Marshall Hawkins, dean of local jazz musicians, one of the founders of the annual Jazz in the Pines festival, will be honored next Friday, Feb. 22. The California Alliance of Jazz will induct Hawkins into its Hall of Fame in Fresno.
Dr. Jeffrey James Tower championed Hawkins’ entry into the Hall of Fame. Tower was a Hemet High School educator and jazz trombonist and former Alliance of Jazz president. “[Hawkins’ selection] was great,” said Tower, Alliance historian and chair of the selection committee. “A lot of his colleagues wanted this and it is nice to be recognized. He’s a great jazz musician. We’re happy to honor him.”
Hawkins said he was surprised and honored. “[Tower and I] have been friends for a long time. It’s a 30-year relationship,” the newest Hall of Fame inductee said. “I was surprised it went through unanimously.”
The honor goes not only to jazz musicians, but educators too. The Hall of Fame includes 56 members, including Tower. The committee evaluates seven criteria.
Each of these criteria easily applies to Hawkins’ career. For example, one criterion is to have “Served as a quality/competent jazz educator for over 20 years with consistency.” Hawkins has been leading the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts for more than 30 years. Many of his students, such as Evan Christopher and Jason Jackson, are now internationally renowned jazz performers.
Another criterion states, “Jazz groups/students visible in jazz community and of outstanding quality,” describes his years organizing and promoting the school’s Jazz in the Pines Festival.
Hawkins’ allegiance and connection to the school are well known. His talent has attracted many musicians to the campus and the school’s administration acknowledged and honored his contribution.
“Marshall Hawkins has been a member of the Academy faculty since it’s founding. He’s one of our most beloved faculty members and is responsible for the education of many of our fine jazz artists in the world now,” said Doug Ashcraft and Steve Fraider, the executive directors of Idyllwild Arts. “One of the extraordinary things about Marshall is how excited he is to teach students who have not played jazz before, sharing his knowledge with less-experienced musicians as well as our students who come here to study classical music.”
Besides introducing jazz to the Idyllwild Arts Music Department, Hawkins helped organize and establish the annual Jazz in the Pines Festival in 1994. This August will be the 20th Annual Jazz Fest.
Tower has played with Hawkins many times and together they organized and ran the summer jazz program, which is a vital part of Idyllwild Arts’ summer program. Just five years ago, Hawkins was selected to be “Ambassador” for jazz. The world-renowned Goethe Institute, which has offices around the world, sponsored a 2008 spring conference in Bremen, Germany, and invited Hawkins to attend and participate.
Hawkins is also an accomplished jazz composer and organizer. But his roots, which started in Washington, D.C., touched several music genres. His mother played music in the house. “I heard Vivaldi, Puccini, Nat Cole and Paul Whiteman. She liked all kinds of music,” Hawkins said describing his early training.
His first instrument was the piano, but now he’s known as a world-class bassist.
Another important accomplishment in Hawkins’ career is formation of the Seahawk Mojo Modern Jazz Orchestra. Hawkins’ founded this group and takes musicians to elementary schools to introduce America’s native music — jazz — to young students throughout Southern California.
This weekend, the orchestra, with Christopher, Daniel Jackson and possibly Casey Abrams, will perform a Black History concert at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16 at Idyllwild Arts.