We'll miss you, Maynard.

On August 23, 2006, we lost Maynard Ferguson. He performed and recorded right up to the very end, playing to sold out crowds at the Blue Note in New York City as well as recording a brand new album in July 2006.

Grammy Nominated Trumpeter Known for "Gonna Fly Now"
Theme To Movie "ROCKY" was 78

Ojai, CA (August 24, 2006) - Walter "Maynard" Ferguson, one of the most influential musicians and band leaders in the history of Jazz, passed away August 23rd at 8:00 pm Pacific Time at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California. He was 78 years old. His death was the result of kidney and liver failure brought on by an abdominal infection. Mr. Ferguson's four daughters, Kim, Lisa, Corby, Wilder and other family members were at his side when he passed away after this brief illness. He spoke by phone with his friend and manager Steve Schankman from St. Louis, longtime tour manager Ed Sargent, and friend, and fellow trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.

Mr. Ferguson had recently returned home to California from New York after several sold out performances in July at the famed Blue Note Club. During this time, Ferguson and his Big Bop Nouveau band also recorded a new album at Bennett Studios in Englewood, New Jersey.

Maynard Ferguson, born May 4th 1928 in Montreal, started his career at the age of 13 when he performed as a featured soloist with the Canadian Broadcasting Company Orchestra. He played with some of the great Big Band Leaders of the 1940's including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Barnett, Jimmy Dorsey and Stan Kenton. In 1945, at age 17, Ferguson became the leader of his own Big Band. The 78-year old musical phenomenon went on to record more than 60 albums, receiving numerous honors and awards including the GRAMMY® nomination for "Gonna Fly Now." In 2005, Ferguson was awarded Canada's highest civilian honor, the "Order of Canada" from the Right Honorable Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. In addition to those accolades, Ferguson has been the recipient of DownBeat Magazine's prestigious "DownBeat" Award.

"The Boss," as Ferguson is known, has been performing for packed houses for decades. His recent DVD release, "Live at The Top," captures one of his most memorable performances, a concert held at the Plaza Hotel in Rochester New York in 1975, with Ferguson performing alongside fellow music pioneers Stan Mark, Ernie Garside and Bruce Johnston. Most recently, Ferguson and Big Bop Nouveau Band had been touring the United States. He was preparing for a Fall Tour beginning mid-September in Tokyo, Japan. He had also been invited to play for the King of Thailand's 80th birthday in January.

Mr. Ferguson's body will be cremated in his hometown of Ojai, California. Memorial contributions can be made to the Maynard Ferguson Music Scholarship Fund at University of Missouri - St. Louis, which was established by Steve Schankman at Maynard's 75th birthday celebration. Mr. Schankman and the Ferguson family are planning a memorial concert to take place in St. Louis which will feature many of the band's alumni and friends who Mr. Ferguson performed with during his more than 60-year musical career.

Mr. Ferguson's latest, and last, recording will be released later this year as a legacy to the life of Maynard Ferguson.

Donate to the Maynard Ferguson Scholarship Fund
Please consider donating to the Maynard Ferguson Scholarship Fund at the University of Missouri - St. Louis. You can do so two ways:

Via check or money order to:
"Maynard Ferguson Music Scholarship"
University of Missouri – St. Louis
C/O Dr. Dixie Kohn
8001 Natural Bridge Road
407 Woods Hall
St. Louis, MO. 63121

Or online. Just follow this link and click on "Make a Gift". Then, choose "Maynard Ferguson Scholarship" in the Gift Designation drop-down menu.


Note from Matt Keller, webmaster of MaynardFerguson.com:
I was 15 when I first heard a Maynard Ferguson recording. I had been involved with my school's music program for several years, but it was beginning to bore me. An upper-classman handed me his copy of "Live From San Francisco" and told me to listen to it. My first thought was, "Maynard Ferguson? Odd name."

That night I first heard the tune "Coconut Champagne". I've never looked at the trumpet the same way again. Hearing Maynard Ferguson play for the first time is a unique experience for a trumpet player. It's as though the world was in black and white before...and suddenly you can see colors. I joined the jazz band and was playing lead trumpet a year later.

Maynard's unique style has spawned hundreds of imitators over the years. Many were able to hit the same high notes that became Maynard's trademark, but none seemed quite as proficient at transmitting the sheer joy and positive energy that Maynard put into every single one of his performances.

Many styles of music conjure up various images and descriptions, but to me, Maynard's approach to music always brought to mind one word: Triumph. Maynard's music is nothing less than triumph personified. When Maynard was on stage, and he planted his feet and lifted his horn straight up into the air, every fan in that concert hall knew what was coming: Triumph.

The number of lives that Maynard touched over the years is truly immeasurable. How many young people got the message that music was fun, not just practicing scales, from Maynard's music? How many small towns packed their high school auditoriums to hear a "big time jazz artist" play? And how many thousands of autographs did Maynard sign with a smile on his face? Maynard wasn't only one of the best musicians I ever heard, he was one of the most positive, kind, and generous people I ever knew.

I'll miss you, Boss.

Matt Keller