Honoring the memory of John Stites and his passion for jazz music

Honoring the memory of John Stites and his passion for jazz music

About John Stites

John Stites grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he learned to play the trumpet and developed an interest in jazz. After graduation from college, John joined the Americana Brass and toured throughout the US, Canada, and Bermuda. This was the first of his five successful careers.

After a few years on the road, John returned to Kalamazoo and started a second career as a professional photographer. During this period, he continued playing trumpet, as well as electric and acoustic bass in several local bands.

In 1982, John began his third career working for The Upjohn Company (now Pfizer) as an Audio Production Specialist. His love for jazz inspired him to open a small recording studio – his fourth career – in 1986. By 2000 the recording studio had grown to the point that he was able to retire from Upjohn and devote his full-time effort to recording, as well as radio and television soundtrack work.

During this time, John produced corporate projects for PBS, award-winning programs that aired on Michigan Public Radio and NPR, and a number of Grammy-nominated jazz recordings recognized by DownBeat magazine. He also began teaching recording technology at Kalamazoo College – his fifth career – so that he could share his expertise with aspiring young audio engineers.

Over the course of his 30-year career, John recorded over 3000 CDs and innumerable analog tapes. He recorded everything from performance tapes for aspiring students to on-site concerts of local classical, country, blues, folk and jazz performers. Jazz legends like Jimmy Cobb, Jamey Haddad, Sir Roland Hanna, Billy Hart, Fred Hersch, and Rodney Whitaker recorded at John’s studio—Arcadia Recording.

John received hundred of letters from his clients thanking him for an exceptional recording experience. John’s background as a professional musician, his ability to engage the mind as well as the ear of his clients (developed as a photographer), his understanding of how to produce a commercially successful recording (enhanced during his years at Upjohn), and his patience and dedication to perfection (stemming from his teaching career) made him the recording engineer of choice for all of Southwest Michigan.

In accordance with his Trust, the John Stites Jazz Artist Organization was established after his death to promote live jazz performances and fund the John Stites Jazz Awards for emerging jazz professionals.

Recording with John was always a treat ... his gentle demeanor was deeply appreciated.

Mark Sahlgren

The John Stites Jazz Awards (JSJA) are funded by the John Stites Jazz Artist Organization, honoring the memory of John Stites and his passion for jazz music.

The organization funds:

  • Advanced studies for emerging and established professional jazz musicians
  • Concerts, competitions and projects that expand jazz audiences and the appreciation of jazz in or near communities in Southwest Michigan