A heartfelt celebration of life was held on Saturday to honor the memory of Cass Preston, a beloved Tucsonan and renowned music icon who passed away on April 4.
Preston was born and raised in Tucson, attending Dunbar Elementary during the segregation of Jim Crow before later graduating from Tucson High School.
Cass would continue his education at the University of Arizona, where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education.
Saturday’s event paid tribute to Preston’s profound legacy that has touched the lives of many.
“My dad was a very loving man,” said Karinka Preston, his daughter.
The Dunbar Pavilion was filled with an atmosphere of celebration as family, friends, and fans of Cass Preston gathered to reminisce about his life and the mark he left behind.
“He was always kind, quiet but very nice,” shared an attendee during the commemoration.
Beyond his musical prowess, Preston was a beacon of Tucson’s cultural heritage.
As a lifelong Tucsonan, Karinka Preston revealed that his passion for music began at an early age, eventually leading him to become an accomplished jazz musician whose soulful melodies captivated audiences.
“He started when he was fifteen years old with motivation from a family guest Loui Armstrong. And kind of gave my dad a few pointers,” she said.
In his post-college years, Preston was teaching physical education at Pueblo High School for over 20 years while he honed his craft as a trumpet player.
Preston’s talents would become well-known during his years with his band, Cass and the Individuals.
His dedication to music and mastery of his craft earned him the Tucson Jazz Society’s first Lifetime Achievement Award, a milestone that came as no surprise to his lifelong friend and fellow musician, Marlo Green.
“He had a flavor of Nat King Cole in his trumpet playing, and the way he improvised was way above average,” Green remarked.
Preston enjoyed a long and remarkable journey before passing away at the age of 93.
While his physical presence may be absent, his music continues to resonate through the countless lives he touched.
However, perhaps even more profound was his loving spirit and the love he had for those around him that will live on forever.
“His loving spirit and that he taught all of us to find love and joy in other people,” said Karinka.