A&E

Herb Wong, jazz icon and educator, dies at 88

 

Easter Sunday this year saw the passing of Herb Wong, 88, a long-time Menlo Park resident renowned internationally as a jazz expert and educator.

Wong had strong ties to Palo Alto -- teaching jazz at the Palo Alto Adult School for 25 years, and co-founding the Palo Alto Jazz Alliance, a non-profit jazz education organization, for which he served as artistic director.

A mysterious box sparked Wong's lifelong fascination with jazz. As young boys, he and his brother Elwood had just moved with their parents to Stockton when a package arrived on the doorstep, addressed to the former occupant.

"As any boys would, they opened it up," said Paul Fingerote, a colleague and friend for more than 30 years. "They found jazz (records) and Herb said, 'This is my music.'"

The two men were collaborating on a compilation of Wong's liner notes and recollections, a project Fingerote intends to complete. "Herb was a living history of jazz... his writing was so exquisite, so sharp. It wasn't just the music he captured, it was a sense of the times."

Dubbed a "Renaissance man" because of talents that spanned multiple career fields, Wong wrote about and produced jazz shows for decades, and spent more than 25 years sharing his musical passions with others.

"Before they called it jazz education, this is what Herb was doing," Fingerote said.

He served as president of the International Association for Jazz Education and was elected to the Jazz Education Hall of Fame. Seven original jazz compositions have been written in his honor.

But Wong's accomplishments in the world of jazz are only part of his achievements.

After serving in the Army during World War II, he earned a doctorate from UC Berkeley in zoology and a master's degree in science education at San Jose State University. He went on to teach at several schools during his academic career and published numerous books on learning.

Fingerote described him as a "wonderful friend" who always wanted to know what was happening in other people's lives and "seemed to be excited about everything."

He is survived by Marilyn, his wife of 46 years, brother Elwood, and daughters Kira and Kamberly, in addition to four grandchildren.

Wong will be buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. Services will be announced.

In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made in his memory to the Palo Alto Jazz Alliance, P.O. Box 60397, Palo Alto, CA 94306.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Ron Massie
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Condolences to Herb Wong's family and friends. I met Herb many years ago at the Stanford Shopping Center Jazz series. He was a great man-with a wealth of information about the world of Jazz. He will be missed...Ron Massie


Like this comment
Posted by John Sylvester
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 22, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I didn't know Herb well but I had great admiration for him. His dedication to the world of jazz was a source of great inspiration to all of us who play and enjoy this great American art form. He will be missed.


Like this comment
Posted by Grant Geissman
a resident of Los Altos
on Apr 22, 2014 at 6:12 pm

I am so sad to hear about Herb's passing. I met him back when I was a student at De Anza College in 1972 and 1973, and managed to keep in touch with he and Marilyn over the years. He was such a bright, positive force for jazz, and there just aren't many others like him; he's simply irreplaceable.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob Kanegis
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Our great friend of 30+ years... my environmental educator mentor, helped set me on my life path. As you said Herb, all those years ago- "We're All Connected Man!" Herb was and continues to be an inspiration to a group of lifelong friends scattered around the country doing great work that began with our classes with Herb.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob Kanegis
a resident of another community
on Apr 25, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Our great friend of 30+ years... my environmental educator mentor, helped set me on my life path. As you said Herb, all those years ago- "We're All Connected Man!" Herb was and continues to be an inspiration to a group of lifelong friends scattered around the country doing great work that began with our classes with Herb.


Like this comment
Posted by mario alberto munguia
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2014 at 2:34 pm

From washington school to Berkeley High School, Mr. Wong saw my passion on music and arts an so encouraged and helped set the pace for to do what I love and have passion for. "Producing and Promoting". HE. KNEW!!!!!
Thank you Mr. Wong...

Your friend Mario Alberto Munguia


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