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

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

CYCLE 2 AWARD APPLICATION DEADLINE - MIDNIGHT SEPTEMBER 15
Herbie Hancock

Herbie Hancock to open the 2022 Gilmore Piano Festival April 24

Posted February 7, 2022

In 2017, John Stites created and endowed the John Stites Jazz Artist Organization to support jazz musicians and their music. John identified the first board members, entrusted them to execute his vision, and outlined how he would like the endowment to be spent. He even identified several outstanding jazz musicians who he wanted to headline the first concert. John’s friends and family hoped that he would live long enough to see the first concert, but it was not to be.

John passed away in July 2019. He did not want a funeral, a memorial service or even an obituary. But those of us who loved and admired him wanted to do something to celebrate his life and the impact he had on the lives of so many musicians and music lovers. Putting on a concert with a jazz icon as the headliner was far more complicated than we had envisioned. But with the support of the JSJAO Board and John’s friends in the music community, we accomplished the impossible by partnering with The Gilmore to present the incomparable Herbie Hancock – one of the jazz icons John had dreamed of sponsoring for the first concert.

John greatly admired Herbie Hancock’s ability to reinvent himself over the years – successfully blending acoustic jazz, electric jazz, funk, pop, R & B and even Hip Hop. As Miles Davis stated in his autobiography, “Herbie was the step after Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and I haven’t heard anybody yet who has come after him.”

John’s favorite jazz musicians were those who were unafraid to leave the comfort of the status quo and seek new opportunities for self-expression. In 2008, Herbie Hancock was nominated for three Grammy Awards and became the first jazz musician in 40 years to win Album of the Year. Fourteen years later, he is still playing to packed concert halls and introducing new audiences to jazz. There is nobody like Herbie Hancock.

On April 24 at 7:30 pm, Herbie Hancock will open the 2022 Gilmore International Piano Festival, and many of those who loved and admired John will be in the audience paying tribute to our dear friend while John shares his love for jazz with thousands of attendees. This will be Herbie Hancock’s first appearance at the Gilmore International Piano Festival, and it will be a rare opportunity to hear the world’s foremost jazz pianist.

Sharing great jazz music with his friends was a big part of John’s life. There is no better way to memorialize him and what he meant to this community than to attend the Herbie Hancock concert. We hope that you will join us at Miller Auditorium on April 24 to remember John and hear the immortal Herbie Hancock. This is the only recognition that John would have wanted.

Thank you for supporting the John Stites Jazz Awards and the Gilmore International Piano Festival. Tickets go on sale February 7 at the Gilmore Festival website. John will be there – there is no way he would miss a chance to hear Herbie Hancock!

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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 the Midwest