2023 Jazz Artist | Mario Cruz
Born and raised in Ft. Worth, Texas, Mario was plucking out tunes by ear from his mom’s piano at an early age. He has had the privilege to perform, record and/or tour with an impressive list of some of music’s biggest luminaries. From jazz artists Jaco Pastorius to Randy Brecker, fusion music’s Bob James and Jeff Lorber and pop icons Bruce Springsteen, Paul Shafer and Natalie Cole, blues legends Lou Rawls and Ray Charles, and latin music’s Celia Cruz and Dave Valentin. Mario’s interest in jazz started in high school, writing and arranging for the jazz ensemble which he carries through his time playing with the Texas Christian University Jazz Ensemble, University of North Texas’ acclaimed One O’Clock Lab Band. He also had the opportunity to compose and arrange many jazz pieces performed and recorded by various ensembles including the Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Mario has written and arranged many compositions that have been used in TV shows, commercials, jingles and movie soundtracks; recorded on his and other artists’ CD’s; and performed by many academic and professional jazz and symphonic ensembles. After 25 years in New York, Mario returned to his Texas roots in the Dallas- Ft. Worth area and continues his music adventure, using his life and music experience to cultivate his unique, eclectic style. He continues a busy performance schedule, performing at many Texas area jazz clubs and festivals as well as giving clinics and concerts…and still plucks out tunes from his mom’s piano.
2023 Jazz Educator (Posthumous) | Paris Rutherford
Paris’ musical life began at age 4 with piano lessons from his mother. From there, his life quickly expanded to include music at every level and opportunity. As an instrumentalist, Paris played trombone in the Dallas Symphony, dance bands, and countless jingle sessions. As a writer, Paris enjoyed many opportunities to write commercial music for advertising and television networks, and arrangements for big band and symphony. A stint as a recording engineer led Paris to one of the loves of his life, vocal jazz group singing. Paris started writing for a group of first-call jingle singers, and they had a great time interpreting standards and popular tunes. Travel to Europe for writing opportunities further broadened Paris’ horizons and was an exciting time in his life. Ready for a new challenge, Paris returned to the states, and began a new career in teaching music at the college level. Starting off at the University of Colorado Denver, Paris taught Jazz performance, jazz theory and arranging, as well as directing a vocal jazz ensemble. In 1978 Paris was hired to teach instrumental arranging and vocal jazz performance at the University of North Texas, (NTSU at that early time). Paris loved his 30 years of teaching at UNT and the opportunity to work with a great faculty and so many incredible and talented students who are now involved in performing, writing and teaching music across the globe. Paris retired from UNT as a Regents Professor Emeritus in 2009. Not ready to lay down his pencil or let his musical interests wane, he formed a community based vocal jazz ensemble, “The New Collection”. For seven years, this wonderful group enjoyed making music together, performing locally and at music festivals in the U.S.
2023 Jazz Supporter | Judy Watson
Judy, an avid music and art enthusiast, is a UNT College of Business alumna with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting; additionally, Ms. Watson holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Austin College. Prior to joining the UNT College of Music Advancement Board, Judy has been a champion of the confidence and connection the arts bring through her board work with Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico, and the Dallas Jazz Piano Society. She has been part of the leadership team of Dallas Jazz Piano Society that has produced Fredrick Sander’s award-winning piano techniques and student leadership development to underserved West Dallas students. Ms. Watson was awarded Volunteer of the Year 2019 by Sammons Center of the Arts where she gratefully shared her time with devoted friends of the arts. Judy has enjoyed Dallas most of her life. However, she had the cultural enrichment of living in South America with school age children and has traveled extensively. She is joined in her enthusiasm for the arts and performance by her growing family which includes three treasured grandchildren.
2023 Jazz Innovator | Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones is known for his exemplary musical talent as an internationally acclaimed Music Director and pianist with over 30+ years of experience. He holds B.F.A in Jazz Piano from the New School. He has directed, produced, written and toured with and for artists such as Janet Jackson, Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Snoop, Joe, and Beyonce to name a few. In addition to his worldwide musical works, he is founder, director, and curator of Last Sundays with his own production company Life. With 3Life, he welcomes and showcases the talents of upcoming artists, has created his own 3Life signature apparel line, and even has a 3Life album showcasing his original works coming