Jazz concert in Rancho Santa Fe to honor accomplished musician’s memory


“A Tribute to Jack Wheaton” will be held on Thursday, May 26 from 5-7 p.m. on the Nan and Charles Werner Patio at the Rancho Santa Fe Library. The Rancho Santa Fe Library Guild is presenting the outdoor concert in partnership with Community Concerts of Rancho Santa Fe.

Wheaton, who passed away at the age of 82 on Jan. 25, 2015, was an active music teacher, writer, arranger and performer who led the Rancho Santa Fe Big Band for 12 years.

A jazz sextet will play an outdoor concert performing some of the favorite songs of Wheaton’s career from the Great American Songbook. Featured musicians will include Wheaton’s son, Dana Wheaton on trombone; Wheaton’s longtime sax/clarinet sideman Pete DeLuke; pianist John Guilino; and Rancho Santa Fe residents and members of the Rancho Santa Fe Big Band, vocalist Marie Addario and trumpet player Dom Addario.

Wheaton was born in Denver, the son of a dance band leader and classical violinist father. There was constant music around him and Wheaton couldn’t help but fall under its spel l— picking up the trumpet at age 8 and starting piano at age 10.

He studied music education at the University of Denver and after getting his master’s degree in music moved to Los Angeles. He taught music at Cerritos College for 12 years and got his doctorate in music from University of Southern California, where he went on to serve as the administrative director of jazz studies.

Wheaton retired from USC and moved to Rancho Santa Fe in the late 1980s. He and his wife, Jeannie, had two sons and six grandchildren.

The achievements Wheaton was most proud of included: recording 10 CDs, serving as president of the International Association for Jazz Education and The Musicians Association of San Diego County, and writing 15 books, including “The Amazing Power of Music” in which he spent 10 years researching the many ways that music is powerful, how people can be “moved to tears or joy in just a few notes.”

He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Educators of California in 2010 and won an Emmy for the Stan Kenton Collegiate Neophonic ABC Special “Neophonic Spring.”

He trained 84 pianists for the Gershwin segment of the 1984 Olympics and when the Super Bowl came to San Diego in 1988, he did it again, this time as the special supervisor of a half time show with 88 pianists.

He even composed four film scores.

“Jack never wore his musical skills or abilities on his sleeve,” said Dom Addario. “I got to know him and his background slowly. I knew him for five years before I knew he won an Emmy award.”

The Big Band started when Addario and his friend, the late Dr. John Feighner, approached Wheaton about starting kind of a “garage band.” They showed up to find a group of outstanding musicians that Wheaton had assembled and they were amazed.

The 17-peice RSF Big Band performed together with Wheaton as its charismatic leader for 12 years. The band continues to perform today, using some of Wheaton’s arrangements in their shows.

Addario said what most impressed him about Wheaton was his “love of life.”

“His love of life translated into his love of music. I was impressed by his perfectionism, mixed with his sense of humor. Jack always had a joke or a funny story but at the same time he had this drive for excellence. When it came to his music, he really wanted it to be perfect,”Addario said. “It was a pleasure working with him.”

“I hope it will be a wonderful concert in Jack’s memory.”

Light refreshments will be served after the May 26 program. Questions? Call Susan Appleby at 858-756-4780.