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The year was 1987. Kansas City, Missouri. I was turning 40 and wanted to start something new in life, so I went to hear a great jazz band, the City Light Orchestra. During break, I asked the saxophonist – Ahmad Alaadeen –– if he could recommend a saxophone teacher for me. He said he was teaching at the Charlie Parker Foundation for the Performing Arts and, to my surprise, he said he would teach me.
Alaadeen wanted me to play flute, but instead I started on alto sax. He went to a pawnshop to help me get my first sax. I knew nothing about music. My background was ballet. I had established a new ballet school designed to meet the unique needs of home-schooled students. Since I had never taken a music lesson, he developed a customized program of study just for me so I could start playing songs immediately.
Soon Alaadeen asked me to start booking his band, Alaadeen and The Deans of Swing. I had no knowledge about how to do that either, but started with the country club to which I belonged. That soon led to more bookings and recording demos and developing promotional materials in order to secure more bookings.
Very soon after I met him, Alaadeen was diagnosed with bladder cancer. This was during the earliest years of our professional history. He was ignoring all the signs and it had spread to his lymph nodes. We fought it with chemo, surgery and radiation - a challenge because he had no health insurance.
That was my initial reason for establishing Alaadeen Enterprises, Inc. He was sick – he couldn’t play and make money, not that musicians enjoy the benefits of cushy corporate insurance plans anyway. Without much of an income, he was able to qualify for Medicaid and receive health care. He was not old enough for Medicare.
Our song would play cancer free for 17 years.
I fell in love with Alaadeen very early in our relationship. I'm not sure when he fell in love with me. As I’ve written, I really didn't know how much he loved me until he was dying. We always felt that we were given to each other by God. We cherished this relationship because we knew that God put us together. Alaadeen had been praying for God to send him someone to watch over him and he felt his prayers were answered when he met me. On one of his earliest CDs as leader, he played Someone To Watch Over Me. I was in the engineer's room listening to him play and the hair on my arms raised. It was so heartfelt. Alaadeen always said I saved his life. But that isn't really true. God saved his life and just used me as an instrument, so I really never wanted Alaadeen expressing public thanks to me.
When I first met Alaadeen, his original compositions were scribbled out on pieces of paper and stashed in drawers. He did not think that his works were good enough to copyright, but I registered them anyway with the Library of Congress. I secured a composer and publishing membership with ASCAP and channeled his royalties into Fandeen Publishing Company (an acronym for Fanny and Alaadeen), which I co-founded to produce and distribute his jazz recordings and videos to an international audience. Fandeen Publishing Company also published Alaadeen's oral autobiography; Dysfunctional / life journeys of a second generation jazz musician, and The Rest Of The Story; Jazz Improvization and History.
I recruited investors to produce recordings of his original tunes, the first being Alaadeen and the Deans of Swing, Live Jazz on the Plaza. During the early 90s, I made sure he had a website that marketed his published material.
I established Alaadeen Enterprises Inc. as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, to manage, promote and present Alaadeen's educational performances and clinics to an international audience. I wrote and secured grants to underwrite artistic performances. I had neither business experience nor grant writing experience, but knew that the grants would be awarded because of Alaadeen's history. He was a second-generation jazz musician and his musical and career story needed to be told. I even collaborated with multiple School Districts to provide jazz residency programs to promote jazz cultural history and expand jazz audiences.
Then we formed 'ASR Records. We produced jazz recordings: and the beauty of it all, New Africa Suite, Time Through The Ages, and Blues For RC and Josephine, Too. We produced the video recording: Kansas City Jazz Legacy, On the Cusp. I oversaw all of the business aspects of CD production and developed a small business plan to secure investors. I distributed CDs to include record stores, radio stations, reviewers and other media, coordinated and oversaw advertising in national publications, and wrote press releases securing coverage in radio, TV and newspaper. I orchestrated nominations for his recognition including one resulting in his receiving the “2000 Governor’s Humanities Award” for contributions to Kansas City’s jazz heritage, along with a citation in “The Congressional Record” on the floor of the United States House of Congress.
During this time I secured a consulting position with the 18th & Vine Authority. With Alaadeen's constant guidance I developed the Jazz Masters’ Program for the American Jazz Museum, and obtained state funding assistance for the 18th & Vine Jazz Performance Series; Jammin' at the Gem (See: http://www.americanjazzmuseum.org).
Later in our relationship, we got married. We had a pear tree in our backyard. Only twice would it produce large abundant fruit; the year we married and the summer that Alaadeen passed.
I have always felt a significant reason for my life was to care for Alaadeen and his music. I always knew he was part of jazz history. For 25 years, I made sure that Alaadeen's music was brought to the public. And now my goal is to continue his legacy.