Jack Oatts was awarded a plaque in 1985 by the Iowa Bandmaster Association for his contribution as “Father of Iowa High School Jazz.” “Earlham is the place where jazz education in Iowa began. We started a jazz program in the fall of 1955. It was soon recognized by the Des Moines Register, KCCI-TV, and many educators and jazz lovers throughout the state.” Oatts said. “We did get a lot of TV and newspaper coverage and as a result of this, jazz education spread over the state.” Oatts came to Jefferson in 1966 after 11 years as school band instructor at Earlham, where he started his work at developing high school jazz expertise. His Earlham Bands were consistent award winners at jazz festivals, and his Jefferson bands soon were winning similar honors. “Earlham was a wonderful place to live and teach. We had a great faculty; bight and enthusiastic students and a community that really support us.” Oats said. “With all this, we did some great things in that band room. There was a rapport between the students and faculty that was truly amazing.” Oatts taught at summer programs, clinics and camps throughout the Midwest at a number of colleges and universities and judged at many clinics and jazz contests as well. He served as state president of the National Association of Jazz Educators, as state chairman of the National Bandmasters Association and as president of the South Central District of the Bandmaster Association. In addition to his work at producing award winning jazz bands, Oatts is also an outstanding jazz artist in his own right. He has always played professionally, with his own groups and others, and has played in backup bands for many well-known performers. A list of performers and bands with whom he has appeared include, among others, Les Elgart, Bob Crosby, Engelbert Humperdinck, Sonny and Cher, Marilyn Maye, Liberace, Bob Hope and Redd Foxx. Oatts was born in Voliver and moved with his family to Radcliffe when he was eight years old. He graduated from Radcliffe High School and enrolled at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, where he warned a Bachelor of Arts degree in commerce and finance. He then matriculated at Drake University in Des Moines, where he earned his bachelor and master of music education degrees. While in Des Moines he played as a member of the Des Moines Municipal Band on the grounds of the State Capitol for several years. During World War II he played in London with the U.S. Navy Jazz Band and did many broadcasts over the BBC from that city. Oatts is also an accomplished composer and arranger. His work is published by Belwin Publishing Co. of New York and Barnhouse Publishing Co. of Iowa. He also arranged music for the Lawrence Welk and Doc Severinson orchestras. Oatts is a member of the American Federation of Musicians and serves as a clinician for Selmer Instrument Company. The four children of Jack and Marcella Oatts were accomplished jazz musicians while in high school in Jefferson and three of them are now professional musicians. Jim performed with Chase and the Stan Kenton Band before completing his graduate studies and had also toured with Thad Jones and Mel Lewis. Dick, of New York City, has been described by critics as “the saxophonist of his generation,” having played with many accomplished musicians and orchestras. Sue Oatts Tucker is a composer, producer and vocalist and Nancy Oatts, was a accomplished saxophonist in high school. --adopted from the program from the first Jack Oatts Festival in Earlham - 1987
Jack Oatts

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