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Pittsburgh loses pitch-perfect jazz voice with death of Maureen Budway

| Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, 10:17 a.m.
Maureen Budway
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Maureen Budway

Maureen Budway won fans with her pitch-perfect jazz singing, but guitarist Joe Negri said her “enormous range of talent” was the heart of her work.

“She could do classical, jazz, American Songbook stuff, and she loved Brazilian, too,” Negri said.

Maureen L. Budway of Point Breeze, a renowned singer and adjunct professor of voice at Duquesne University, died Monday, Jan. 12, 2015, after a 20-year fight with breast cancer. She was 51.

Mike Tomaro, head of jazz studies at Duquesne, said she will be difficult to replace because of her jazz and classical skills — and for her overall enthusiasm. She performed in November at a benefit concert for pancreatic cancer research even though her own cancer had begun to weaken her.

“Her spirit was right there,” said Tomaro, who arranged the concert to fight the disease that took his wife, Nancy.

Patty Donohue, an adjunct voice instructor at Duquesne, said Ms. Budway taught her students “how to breathe life in a song.”

Claudia Benack, an associate professor at the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University, knew Ms. Budway and her work for about 25 years. She said her voice was “amazing.”

“She could have had an operatic career. Everything she did was just so perfect, so right.”

Marty Ashby, executive producer at MCG Jazz at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in the North Side, said he saw a need to assemble an album of Ms. Budway's music when he saw the cancer taking her down.

“As I get older, I realize that tomorrow is too late, so we did (the album),” he said.

The album, “Sweet Candor,” will be released at the end of this month.

Donahue said it is important to preserve that voice because “just as you always can tell it is Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald singing, you can always tell it is Mo.”

“I think it shows all the greatness she represented,” he said. “She was not just a singer, she was a musician. The world needs to know about her.”

Her brother, pianist David Budway, who is forging a performance career in New York City, recalled how she tried to take her message to the world when she moved to New York City in 2002. She performed at various clubs in the busy and competitive scene and then decided to return to Pittsburgh in 2005.

“I look back and wish I could have done more,” Budway said. But musicians she met in New York — such as vibist Joe Locke and flutist Hubert Laws — sent their sympathy to him, he said.

Budway said his sister first was inspired by the music of Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt, but became a jazz fan when she heard Fitzgerald's voice.

Her skill as a performer established her in various industries. Besides performing jazz in many settings, she performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony and Westmoreland Symphony orchestras and the River City Brass.

Singer Tania Grubbs said Ms. Budway was respected for her “ability to interpret lyrics at the highest emotional levels” and for the “control and tone of her voice.”

“I will forever be grateful of every note she has ever shared with us,” Grubbs added.

Ms. Budway attended St. Bede's School and Taylor Allderdice High School, during which time she studied at Pittsburgh's Creative and Performing Arts School. She received her bachelor's degree in music performance from Duquesne University and her master's degree in the same discipline from Carnegie Mellon University.

Ms. Budway was the daughter of the late Leo and Rosemary Budway of Point Breeze. She was the sister of David and Kathy Budway, Dawn Bartell and the late Marianne Budway.

Visitation will be 1 to 9 p.m. Thursday in McCabe Bros. Funeral Home, 6214 Walnut St., Shadyside. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Friday in St. Bede Church, 509 S. Dallas Ave., Point Breeze.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7852 or bkarlovits@tribweb.com.

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