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Michael Heilpern, Publisher of LAjazz.com, Passes at 63

(Originally Published on Feb 19, 2014)

Michael Heilpern

LAjazz.com is deeply saddened to announce that its founder and publisher, Michael Heilpern, passed away on Saturday, February 15, 2014 at the age of 63 after a brief illness.

Michael was a lifelong jazz aficionado and amateur vibraphonist who took his love for the music that is jazz and combined it with an existing web design and consulting business to found LAjazz.com in 2004. Over the past ten years the site has become the leading resource for jazz music and musicians across Southern California, and is regarded by many as the finest online jazz resource serving a single market in the United States, if not the world.

LAjazz.com was a project of love for Michael, which grew out his long-time appreciation for jazz that dated back to the late 1960's - his first-ever major jazz concert was by saxophonist Charles Lloyd in 1968, and he had the opportunity to rekindle his appreciation at the November, 2013 concert by Lloyd at UCLA Royce Hall, one of the increasingly less frequent occasions where Michael and his lovely wife Linda made the long trip in from Claremont on a weeknight to see a concert in Los Angeles.

Michael had first reserved the LAjazz.com web domain name on a whim in 2000, finally pushing himself to begin the site in earnest in 2004 after learning of yet another concert which happened at a small nearby club the night before he was unaware of until after the fact. At first Michael concentrated mostly on events local to the Claremont area as an informational supplement for friends and acquaintances, some of whom were also present for house concerts he and Linda presented at their home in Claremont.

Over the next several years LAjazz.com rapidly expanded to become the most comprehensive online resource for jazz across Southern California, and the LAjazz.com venue database went from only a few dozen listings to one numbering in the hundreds from Santa Barbara to San Diego and beyond. All the while it remained a side project for Michael's main business, Highpoint, located in a small set of offices in Claremont.

Over the years LAjazz.com added additional features including a musicians database where local musicians could list themselves at no charge, weekly e-mail lists of upcoming shows by region, various inexpensive and no-cost ways for venues and musicians to list and feature their events, and in recent months the ability to add video samples to blogs and news features allowing readers to sample upcoming performers.

I first began using LAjazz.com shortly after it went live as a resource when planning my local club schedule visits. I had already begun, at the request of numerous local musicians, circulating an email list of shows I was planning on attending when I was visiting L.A.. When I decided to relocate to Southern California on a permanent basis in 2007, I offered to add my services as a columnist/blogger on a regular basis to LAjazz.com, as both Michael and I were fundamentally interested in the same basic ideas - to offer more exposure to musicians and clubs featuring jazz across Southern California, and do it before events happened in order to give jazz fans the best chance possible to hear more and better music, to give musicians bigger audiences and more places to play, and to offer club and venue owners the most cost-effective advertising support possible to encourage and expand opportunities for jazz musicians and fans across Southern California.

When I returned to Los Angeles from an extended trip in 2011, Michael and I agreed I would take over most editorial duties for LAjazz.com, leaving him to concentrate on advertising and website development. Since then LAjazz.com has continued to grow in both its scope and impact on the jazz community of Southern California, becoming the comprehensive jazz resource for Greater Los Angeles that it is today.

None of this would have been possible without the vision, perseverance, and genuine labors of love that Michael Heilpern devoted to creating and building LAjazz.com. Michael was much more interested in doing what he perceived was the right thing for Southern California's jazz scene than he was in taking credit for it - few people outside his circle of friends, advertisers, and employees were aware of his role as founder and publisher.

It has been my privilege to know Michael Heilpern these past seven years, and to have numerous chances to spend time discussing music, business, and much more over that time. Michael was a kind and gentle man with a genuine love for jazz and the musicians that play it, devoting countless hours and considerable resources to furthering opportunities to hear, play and promote jazz across Southern California. For that and much, much more, he will be missed by the countless people whose lives he affected in ways large and small, most by people who never had the chance to meet or spend time with him. For that, and much more, I will be in his debt, and he will have my gratitude, forever.

Tom Meek
Editor, LAjazz.com

Michael Heilpern's obituary was published in the Claremont Courier on March 7, 2014 - click here to learn more about Michael Heilpern's life and legacy.