Floor Show

From accompanying Johnny Mathis, Natalie Cole, and Maureen McGovern to playing backup for 4th graders, Jerry Floor ex’68 and his children, Emilee BA’94 and Gregory BA’96, fill their lives with musical projects, performances, and pursuits. The recording studio in the basement of their Salt Lake City home attests to the seriousness of their interests, and the “Celebrity Gallery” (a wall filled with autographed photos of stars whose performances they’ve backed) in the family room is one indication that being a musician can be great fun.

Photo by Mark Dempsey

Musical training in the Floor family starts early. Jerry grew up playing woodwinds, particularly the clarinet. “Emilee was playing a keyboard at the age of three and composing tunes beyond the normal ‘cute little thing’ by the age of six,” Floor says. She played piano and flute through her school years and now teaches piano, performs with local bands (including her father’s), and has become, Jerry says, “a very good vocalist.”

Emilee, whose University degree is in French, is now a teaching assistant at the U, pursuing her master’s degree in French. Greg grew up playing several woodwind instruments and received his degree in music on a full-ride music scholarship. He has also been instructor of the U jazz band and has cut his own CD, The Greg Floor Quintet: The Grand Inquisitor. Greg will begin working on his master’s degree this fall at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.
Pulling all this talent together is wife, mother, and sometime agent, Connie Floor, who arranges engagements and keeps everyone’s calendar straight.

Backing many well-known artists, cutting CDs of their performances, playing on request with the Utah Symphony, playing in one of the Jerry Floor bands (the Dixieland band, or the 18-piece jazz orchestra or one of its smaller components), and playing with The Great Basin Street Band (with whom they performed in the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia, Italy) should fill the Floor clan’s days. But much of their time is spent on the twofold mission of Jerry’s organization, Jazz Arts of the Mountainwest (JAM): to make possible music education in the schools for young students, and to educate parents of those students about music through live performances. “If parents can hear the music, they are much more likely to support their child when that child comes home asking if he can play the trumpet,” Jerry explains. JAM takes smaller groups from Floor’s 18-piece band to elementary schools, performing for the students, introducing them to the instruments, and talking about the art of jazz.

With a nonprofit tax designation and some help from the Zoo, Arts and Parks tax, JAM is pursuing a youth instrument program in selected schools. “Many people have an old instrument or two in their basements that they haven’t played in years,” Floor says, “and they would be happy to donate them to this project. That will be the easy part. What will stretch us economically is getting these instruments repaired and back in working order.” When this is completed, the instruments will be assigned to selected schools and individual students.

“Financing such a project is always a problem,” Floor says. “You try to do something beneficial, but it always comes down to money. The ZAP tax will help in the pilot project, but we never have enough.”

The youth instrument program isn’t Floor’s only dream. He is working with Mayor Rocky Anderson BS’73 to start the Salt Lake Jazz Orchestra—one entertainment component not yet found in the downtown area—that could be housed in one of the theatrical or concert venues there. He sees his 18-piece JAM band becoming the original Salt Lake Jazz Orchestra.

Whatever the setting may be—school, dance hall, concert hall—and whatever the group—jazz orchestra, Dixieland, small jazz band, keyboard and vocals—the Floors may well be a part of it. And if the mayor has his way, music lovers may see them on the park grounds of the City and County Building in a summer performance, with wife and mother Connie cheering them on.

—Nettie Bagley BA’59 is Continuum editorial assistant.

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