You are here

 Faculty: Roy Cummings Remembered

Submitted by Joanne De Pue on January 17, 2020 - 12:06pm
Former School of Music jazz instructor Roy Cummings
Roy Cummings, longtime UW Jazz Studies instructor, founded the Studio Jazz Ensemble.

March 9 Studio Jazz Ensemble concert honors former UW jazz educator

In his 30 years at the School of Music, trumpeter Roy Cummings influenced the musical training of thousands of students, introducing them to the greats of the jazz art form and encouraging their professional and musical aspirations. He also was a cofounder of the School’s Jazz Studies Program, serving as its chair from 1979 to 1993.

Cummings’ career at UW began in 1970 when he became a trumpet instructor after earning music and music education degrees at UW, and continued with his longtime leadership of the Studio Jazz Ensemble. He continued to teach at the School until his untimely death in January 2000, when he suffered a heart attack in the Music Building on his way to teach a class. Cummings was a passionate spokesperson for the importance of music and humanities education, and his opinions on the matter remain relevant today.

“Jazz education in the state of Washington is in pretty good shape,” he said in a 1985 interview in the Olympian newspaper, “but it as well as all music education and humanities curricula are falling on hard times. Humanities education funding is playing second fiddle to the sciences. We can’t all be scientists. We need the human expression and humanities to relax. Music is a big part of that.”

The performing arts, he said, are as necessary to the well-being of humankind as a balanced diet, and humanities education should be funded as well as sciences, physics, and nuclear sciences.

“These guys are nuclear, too,” he said in reference to the student  musicians of the Studio Jazz Ensemble. “There’s some real explosions with these guys.”

The Studio Jazz Ensemble—the UW Big Band—performs Monday March 9, 2020, at the Meany Studio Theater under the direction of Paul Harshman. The concert is dedicated to the memory of the ensemble’s former longtime director Roy M Cummings.

Sidebar: Roy M. Cummings Endowed Scholarship Supports Rising Stars in Jazz

Support from the Roy M. Cummings Endowed Scholarship has enabled promising young jazz musicians to focus on their music studies while taking advantage of performance opportunities both at school and out in the clubs and coffeehouses that play host to the city’s most forward-thinking, musically adept, and creative young musicians.

“I see the scholarship as having afforded the recipients more time to focus on music while rewarding them for their hard work,” says Jazz Studies Chair Cuong Vu. “This kind of support is essential for us to not only keep sustaining these talented and driven young people, but also attracting more to the UW School of Music.” Increasing levels of student support for the Jazz Studies Program is a top funding priority for the School of Music. Gifts to the Roy M. Cummings Endowed Scholarship Fund helps the School of Music attract top students to the program and provides financial assistance to undergraduates studying jazz at UW.

To make a gift, or for more information, please email Emma Vice,, call 206.685.6997, or make a gift online here.