Jazz musician inducted into Alumni Hall of Fame

Madison Martin

Previous inductees into the Alumni Hall of Fame have been known and respected by past students and colleagues as creating an impact on their lives both on the Hill and beyond.

David “Doc” Livingston, one of three inductees to the Hall of Fame this year, is one such man. His past students remark that he left an impression on those he came in contact with, and contributed something special to the jazz program here at WKU, with a list of accomplishments and performances that make him one of the most celebrated musical alum. 

“(He) has had a major impact on our university, community, region and state,” Joseph Stites, tuba and euphonium instructor and director of the Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble, said in an email.  

According to his plaque, displayed on the Music “Wall of Fame,” Livingston graduated from WKU with his Bachelor of Science degree in 1951.

 Livingston is a keyboard and woodwind player, and played for dance bands as early as his high school days. 

He was transferred from the Army infantry to the Air Force so he could play with the 4th Corps Band, and afterwards began to teach. 

He filled music faculty positions in different Kentucky schools, such as band director and supervisor of music. 

He then came back to the Hill as a music professor for the last 15 years of his teaching career. Here, he taught woodwinds, theory and composition and acted as the director of bands from 1965 to 1969. He was a part of the Gemini dance band and had the opportunity to perform with jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Dave Brubeck, as well as tour with Billy Vaughn. 

“His musical talent is nothing short of genius,” Marshall Scott said. “His ability to improvise, in a jazz sense, is just uncanny.”

Scott, trumpet instructor and Jazz Band director at WKU, had personal experience working with Livingston. They played ’40s-style music together at private dances and country clubs, with Scott on the trumpet and Livingston on the saxophone or keyboard.

“Playing with him was a real treat for me,” Scott said. “(I) learned a lot of tunes by working with him; how to improvise, and how to entertain.”

Not only is he a prestigious musician, but Scott said he is outgoing and very much so a people-person. 

“It just seemed like he knew everybody,” Scott said. “We’d go somewhere and we’d be between tunes and we’d be waiting to start the next tune, and he’d be in conversation with somebody he hadn’t seen in 20 years or 30 years or whatever.”

Aside from his musical talents, Stites said Livingston knew how to kick back, roll with the punchlines and tell a few of his own.

“(Livingston) is an enthusiastic teller of jokes and an incorrigible punster, but mostly he just loves to laugh,” Stites wrote.

He will be inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame on Friday, Nov. 7.