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Michael Whitwell


Michael Playing to audience. 2009.


One of NightJam's original supporters and friend, Michael Whitwell passed away Thur Sept 17th 2009. He was 56. He valiantly fought cancer for 2 years. Please see article link from his home town paper in Santa Rosa, California. We will maintain this webpage as a tribute to our friend Michael.  Michael will very very missed in the Reno/Tahoe area where he played for many years.  He brought such amazing musical joy to so many..we will post any anectotes and comments about Michael soon. You may send them to
or use the GuestBook feature below to post your thoughts or comments.
-Rhumba Rawn Webmaster

Santa Rosa DEMOCRAT article on Michael:






Michael Whitwell 1953-2009

Michael Whitwell, well known trumpet played died Thur Sept 17, 2009.

Edited Argus Courier Article: Published: Wednesday, Jan 16, 2008

When Petaluma jazz musician Peter Welker’s longtime friend and trumpet player Michael Whitwell was diagnosed with cancer, he did what any good friend would do — find a way to help.

“Michael has been a friend of mine for 36 years,” said Welker. “He’s getting radiation right now for cancer. His girlfriend, Catherine Loust-aunau, along with a lot of us in the community are taking him to treatments. His insurance is picking up the tab for treatments, but not for prescriptions, so we thought having a benefit concert would help him.” “We’re hoping to raise between $5,000 and $10,000,” said Welker. “It’s a drop in the bucket, but every bit helps.”

Whitwell, a Petaluma resident, is an accomplished musician who has played lead trumpet for a number of big names such as Natalie Cole and Ray Charles. He’s also been in a number of films and worked as a stand-in for various actors. “He even made friends with Kirk Douglas and gave him a trumpet lesson during the filming of ‘Diamonds,’” said Welker. “He used to wake Kirk Douglas up in his trailer (on the movie set) by playing ‘Reveille.’ Michael is quite a character.”

Welker and Whitwell met in the early 1970s. “I had just moved to Petaluma and was playing with Santana’s band,” said Welker. “We had just done a concert and was sound asleep. Then this skinny, 16-year-old kid came to the door with his horn case asking if I gave lessons. I said no. He befriended me, and him being a likable guy, I ended up teaching him for two years. He’s gone on to do really well and has played with a lot of really great people.”

Whitwell was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. “It started with his kidney and metastasized to five other areas,” said Welker. “Radiation knocked out about 85 percent of the cancer, but there are still areas on the spine that the radiation will hopefully knock out. Despite all this, he’s in very good spirits. He did a recording session with me three weeks ago and he hadn’t played in two-and-a-half months. I told him that he should just rest and take care of himself, but he told me that he hadn’t missed a session in 35 years and didn’t want to start now.”

From Sonoma SUN Article:

Michael Whitwell is described as an amazing musician and human being with a heart of gold. He spent 10 years in Reno as the first chair trumpet in the main showroom of Harrah's, and has perfored with the Danny Marona Show, Emmy Lou Harris, The Temptations, B.B. King, The Four Tops, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Peter Welker and many more famous artists. Most recently Michael joined the popular North Bay band, Crossfire.

UPDATE: From Petuluma Argus Courier Jan 30, 2008 Raising funds: A concert and auction benefit to raise funds to help with the medical expenses of trumpet player Michael Whitwell was a big success and raised about $7,000, according to fellow musician Peter Welker, who organized the event. An estimated 400 people visited the back room of Graziano’s Ristorante between 4:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 20 to contribute, bid on auction items and listen to music by the likes of Crossfire, Gator Beat, the Peter Welker Sextet and the Gary Vogensen All-Stars. Whitwell, who was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago, does not have insurance to cover his medical prescriptions. “It was gratifying to see the community turn out and support Michael,” said Welker.

Original NightJam BIO

A native of Northern California Michael Stephen Whitwell has been in the Reno/Tahoe area since 1982. One of his first idols was Herb Alpert. He once was a race track bugler before moving to Reno. He played the first chair trumpet in the Brian Farnon orchestra at Harrah's Tahoe for many years.

Michael has appeared at many area jazz events and fund raising benefits. He toured with HBO Japan with Narada Michael Walden and The Weather Report. Michael can be found playing on many CDs as a studio musician.

He is involved in all media as a professional model, appearing in many commercial and print ads. Other bands he has been with include Huey Lewis, Mickey Thomas, Big Tiny Little and Sam Butera. Also Herb Pomeroy, Ray Pizzi, Norton Buffalo, Little Anthony Don Rickles, and the Temptations. Additionally he has appeared with Bill Cosby, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr. Michael toured many years with the Danny Marona show.

Michael has appeared as a stand-in for many locally made movies like Cobb, Waking up in Reno, and The Cooler. He found time to give Kirk Douglas a trumpet lesson during the filming of Diamonds with Dan Akroyd looking on! He also made an appearance in an episode of the television show, Nash Bridges.

Michael has played with the Reno Philharmonic and the Sacramento Pops. As a teacher, Michael has been a middle and high school band director, chamber ensemble conductor, university trumpet professor and a private music teacher.

He was the President and served on the Board of Directors of the Reno Musicians' Union Local 368.

Bio supplied by the Artist. (C) Copyright 2003/2005/2008 Checkmate Studio. All Rights Reserved


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