Dr. Jack Wheaton


Born: Denver, Colorado, 1932.  My father was a well-known band-leader in Denver.  I started playing trumpet at the age of 8, piano at the age of 9. I attended West High School, played in the All-City Orchestra and Band. I conducted the West High Jazz Ensemble.   I graduated from the University of Denver with a Bachelor of Musical Arts and Ed. in 1953, started my own band, and then completed my Master’s Degree at the University of Northern Colorado in 1957.  I then accepted a position as Music Director of the Bellflower High School Program in Bellflower, California (1957-1960). 

During that time I studied with top teachers in Hollywood on piano and composition, and played (briefly) with Buddy Morrow, Stan Kenton and Perez Prado.  In 1960 I accepted a position at Cerritos College as Dept. Chairman.  While there I was fortunate to be selected as the Director of the Stan Kenton Collegiate Neophonic Orchestra (’66-’73).  We recorded to LP’s, taped 24 one-hour television shows for ABC-TV, one of which (“Neophonic Spring”) won an Emmy Award. 

I also became a Founding Member and later President of the International Assn. of Jazz Educators.  After leaving Cerritos, I scored the music for several Hollywood Films, including “Guns and the Fury” with Peter Graves and Cameron Mitchell and was selected to direct the Monterey Jazz Festival High School Ensemble for 8 years. I completed my Doctorate at USC and UNC in the early ’70’s. I was the first American Jazz Educator to be selected to judge the All European Jazz Festival in Cologne, Germany. I served as Administrative Director of Jazz Studies at USC in Los Angeles from the late ’70’s – the early ’80’s. 

I completed my book, “All That Jazz, a History of Afro-American Music,” toured Europe with school Jazz Ensembles during the summers and wrote two other books while at USC. After retiring to San Diego in the late ’80’s, I taught briefly at USD and then was selected President of the Musicians Assn. (AFM) for 6 years.  During that time and currently I am directing the (1) Stan Kenton Neophonic Orchestra for the LA Jazz Institute, (2) the Rancho Santa Fe Big Band and the San Diego Jazz Quartet. My new book, “The Amazing Power of Music,” is doing well and I’m trying to finish another jazz, book, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gig.”  I’ve always tried to play music, write music and teach music……..I’ve been fortunate to be able to do all three.