Jerry Ford honored at Missouri Arts Awards

Jerry Ford has performed in the Capitol Rotunda in Jefferson City, Missouri, before, but on Wednesday he returned for a different reason.

Ford received the 2017 Missouri Arts Award as an individual artist in the capitol rotunda.

Congratulations to Mr. Ford on this great recognition.

The Missouri Arts Awards are designed to celebrate people, organizations and communities making a lasting impression in the state's arts and culture.

Winners can fall into six categories: arts education, arts organization, creative community, individual artist, leadership in the arts and philanthropy.

Other honorees this year were Barbara Berner (St. Louis, Arts Education), Shakespeare Festival St. Louis (Arts Organization), Village of Arrow Rock (Creative Community), Gary R. Gaydos (Florissant, Leadership in the Arts) and C. Richard "Dick" Belger and Evelyn Craft Belger (Kansas City, Philanthropy).

Ford's list of accomplishments that led to this deserving award goes on and on, just ask Missouri Arts Council public information coordinator Barbara MacRobie, who was tasked with summarizing them.

"The biographies for the website were supposed to be 250 words, but I was stuck wondering, 'How do I condense this guy?'" MacRobie said.

In her nomination form of Ford, Wendy Rust wrote: "No matter what event, fundraiser, celebration, or altruistic activity the people of our region attend, they will constantly find the live music of Jerry Ford filling the air. His trumpet playing, jazz and scat singing, and his musical groups (including a 14-piece Swing Orchestra) dominate the major social gatherings of the region."

She added that his "music ignites our town" and "he's been providing a beat and rhythm to the culture of Cape Girardeau for over half a century."

Indeed, Ford immersed himself in the area's music scene decades ago. In a letter of support of the nomination, Narvol A. Randol, Jr., president of the Cape Girardeau Municipal band, noted that Ford has played in the Municipal Band continuously since 1957 when he was a sophomore in high school. He continues to play with the band and is unofficially its manager.

He began the Jerry Ford Orchestra in 1960, which has performed for two governors' inaugural balls and several fundraisers throughout the region.

Ford is a board member at the Cape River Heritage Museum, where he's volunteered for the past 25 years, as well as the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri and the Music Academy at Southeast Missouri State University. He's served on the board of managers for Southeast's River Campus for 16 years.

"Despite the incredible life that Jerry has lived with his many, many accomplishments, he still remains humble and approachable," Murielle Gaither, executive director of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, wrote in a letter of support.

Ford also has two published books and has lobbied for the families of people with disabilities and served two terms as a state representative of the 156th district.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger wrote that Ford is "best known as the 'music ambassador' for the City of Cape Girardeau."