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A conversation with celebrated jazz vocalist Denise Thimes as her Mother’s Day concert approaches

Proceeds from Denise Thimes’ performance this Sunday at UMSL’s Touhill Performing Arts Center will help to support the Mildred Thimes Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
Proceeds from Denise Thimes’ performance this Sunday at UMSL’s Touhill Performing Arts Center will help to support the Mildred Thimes Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.";s:

Much like Mother’s Day itself, Denise Thimes’ benefit concert that takes place during the annual celebration of moms has grown into a recurring and anticipated event.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked with the jazz great about this year’s iteration, which is set for Sunday evening at the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Touhill Performing Arts Center.

It will benefit the Mildred Thimes Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research. Thimes founded and named the foundation in remembrance of her mother, who died of the disease in 1997.

“When your loved one is stricken with [cancer], it has a domino effect on the family,” the vocalist said. “Although my father was the breadwinner for our home, you would have thought that it was my mother, because the morale and everything in our home was just completely lost.”

Thimes, who has recently been performing regularly in Chicago and made her New York City debut this past March, described her mother as “a doting mom” who was never judgmental and “always there to give us advice through our bad times and of course our wonderful times and our rewarding times.”

“She was a very soft-spoken woman, and she always was in the background of everything because her children and her husband were in the limelight, so to speak,” Thimes added, “and she was just the one that we could depend on to keep things going for us.”

The Mother’s Day concert presents fresh selections of music as well as some new performers each year, but the continuing theme binds everything together in a unique way.

“There are other people there that are bringing their moms, and that’s a special day that we celebrate their mothers,” Thimes explained. “But we also know there are people there that are celebrating the lives of their mothers that they no longer have. And so it’s a lot of things that’s going on, and that plays a part in the music, and it also plays very heavy on my performance.”

Along with Thimes, featured musicians in the concert will include Matthew Whitaker – a rising-star, 17-year-old pianist – as well as saxophonist Antonio Hart and tenor Jermaine Smith.

“He’s really making a mark for himself,” Thimes said of Whitaker. “He is an extraordinary young jazz pianist who happens to be blind, and we’re so happy to have him back.”

Listen to the full conversation, plus several clips from the 2008 album, “Denise Thimes: Live in the Lou,” here:

Related Event

What: Denise Thimes & Friends Special Mother’s Day Concert
When: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, May 13, 2018
Where: Touhill Performing Arts Center at UMSL (1 University Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63121)

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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