Josh Duffee and Carol Schaefer are two Davenport men who are passionate about one of most famous people ever born in Davenport.
Duffee and Schaefer 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.
The Bix Beiderbecke Museum and World Archives (at the lower level of River Music Experience, 2nd and Main streets) announced Duffee and Schaefer as winners, chosen by the museum’s board.
Bix museum director Nathaniel Kraft said there aren’t two more deserving people to receive this honor, as long-time stewards of Bix’s legacy, dedicating much of their time to keeping Bix alive, not only in the Quad-Cities, but around 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 the 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.
Kraft says for the virtual fest, Duffee performed with his band and helped organize it again.
“Even outside of the festival, he was helping raise money for it, doing livestreams, bringing awareness to the museum while he was teaching people all over Facebook about Bix.”
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, Kraft says Schaefer dedicated the past four years to getting the museum to what it is today. He spearheaded the search and hiring of Kraft, the museum’s first director, last January. Since then, Schaefer has taken on the role of advisor and continues to help the museum with projects.
“He was instrumental in building the museum. He had built many buildings here in Davenport, like Palmer College, he had been involved in a lot of building for that college. So, when he joined the board when they were beginning to create the museum, he had been one of the architects that designed the museum itself - where to put it, things like that. So he’d been helping the Society in its logistics for many years. He’s kind of the reason why it’s built.”
The award is typically presented at the festival, but was postponed due to this year’s event going virtual. Normally, they give one award each year - last year’s recipient was Muriel Voss, past president of the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Society.
“The board decided that these two actually really deserved it this year. We have other more deserving people we could pick next year. With everything that Carol and Josh have done, particularly even this year, it didn’t feel right not to pick two people this year instead of one.”
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, on August 6, 1931.
A formal Bix Lives award ceremony will be held on Saturday, November 14 at the RME’s Redstone Room 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.