1927 - 1983
Ken Downing was a lifelong Tulsa resident with a national reputation as a bandleader, composer, arranger and performer. In 1956, he established the Tulsa Jazz in Concert Orchestra, which took part in the Starlight Concert Series produced by the Tulsa Musicians Union, and conducted that orchestra for years. The orchestra performed at the Kansas City Jazz Festival in 1972 and Wichita Jazz Festival in 1976.
Downing earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees – the latter in jazz composition – from the University of Tulsa, before studying in New York with Lennie Tristano. He wrote and arranged for the U. S. Army Field Band while stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, then traveled and played professionally in 1953-56 with the bands of Art Mooney, Tommy Alexander and Charlie Barnett.
Downing wrote 35 original compositions and some 400 arrangements for a variety of groups and bands, including the University of North Texas One O’clock Lab Band, the Stan Kenton Orchestra, the Terry Gibbs Band, and various other college and university jazz bands in Texas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma. He wrote for Marilyn Maye and Jana Jay, and played alongside the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Hope, Liza Minelli, Roy Clark and Wayne Newton.