Column: The San Diego Music Hall of Fame has six new inductees


Jefferson Jay is a tsunami in the local music world.

The Ocean Beach musician has written over 1,500 songs.

He challenged himself to post three song videos a day, including one original, on YouTube for an entire year in 2011 – and he repeated that feat in 2016!

He organized a 24-hour free concert in 2008 – a 24-hour marathon for which he coordinated almost 40 local bands, solo artists, DJs and special performances. The following year, he released the recording as a two-DVD set.

“I like to do things that no one has done before,” he says. “I like to push the limits.”

With this goal in mind, he created the San Diego Music Hall of Fame in 2018. His first induction ceremony included Grammy-winning artist Jason Mraz, hit songwriter Jack Tempchin, who had two songs on the album Eagles’ Greatest Hits (1971-1975); Sue Palmer, known as the Queen of Boogie Woogie, and other local musical personalities.

Every fall since, with the exception of pandemic-ridden 2020, six music giants with ties to San Diego have been inducted into the local Music Hall of Fame.

On Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m., this Hall of Fame stable will grow to 24 members with the induction of six 2022 honorees. The ceremony, at Ocean Beach Newbreak Church, includes nominee appearances, a multimedia show, and several live performance.

“I like to think of our event as a community event first and a music event second,” says Jay. “It’s a celebration of our music and our culture.

This year’s recipients are the late jazz trombonist Jimmy Cheatham and his musician wife, Jeannie, 95; violin virtuoso Alex DePue, who was tragically killed in a car accident in Mexico last January; Chris Hillman, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, original Byrds member; the Navy Band San Diego; Chula Vista native concert pianist Gustavo Romero; and longtime Point Loma High School teacher Larry Zeiger, who co-wrote and produced 33 jaw-dropping musicals.

Each year, Jay focuses at least one induction on a different segment of the local music community. Last year’s inductees included the Deering family, which for four decades produced revered banjos in the industry, as well as the co-founders of Taylor Guitars, the instrument of choice for many top musicians.

This year, because the event falls on Veterans Day, the honorees include the local Marine Band. Nearly a century old, the band books up to 350 performances nationwide each year.

This fall, the focus is also on educators, embodied by Zeiger, whose training has launched the musical careers of many young people in San Diego. Jimmy Cheatham was also an instructor who led UC San Diego’s jazz programs until his retirement in 2005. Gustavo Romero is currently a professor at the University of North Texas College of Music.

Performers on November 11 include Gustavo Romero, Jeff Berkley & The Banned, Sue Palmer & Liz Ajuzie, Jamie Shadowlight, Larry Zeiger, Rob Deez and Gato Papacitos.

Originally from New Jersey, Jay moved to San Diego in 2000 to pursue his Masters in History at San Diego State.

“Early on, I met a lot of people doing charitable work in fine and visual arts,” he says. “I was moved by how they all supported each other and how the patrons supported the arts.”

Jay is committed to replicating this camaraderie in the world of music, both to help elevate musicians and to cultivate appreciation for music throughout the San Diego community.

He was so enthralled by the concept that he wrote his history thesis in 2008 on the La Jolla Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, which began as the La Jolla Reading Club in 1894. The Athenaeum is a library in nonprofit that includes exhibitions, live concerts and art classes along with its treasure trove of books and reference materials.

Since then, he has collaborated with the Athenaeum to produce a series of Acoustic Evenings concerts there each fall. Jay and one of his fellow Jefferson band members Jay and the Diggers were among the performers at his Oct. 21 concert.

“All of my projects are about the idea of ​​people lifting each other up,” Jay told UT music critic George Varga in 2009.

With this philosophy in mind, he named his company, The Good Vibe (https://thegoodvibe.com).

Currently, he is producing an animated television series featuring actors with disabilities and neurological differences, such as ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

He calls this 24-episode project “The Hunt for the Holiday Spirit” and is looking for backers to bring it to viewers.

While Jay is the face and hands behind the SD Music Hall of Fame, many other independent contractors, donors, partners and volunteers play a helping role. It’s a big production to handle, but he’s a veteran, having hosted open-mic nights for 17 years around town before the pandemic. “I’m used to shows with a lot of moving parts,” he says.

In addition to inductees, a Dawn Steel Award is given to someone in the music community who demonstrates strength in the face of adversity. This year, it goes to Aria Noelle Curzon-DePue, the widow of Alex DePue (they were married just months before his death), who will play violin at the event.

For Jay, the Music Hall of Fame offers a place to share San Diego’s legendary artists under one roof. Although there is no physical location yet, biographies, photos and research do exist on the Hall of Fame website.

Admittedly, coordinating and hosting the annual event is a ton of work. “But I have no intention of bowing out,” promises Jay, 48. “As long as there is music in San Diego, there should be a Music Hall of Fame.”

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