Kurt Bestor

Jan 11, 2021

Kurt Bestor
Credit Kurt Bestor

Sunday Night Jazz Showcase

Program #312 (January 10 at 8:00 p.m.)

Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Kurt Bestor benefited from his families musical inclinations. His grandfather played trumpet in many popular mid-western big bands and a great uncle played trombone in Jack Benny’s band and was also a prodigious composer (having penned “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf ” and the commercial J..E..L..L..O!).

When he took up piano as a child, Bestor was encouraged by his mother to improvise with his imagination. “I’d get restless practicing and my mom would sit down at the piano with me and say "Play something that sounds like a sunrise.’” Thus was born his fascination with the relationship between music and visual imagery.

While enrolled in college, Bestor began writing music for student films, gradually moving onto documentaries and eventually into the feature film score arena. In1987, he was one of only six recipients of a fellowship at the Sundance Film Institutes Film Composer Lab. There, he studied with master film composers Dave Grusin, Alan Silvestri and David Raksin. Even while Bestor’s scoring career flourished, leading to such projects as music for the National Geographic documentary on the sinking of the Andrea Doria, second large screen film “Sedona,” the feature film “The Ghosts of Dickens’ Past,” Warner Brothers animated film “Scarecrow,” and even several Playstation video games, he expanded his career to include original recordings and increasingly popular concerts.

In spring of 2000, Bestor’s easy-going manner and rapport with audiences were showcased in the PBS concert filming of his “Innovators” album, with Sam Cardon. The nationwide special was so successful that a follow-up “Innovators II: Keepers of the Flame” was produced for release in conjunction with the 2002 Olympic celebrations.

In August 2001, Bestor’s composing and conducting talents were highlighted when his powerful “Saints on the Seas” oratorio was performed in major European cities against the backdrop of some of the world’s most beautiful concert halls. Bestor conducted the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Orchestra and Choir in this momentous orchestral work.

In 2002, Bestor had the distinctive opportunity to conduct his music (co-written with fellow collaborator Sam Cardon) during the Closing Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He was also honored to have carried the Olympic torch through Salt Lake City.

Among his most unique projects is a classical commission by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra—a piece written for choir, orchestra, children’s choirs, and 500 bell ringers commemorating the rededication of the Utah State Capitol and another commissioned piece dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Assassination which was premiered in March in Dallas. Bestor also donates a significant amount of time and resources to aid philanthropic causes.

He performs as many as two concerts per month to raise money for such causes as Oulessebougou/ Utah Alliance, Ascend, Primary Children’s Hospital, Utah Animal Adoption, among many others. When not composing, Bestor and his Kenyan- born wife, Petrina travel to visit family in Africa and in 2012 climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

(provided by Kurt Bestor)