Remembering David Lifton

It is with a very heavy heart that I write of the sudden passing of one of our most cherished volunteers, David Lifton.

I didn’t know David nearly well enough, and only long enough to know he was enjoying his new-found retirement after a long career as a teacher in Portland Public Schools, and that for 30 years he hosted “Jazz in the Afternoon” on alternate Wednesdays on KBOO and also serving for a time as program director.


David came to us recently when he heard about our “Jazz in the Schools” program, volunteering to help me teach children our jazz history program.  He eagerly participated in the classrooms of Astor Middle School and Rosa Parks Elementary, demonstrating great intelligence about the subject matter and kindness with the children. Just two weeks ago we visited Astor and talked with the students about their work, and looked forward to teaching together at Lincoln High School in early January.

I had really hoped to work with David for many years in the future, not only on “Jazz in the Schools,” but, selfishly, because I felt we had great potential to be friends in retirement together.


KBOO will be honoring David on Wednesday, December 30, from noon to 4pm, with a musical memorial tribute. They are inviting anyone who knew David to stop by and talk about him and bring a tune that David would have liked, or that reminds that person of him.

Portland lost a wonderful soul.

The photos above are of David during our recent Jazz in the Schools presentation to students at Rosa Parks Elementary.


Joe Maita
Joe Maita
Joe’s passion for jazz music started as a teenager when first exposed to Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” in a Berkeley record store, ultimately leading to the discovery of Bird, Coltrane, Miles, Monk, Duke, Dizzy and far beyond. This interest in music led to a career in the entertainment software distribution business, where he has been an executive since moving to Portland in 1978. In the ensuing years, Maita Marketing Group has been an important link for creators and distributors of independent music and film to the country’s leading retailers. As publisher of the award-winning website Jerry Jazz Musician, Joe has been a longtime advocate for jazz education on a national level. As PDX Jazz Board President, he has worked to expand the educational initiatives the organization presents, creating the “Jazz in the Schools” program whose goal is to educate Portland-area students about jazz history and the art jazz music influenced, and to ultimately provide them with artistic inspiration.


  1. Emily Lifton says:

    David is/was my big brother and I love seeing this article. The photos of him teaching about jazz are beautiful and he looks so happy. He was mostly always happy and especially listening to and helping others listen and learn about jazz, children the most. The tribute KBOO had was so beautiful and last night I donated to the organizations that were dear to David’s heart, and I gave the biggest donation to PDXJAZZ because his wife Beverly told me he was doing this volunteer work and had some planned for next week. It’s tragic and shocking that he won’t be doing that and I feel so for Joe Maita cause I bet they would’ve become fast friends. David was the best of friends, the best of brothers, the best of fathers, the best of husbands, the best of human beings!! I miss him and love him forever!

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