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Memorial services set for Idaho jazz musician Paul Tillotson

Jazz pianist Paul Tillotson, a South Junior High and Borah High School grad, organized and performed at annual benefit concerts to benefit the Borah-Paul Tillotson Scholarship. Tillotson died after a long battle with cancer on Friday, June 17, 2016.
Jazz pianist Paul Tillotson, a South Junior High and Borah High School grad, organized and performed at annual benefit concerts to benefit the Borah-Paul Tillotson Scholarship. Tillotson died after a long battle with cancer on Friday, June 17, 2016. Idaho Statesman file

Friends and family will celebrate the life of jazz pianist and composer Paul Tillotson at two services.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m., Saturday, June 25, at Carol’s Dollar Mountain Lodge, 82 Elkhorn Road, Sun Valley, with a reception afterward from 4 to 6 p.m.

A memorial Mass will happen at 11 a.m. Tuesday, June 28, at Sacred Heart Church, 811 S. Latah St., Boise, with a reception to follow.

Everyone is welcome at all the events. In lieu of flowers, you can make a donation to the Paul Tillotson Music Scholarship at Boise Schools Foundation, 8169 W. Victory Road., Boise, 83709, or to the St. Luke’s MSTI Colon Cancer Detection and Education Fund at 190 E. Bannock St., Boise, 83712.

Tillotson, died Friday, June 17, of complications from colon cancer. He was 51.

A gifted musician known for his sunny disposition, energetic stage presence and his ability to make a piano swing, Paul Tillotson died in the morning surrounded by family at his home in Ketchum.

Tillotson lived his life like he approached his music — full-throttle forward.

Tillotson grew up in Boise, playing around town as a teenager with the Young Jazz Lions, a group he started with singer and saxophonist Curtis Stigers, bassist Rod Wray and drummer Jim Kassis. He studied at the piano bench of legendary jazz pianist Gene Harris, who had retired in Boise in the 1970s.

Tillotson moved to New York City in his 20s on Harris’ advice and pursued a career as a jazz musician. He worked with many of the top names in the music business, composed more than 100 songs and recorded 10 albums.

Anytime Tillotson would return home to Idaho to visit his family, it was an event. He would pull his musician friends together and pack the Lock, Stock and Barrel for a week or more of performances. He would donate his time to raise funds for Catholic Charities, Reach for Recovery and his alma mater Borah High School’s music scholarship program.

He moved back to Idaho in 2010 with his wife, Jane, settling in the Sun Valley area, where he was a regular at the Sun Valley Lodge’s Duchin Lounge and at venues in Boise. The couple have two children.

Tillotson stepped out of the spotlight when he was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in 2012. After more than a year of intense treatment, he was considered cancer-free by 2013. But the disease returned last year.

“Paul has been my friend since we were teenagers,” Stigers said. “He was my buddy, my collaborator, my brother. He taught me so much about music and about living. Paul lived his life with all his heart: madly, loudly and deeply. Today my heart is with Paul’s beloved and loving wife, Jane, and their two beautiful daughters, his dear mother, Mildred, and his whole family. Good night, my brother. I miss you.”

Read Paul Tillotson’s obituary here.

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