Saturday, May 5, 2012

Trumpeter Jane Sager dies at 97

The current issue of The Overture (Local 47, AF of M, May 2012) announced that trumpeter Jane Sager has died.  The article was written by her long-time friend, Norma Petersen. Jane Sager was born in Milwaukee June 4, 1914, and played violin and piano as a child. she supported herself while attending Stephens College by playing trumpet.  After college, she moved to Chicago to study with Edward Lewellyn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; with the Platinum Blondes of America, touring Cuba; with Rita Rio’s all-girl band; and with Ada Leonard on USO tours. She also played with Peggy Gilbert, and with Ina Ray Hutton on TV in the 1950s. In addition, she played in Johnny Richards’ (1911–1968), a.k.a. Johnny Cascales, orchestra during World War II, as well as a CBS Studio band in Hollywood; with the house band for the Casino Gardens; and with Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra. Jane started her own all-girl band and comedy show called “The Frivolous Five,” with other veteran women musicians. She played several times on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and with Jack Benny’s Las Vegas and Tahoe comedy shows. Jane Sager describes her role in the creation of Ada Leonard’s All American Girls Band and her USO tours in chapter 8 of Sherri Tucker, Swing Shift: All-Girl” Bands in the 1940s (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000).

In her August 1979 women-in-music column in The Overture, Peggy Gilbert wrote about Jane: “…There were many top musicians in her [Ina Ray Hutton’s] orchestras, including trumpeter Jane Sager, who has not only played with the best of the men’s bands around the country but has taught them how to play their instrument and is now considered one of the finest trumpet teachers and coaches in the country.”

Jane Sager had a music studio at Highland and Selma near Hollywood Boulevard for many years and taught some of today’s best trumpeters. According to Ann Patterson, “Jane was a good lead trumpet player, a good jazz player, worked with well-known male bands as well as top female bands, and has had little recognition considering her talents. She was also an amazing teacher. The best in Hollywood were trained by her when they were young and ‘repaired’ by her when they were seasoned pros with problem chops.” On January 11, 2002 Jane Sager and Peggy Gilbert were honored with Lil Hardin Armstrong Jazz Heritage Awards by the International Association for Jazz Education at their 29th annual convention in Long Beach. [The Overture, February 2002, p. 24]. I took this picture of Jane and Peggy that day, receiving the award from Ann Patterson, shown here with other attendees.  For the last seven years Jane lived in Morro Bay, California.

Rest in peace, dear Jane. You were brave; you were bold. You won’t be forgotten!


  1. Jane Sager was my trumpet teacher in high school. What a great player-teacher! My lessons were only $5 for a half hour, which usually became an hour because she would tell me stories of playing jazz in Chicago. We would sight read duets and she would assign studies from Arbans. All the best high school student trumpet players studied with her. Her great teaching inspired others: Lester Smith - Trumpet with Earth Wind & Fire, Ted Murdock - Trumpet & Soloist with Ray Charles, and of course Herb Alpert back then with The Tiajuana Brass and now A&M Records.
    Jane created a spoof on the Tiajuana Brass by creating an “Old Bag Lady Band” - as she described it to me. This all lady combo dressed up as elderly grand mother’s with big hats. They walked onto the stage as if they were going to play something only a grandmother would play, but instead, played a Tiajuana Brass song with a transition into a hot Dixieland-jazz number! These ladies all had great chops and surprised everyone with their entertaining talent. This band is featured on one of the Jack Benny Shows.
    I was lucky to later study with Malcom McNab, Jimmy Stamp, and Claude Gordon, but I will never forget how much I enjoyed playing trumpet because of Jane Sager.
    Gary Lee

  2. Jane Sager was my great aunt. As a child I remember Herb Albert coming to the house and they would have a jam session in her studio on Selma Ave. She taught him to play trumpet. She inspired many people

  3. I am the author of CAMP COOKE AND VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, 1941-1966. On March 16, 1942, Ada Leonard and her All-American Girl orchestra, gave two evening performances for soldiers at Camp Cooke. In the orchestra
    were Jane Sager, Edith Lawrence, Brownie Slade, Midge Goodrich, Joann Koupis, Mildred Cobb, Connie Van, Bernice Little, Dez Thompson, Clara Friend, and Ethel Button. What a marvelous group of musicians!