Celebration of Life Ceremony for Richard Wang

November 06, 2016 - 12:00 am - 4:00 pm

Celebration of Life Ceremony for Richard Wang

Sunday Nov 6, 2016 at 4pm

Mandel Hall 1131 E 57th St. (57th and University)

Parking available on the Midway and between 57th and 55th and Ellis


A long time Jazz Institute board member and past President,  Richard Wang invested his life-long passion for jazz by ensuring that the music and its traditions would continue to be passed on. He will be remembered for his amazing intellect, kindness, compassion and sense of humor. He was a beloved teacher and mentor to many. Please join Orbert Davis, Art Hoyle, Willie Pickens, Mwata Bowden and many more to help us celebrate a life well lived!


Richard Wang  July 4, 1928-October 10, 2016

Richard Wang was past president of the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and an early board member who helped program the concerts and festivals, including the Chicago Jazz Festival, created and collected archival materials for the organization’s Don DeMicheal Archive, and guided its educational programs, including the Kiewit-Wang Mentorship Award for young emerging talent—all designed to increase awareness and appreciation for jazz and of Chicago’s unique role in its history.


In his first college teaching job at Wilson Junior College during the early 1960s, trumpeter Dick Wang encountered a cadre of exploratory young Chicago musicians who would soon form the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). He encouraged them.


He introduced Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman and Malachi Favors, Anthony Braxton, Henry Threadgill, Ari Brown and others to the writings of Paul Hindemith and Arnold Schoenberg; he instituted weekly a “head-knocking” jam sessions for these players, and cheered on their efforts to meld fixed composition and unfettered improvisation, which they pursued as inspired of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, John Coltrane, Eddie Harris and Richard (not yet “Muhal”) Abrams — a local pianist and savant with whom Wang would work to co-found the local Friends of Duke Ellington.


The FoDE organized a free concert in Grant Park, leading to the resurgence of the Jazz Institute of  Chicago, which, while Dick Wang was its president, launched the free annual Chicago Jazz Fest. Until his death at age 88 on Oct 10, 2016, he remained a constant presence, upbeat supporter and wise advisor to musicians, journalists, historians, organizations and fans of music new or traditional, especially jazz.


For an interview with Richard about the early AACM years by Howard Mandel click here


He was Associate Professor Emeritus of music, was the resident jazz scholar, historian, and all-around jazz authority, as well as the director of the UIC Jazz Ensemble from the early seventies through the  90s. A native of Chicago’s South Side, he grew up with this with this uniquely American art form, playing trumpet professionally by the time he was fifteen and haunting the now legendary clubs and theatres where jazz flourished in the 1930s and ’40s. Speaking of the Regal Theatre on 47th Street, he describes it as “the center of the musical world for me at that time.” He points out that Chicago has played a unique role in jazz history; today “it is a living museum of jazz. You can go to clubs almost any night and hear jazz in any of the important styles–that’s amazing. Maybe you could also do that in New York. You can’t do it in New Orleans or Kansas City. But you can do it here.”

Wang’s work in reconstructing Ellington’s musical comedy Jump for Joy for performance by the Pegasus Players, brought him considerable fame, including prominent mention in Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report.


In 1990, for the annual Chicago Jazz Festival, he produced the Midwest premiere of Charles Mingus’ Epitaph, a complex, multi-movement work that combines gospel, blues, and a whole range of jazz styles within the extended forms of Duke Ellington.


The National Endowment for the Humanities recognized Wang’s scholarship with two research grants, as has the Illinois Arts Council. His articles  appeared in Black Music Research Journal, Musical Quarterly, Jazz Educators Journal, and in the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. He  lectured at the Terra Museum of American Art, the Block Gallery of Northwestern University, and the Field Museum of Natural History.


Donations to support the Kiewit-Wang Mentorship Award can be made here

  • Related

  • See All Upcoming Events

    Become a Member

    By joining the Jazz Institute of Chicago, you help support the music you love



    Be in the know! Sign up for our email list.


    We Need your Support

    Your support makes a difference! Support Jazz in Chicago by becoming a member, volunteering or giving today.


    The Gift of Music

    Your charitable gift helps us continue to provide jazz education, develop Chicago musicians, and build audiences for a thriving jazz scene.