Aug. 08--GREENSBORO -- Craig Whittaker, a company founder also known for his saxophone talent and his kindness, died on Saturday after a long battle with cancer.
"He was a superb musician," said John Salmon, a UNCG piano professor who performed with Whittaker. "But more than that, he was one of the sweetest, kindest human beings I've ever known."
Whittaker, 55, had served on the UNCG music faculty for 15 years. He directed its jazz studies program while teaching jazz and classical saxophone. He also taught at Guilford College and Elon University.
He performed with entertainers such as Tony Bennett and Louie Bellson.
For several years, Whittaker was musical director of the USAir Jazz Orchestra, guiding the big band during performances in the United States and Europe.
In 1999, Whittaker decided to change careers, Salmon said. He attended law school and founded Environmental Solutions Group, a Greensboro company that provides indoor air-quality assessments and energy-use analysis for homeowners and businesses. His company earned several awards for its work, his wife, Jinny, said.
But he continued to play music. His performances included gigs with Salmon, with the Camel City Jazz Orchestra in Winston-Salem, and with his wife, also a saxophonist.
Salmon and the Camel City Jazz Orchestra will be among those performing at a celebration of Whittaker's life at 3 p.m. Sunday at Magnolia Manor, 8818 W. Market St., Colfax.
Jinny Whittaker suggests people dress comfortably and bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on outside.
As he prepared the music for the celebration, Salmon listened to a recording of a 1996 concert that he and Whittaker performed with bassist John Brown.
"There was a soulfulness in his performance and a synergy among the three of us that was kind of surreal," Salmon said.
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