Chicago area jazz guitarist and music educator Frank Dawson passed away early on Thursday June 3rd, 2010 in his early 60s. He had been diagnosed with advanced spinal cancer just a few days prior to his death... He originally hailed from Pittsburgh, PA, and began studying music with Victor Lawrence while beginning to play professionally during his high school years. Following graduation from highschool, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy attending the USN School of Music. Frank continued to study music at this time with Ralph Grasso. During his time at the USN duty station in Great Lakes, Illinois he toured with unit band #15, traversing the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
The last few years found him doing a concert-clinic tour in the central part of Italy and working as an educator at Columbia College in Chicago. The tour of Italy included teaching at the Superior School of Music in Pescara performing in towns surrounding this area with a quintet version of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble in June 2000. As an educator, Mr. Dawson was a member of the fretboard division of Columbia College Chicago part time and after starting there in 1990 in this capacity, he formed the Jazz Guitar Ensemble five years later. In 1997 he became an artist-in-residence there and began teaching guitar courses on Theory, Harrmony, Ear Training, Jazz Styles and Analysis. His educational/musical credentials included: AAS, Wright College; formerly at ACM, IBC, Roosevelt; Who’s Who in American Music Teachers, 1997; professional performer; CD with Chuck Hedges’ Swingtet, Tribute to Hamp. Other albums that feature Frank include Marshallaw by Marshall Vente's Project 9+ and Together at Last by the Steve Schneck Quartet.
Frank is survived by his wife, vocalist Anna Dawson. Frank Dawson had worked with many musicians and bands over the years...those of note: Marshall Vente's Project 9+, The Steve Schneck Quartet, Sonny Stitt, Art Van Damme, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Patti Page, Les Elgart, Manfredo Fest and Baracuda. Frank also toured Europe with the Chicago Bears Band at the North Sea Jazz Festival, Montreaux Jazz Festival and at Cafe Unique in Amsterdam. For several years during the 1970s through the 1980s Frank and his wife Anna (vocalist) performed musically together in such Chicago area bands as Batucada (the Brazilian-jazz combo) and Marshal Vente's Project 9. Starting in 1990, Frank became a member of the Chicago Jazz Ensemble and played with them until his death last week.
A wake for Frank Dawson was held on Friday June 4th, 2010 from 4 to 8 PM at McMurrough Chapel in Libertyville and the funeral took place Saturday at 9:30 AM at St. Mary’s Church, 175 E. Illinois Rd. in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Carrying on Frank's Legacy: Here is a video of one of Frank's guitar students, Wally Ulreich, performing at the Columba College Chicago Jazz Fest in 2009: