Matt Betton, Executive Director Emeritus of the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) and founder of Manhattan Enterprises, Betton’s Family Music Center, and Jazz Education Press died Sunday at the Hospice Care Center in Loveland, Colo. He was 89.
Born May 14th, 1913, Betton graduated from Kansas State University in 1938 with a degree in music education. From 1933 to 1973, Betton led a big band that played all over the Midwest United States and, in 1941, was designated the number one college dance band in the nation by Billboard magazine. Over 150 students worked with the band during its 40-year life.
In 1968, Betton founded the National Association of Jazz Educators (later renamed the International Association for Jazz Education) and became its Executive Director. Betton is credited with building the organization from the ground up during its first 20 years and establishing its reputation and membership, now 8,000 strong with members in 42 countries.
“Matt’s contributions to the field of jazz education are incalculable,” said IAJE President and Indiana University Distinguished Professor of Music, David Baker. “He and his wife Betty were the rocks in IAJE’s foundation. Without their dedication and personal sacrifice, there would be no IAJE today.”
Betton won many awards in his life, including an honorary doctorate from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and the Kansas State University Alumni Medallion Award. Recently he was awarded the IAJE Humanitarian Award, given to individuals whose passion for teaching transcends the usual academic environment and exhibits the four elements of humanism: dedication, non-prejudice, altruism, and love.
Betton was incredibly active outside of IAJE as well. He founded the American Federation of Musicians Local #169 (Manhattan, Kn.), co-founded the KSU Summer Band Camp, the National Stage Band Camps and the Stan Kenton Jazz Clinics. Betton also served as musical director for NBC’s Joan Fairfax Show.
Betton is survived by his wife of 61 years, Betty Betton, a sister, two daughters, a son, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.