazz groups in college. He continues to perform nationally as a symphonic, jazz, commercial, and solo trombonist. Dr. Kidwell is in constant demand as a clinician and adjudicator nationwide.