Bix Beiderbecke Museum Bestows Two New Bix Lives Awards
Josh Duffee and Carol Schaefer are two Davenport men who are passionate about one of Davenport’s most famous natives.
They are the newest winners of the Bix Lives award, given each year since 2007 to people who exemplify what it means to keep Bix Beiderbecke’s legacy alive. Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke (1903-1931) is a legendary Davenport native, cornetist and pianist for whom an annual
jazz festival and three-year-old museum in Davenport are named.
“There are not two more deserving people to receive this honor than Mr. Duffee and Mr. Schaefer this year,” said Bix museum director Nathaniel Kraft. “Both are long-time stewards of Bix’s legacy, dedicating much of their time to keeping Bix alive, not only in the Quad-Cities, but across the globe.”
Duffee is a professional musician and for many years was music director for the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival – which this summer for the first time in its 49 years, was held virtually due to Covid-19.
The Moline native, now living in Davenport, is a drummer, bandleader, and jazz historian who has spent his career keeping Quad-Cities’ musical heritage alive. Duffee has also served on the Bix Jazz Society Board, helping organize the annual festival and supporting music education in the area through music scholarships and teaching drum lessons.
“Josh always has Bix on his mind, promoting the man, his music, and traditional jazz from Australia to the United Kingdom,” Society president Steve Trainor said.
Carol Schaefer, a lifelong Bix fan, was a key player in the creation of the Bix museum while serving on the board. From supervising the construction to spending countless hours fundraising and helping operate the museum, Schaefer dedicated the past four years getting the museum to what it is today, Kraft said.
He spearheaded the search and hiring of Kraft (the museum’s first director) last January. Since then, Schaefer has taken on an advisor role and continues to help the museum with projects, Kraft said.
“Carol has always been there for the Society, using both his construction background and consistent donations to keep us going,” Trainor said.
The award is typically presented at the festival, but was postponed due to this year’s event going virtual. “Originally, we had planned to honor them in 2021,” Kraft said, “but with everything these two have done this year alone, promoting Bix’s legacy, it just didn’t feel right to wait.”
“The board decided that these two really deserved it this year,” he said Tuesday. “We have other deserving people we could pick next year.”
“We couldn’t hold off – Josh has done so much, and Carol more in the background,” Kraft said. “The museum is still around because of Carol and that’s the big reason we had to give it to him this year.”
Normally, they give one award each year; last year’s recipient was Muriel Voss, past president of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society.
“With everything that Carol and Josh have done, particularly even this year, it didn’t feel right not to pick two people this year,” Kraft said. For the virtual fest, Duffee performed and helped organize it again, he noted.
“Even outside of the festival, he was helping raise money for it, doing livestreams, bringing awareness to the museum as he was teaching people all over Facebook about Bix,” Kraft said.
Schaefer has helped the museum for many years, “and was instrumental in getting me into my position here this year,” the director said. “He’s been a big advisor, keeping the museum working and going forward.”
Schaefer was an original member of the museum board, and stepped down earlier this year, Kraft said. Duffee recently was appointed to the museum board, after serving on the Memorial Society board.
Schaefer owned his own construction company in Davenport. “He was instrumental in building the museum,” Kraft said. “He’s kind of the reason why it’s built.”
Opening in August 2017 in the basement of the RME, the Bix Museum is the premier location to learn about the life and legacy of Bix Beiderbecke. The museum is accompanied by the most extensive archive resource on Bix in the world and serves to preserve and teach that knowledge to future generations.
The free museum features many original artifacts related to Beiderbecke (including his 1931 piano) and his colleagues. The museum takes visitors chronologically through the life of Bix, and his music is featured throughout the museum, along with videos, interactive displays and photos.
Kraft moved to the Quad-Cities in 2017, after completing his bachelor’s degree in art history and studio art from Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn., to pursue his master’s in museum studies at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities. He completed it in 2019.
There’s a lot of anticipation for next year’s jazz fest, its 50th anniversary, and it will take place on the same day as the 90th anniversary of Bix’s death, Aug. 6, 1931.
“It’s kind of a really big year next year for the festival,” Kraft said.
A formal Bix Lives award ceremony will be held on Saturday, Nov. 14 from 2-3 p.m. at RME’s Redstone Room at 2nd & Main in downtown Davenport. To observe social distancing, the ceremony will be limited to family and friends of the recipients as well as select members of the community and partners of the museum.
The museum is open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday by appointment only. For more information, visit www.bixmuseum.org.