He was revered by musicians everywhere. During his career he played and recorded with Woody Herman, Herb Pomeroy, Kenny Clarke, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Fats Navarro, Oscar Pettiford, Lennie Tristano and Gunther Schuller. Classically trained, he has performed with Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky, Leopold Stokowski and many times with the Boston Pops. John may be heard on more than 30 recordings, many of which are with his own group.
He toured with Herman's First Herd and when he left he moved to NYC where he became a student of Lenny Tristano. When he left Tristano in 1948 he began teaching at the Parkway Music Institute in Brooklyn and at the same time gave private instruction in woodwinds, composition and improvisation. During that period he continued to perform, notably with Charles Mingus for seven years, while at the same time he earned his Masters Degree in Music Education at the Manhattan School of Music.
In 1962, he was recruited by the Berklee School of Music, where he taught for over 35 years. He instructed in the art of composition, ear training and improvisation. His career as an educator has affected the lives of thousands of young musicians worldwide.
John has written 15 texts for music education, some of which contain 22 volumes - each over 100 pages. Many of them contain recordings to demonstrate and play along with. These texts are in many cases the definitive works used in music schools everywhere. For years he also instructed at the Stan Kenton Music Camps.
He has nearly 200 published compositions to his name, is a member of ASCAP and a founding member of the National Association of Jazz Educators, now known as the IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educators). IAJE awarded John a Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1958 he lead his own group at the Newport Jazz Festival and today, he still travels to the West Coast and Europe for performances. Ken Poston had asked him to perform this year on the West Coast highlighting the works of Lennie Tristano. He has also been asked to compile his life's work for inclusion in the American Jazz Museum on the West Coast.
In the late '80s he and his wife have had a home in Sarasota, FL. He immediately began contributing to the Sarasota Jazz Club as a performer, lecturer (Inside Jazz) and as educator, became the instructor of the Riverview High School Jazz Band. The Jazz Club gave him the Satchmo Award during their Jazz Festival this year.
John also wrote his critically acclaimed autobiography Playing It By Ear.
John could do it all, from Dixieland, Swing, Bebop to 3rd Stream Jazz. He has unquestionably been a tower in the field of Jazz Internationally.
He had a quiet sense of humor, and loved to laugh as many of his friends found out. He was a great family man. Always excited to see his children, three daughters and a son plus all the grandchildren. He adored his wife of many years, Ginny (Virginia).
A Memorial Service is planned at St. Thomas Moore Church on Gulfgate Drive in Sarasota on Saturday, May 15th at 8:45 AM.
A scholarship is being set up. Donations may be sent to:
John LaPorta Scholarship Fund
PO Box 20223
Sarasota, FL 34276
All of us who came into contact with John had their lives enriched. He will be sorely missed.