Jack Adams — the trumpeter who influenced thousands of Westport students and colleagues as a teacher, mentor and Southern-born mensch — died Wednesday night.
His music may be stilled. His distinctive drawl is gone. But his lessons and influence will live on for years.
“He was unbelievable — the best,” says Alice Lipson, who taught with him for 3 decades at Long Lots Junior High, and Staples High School.
In her 2nd year at Long Lots, Lipson was asked to direct “Bye Bye Birdie.” She was terrified. But with Adams directing the student pit, all was well.
“He had an extraordinary ability to bring out the best in kids,” Lipson adds. “He had a great way of communicating, and reaching everyone.”
Lipson loved hearing her colleague’s stories of his time as a young musician. In 1952 — newly arrived in New York from his native Kentucky — Adams met a similarly struggling Eydie Gorme. He knew greats like Miles Davis.
“He was a gift to everyone who met him. I will miss that sweet man,” she says.
Anthony Ryan — a 1987 Staples graduate — calls Adams “easily one of the top 3 teachers in my life. He inflamed my passion for music, rewarded my loyalty and hard work, and molded me into the man I am today.” The former junior high, high school and music camp student recalls Adams’ “guidance, discipline, humor and love,” and honors him not only for his lessons, but “my successful transition from boy to young man.”
Cindy Shuck took private lessons with Adams throughout middle and high school. “He was a big part of my growing up, and taught me discipline and responsibility through trumpet,” she says.
She still has her notebook, which he wrote in every week. She will always keep it “because it contains so many lessons, words of encouragement, lists that he lived by and overall music brilliance that he shared.”
Vern Sielert notes says of his band director and lesson teacher from 5th grade though high school:
I learned about the fundamentals of trumpet playing from him, but I learned so much more — about responsibility, professionalism, respect for the greats, discipline.
He took me to New York to see “42nd Street,” and introduced me to the trumpet section in the pit. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about concepts I learned from him, and share them with my students. I wouldn’t be where I am today without Mr. Adams.
Jon Owens began studying under Adams in 3rd grade, and continued through high school. Today he’s a professional musician. On Facebook, Owens wrote:
He taught me the fundamentals of trumpet playing that I still revert back to today. He always strived for excellenc,e and pushed me to become a better player. But more than that, he taught how to be a decent person. He had rock solid and unyielding standards of conduct and musicianship that were not waived for anyone. I pass on some of his sayings to my students: “It’s better to be an hour early than a minute late!”
As an adult, Owens cherished his visits with his former teacher. They shared stories of great musicians, played trumpets together, and listened to recordings.
Owens says Adams’ extensive record collection took up half his studio. He also collected rare instruments.
Owens sums up:
He was a legendary performer and bandleader as well as teacher. He made a positive impact on many, many lives, and that is something we should all strive for. He poured his heart and soul into everything he did, and our community was better off because of him. He was my mentor, and I would not be who I am today without Jack Adams. I let a few notes really hang out there tonight in his honor. I know he is looking down and smiling!