Chuck Deardorf was the jazz course director at Cornish College of the Arts for almost forty years and was also Seattle’s “first-call” bassist. He passed away on Sunday as a result of COVID-19 problems.
Deardorf’s wife, singer-songwriter Kelly Harland, claimed that Deardorf became ill with COVID-19 in late August and was particularly susceptible to the virus due to a kidney transplant in 2011 that damaged his immune system. He was admitted to Virginia Mason Medical Center in September when he passed away.
In 1987, Harland and Deardorf married and started making music together, with Deardorf producing and playing on her CDs. It’s been a significant event, she remarked. They both have two kids.
During his time at Cornish College for the Arts, Centrum Port Townsend, jazz clubs, and jam sessions, Deardorf served as a mentor to innumerable aspiring artists.
Deardorf, born in 1954 and raised in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, relocated to the west as a senior and graduated from Central Kitsap High School. Originally a trombonist, he learned to play the electric bass while attending Evergreen State College. Then, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he continued to work on acoustics while performing in the thriving Seattle jazz scene.
In 1978, Deardorf began teaching at Western Washington University. The following year, he began working at Cornish, and from 1986 until 2000, he oversaw the jazz program. His final academic year in a classroom was 2021–2022, but he continued to provide private instruction to Cornish students. In addition, Deardorf was a noted educator who taught at the Center Jazz Workshop in Port Townsend.
Deardorf, a pillar of the Seattle music scene, collaborated with many nationally touring musicians. As well as his outstanding performances and records, he was also highly renowned for his dry sense of humor.