UMSL to establish David & Thelma Steward Institute for Jazz Studies after lead gift from the Steward Family Foundation

UMSL Jazz Ensemble

Jim Widner (at left) directs the UMSL Jazz Ensemble, one of two big bands organized by the jazz studies program. The 19-member group enjoyed tremendous success in the 2017-18 academic year, performing in Chicago for the international Midwest Clinic, as well as appearances at the Jazz Education Network conference in Dallas and the annual Missouri Music Educators Association gathering. (Photos by August Jennewein)

David Steward’s passion for jazz has been well known across St. Louis for years.

The founder and chairman of World Wide Technology, along with his wife, Thelma, were instrumental in building Jazz St. Louis’ showcase home for the art form in Grand Center. The building, opened in 2014, is named The Harold & Dorothy Steward Center in honor of David’s parents.

Now, the Stewards are partnering with the University of Missouri–St. Louis to support the future of jazz in the region.

With a leadership gift from the Steward Family Foundation, UMSL will establish the David & Thelma Steward Institute for Jazz Studies.

The institute will be the educational foundation that further solidifies St. Louis’ place as a center for jazz throughout the country by providing jazz students a place to turn for exceptional academic training and performance.

Jazz Ensemble rehearsal

A donation from David and Thelma Steward will help support future jazz interested students at the UMSL.

“Thelma and I are blessed to work with UMSL around our shared passion for jazz and education and make this initial investment to establish the institute,” David Steward said.

The David and Thelma Steward Institute for Jazz Studies will enhance UMSL’s ability to recruit and cultivate students interested in jazz, including those from underserved minority communities across the St. Louis region and beyond.

“UMSL is grateful for the tremendous generosity of the Stewards,” UMSL Chancellor Tom George said. “For 15 years, I’ve had the privilege of knowing David and Thelma Steward, and one of our shared interests has always been jazz. Our jazz studies program has seen tremendous growth under the leadership of Jim Widner, and with the help of the Stewards’ philanthropy, we will be able to take it to even greater heights for the benefit of our students.”

Already, UMSL’s jazz studies program provides students with comprehensive jazz education, including classes in performance, jazz theory, history of jazz, improvisation, and pedagogy.

Students have the opportunity to perform with two big bands and four combos/improvisation groups. UMSL’s 19-member Jazz Ensemble enjoyed tremendous success in the 2017-18 academic year, performing in Chicago for the international Midwest Clinic, as well as appearances at the Jazz Education Network conference in Dallas and the annual Missouri Music Educators Association gathering.

Arturo Sandoval, Jazz Festival

Students in past years have had the opportunity to learn from leading performers, such as trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, who performed at the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival in 2014.

The jazz studies program also hosts the Greater St. Louis Jazz Festival, a four-day entertainment and educational event that has attracted such headliners as the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra, Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and Christian McBride Big Band.

The Stewards’ gift will support scholarships, artists-in-residence, travel funds to advance jazz education and performance, as well as UMSL’s summer jazz camp for high-potential instrumental students in grades 7-12.

“Amazing opportunities are ahead for our jazz students as a great program will now be made even greater,” said Widner, director of jazz studies. “This tremendous gift from the Steward Family Foundation is going to help make UMSL an epicenter for jazz studies.”

“We look forward to growing our collaboration with UMSL, Jazz St. Louis and the business community,” David Steward said, “to ensure perpetual growth and a sustainable impact for the education of St. Louis children and beyond.”

Media coverage
St. Louis Business Journal
The St. Louis American
St. Louis Public Radio

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