Jeffry Hugh Eckels, age 63 of Denton, Texas passed away on July 3, 2020. He was born in Ashland, Wisconsin on June 15, 1957. Jeffry was a loving father, a devoted son, and a dear brother. He grew up in Bayfield, Wisconsin, and Danville, Virginia with his family of artists, professors, and musicians. He married Melissa Knitter in 2002 and they had two daughters–Ella Lucille and Bobbi Camille. His daughters could often be found dancing at his performances or playing music with him at his home. He cared for his mother Lucille Eckels who lived with him each winter. Lucille loved to listen to Jeffry’s music, and she often attended his performances in Denton and Dallas.
Jeffry was an accomplished Jazz and Classical musician and performer. He was a double Bass virtuoso who played in chamber orchestras, performed in jazz groups, contributed to many recorded albums, and performed in his church’s worship band. He was also a contributing member of the International Society of Bassists.
He received a Bachelor’s Degree in performance from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. He continued to study music and performance during his Master’s program at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. During this time he began teaching and composing music. He wrote many pieces for ensembles including the “Eckels’ Ethos” and “Lower Convergence.” In 2003, he and his family moved to Denton, Texas where he was a Teaching Fellow at the University of North Texas (UNT). There, he worked on his Doctorate of Musical Arts and studied both Classical Performance and Jazz. He participated in UNT’s One O’clock Band and directed the Five O’clock band in 2009. His students remember him as a kind, encouraging, and non-judgmental teacher.
He worked with many universities as a professor of music and bass. He taught music courses, led ensembles, and taught at jazz camps and workshops all over the country. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point and Whitewater, Universidad San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, University of North Texas, and at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Jeffry was a true performer. His favorite part of being a musician was collaborating with his colleagues on stage and performing for an audience. His soulful playing, his attention to detail, and his infectious positive energy will be missed by the music community. During his time performing, he played live jazz for over 15 years on the “Whad’Ya Know? Show” that was broadcast over Wisconsin Public Radio. He was a guest bassist in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. He also performed across the globe in Boston, New York City, Madison, New Orleans, Ecuador, Peru, Thailand, Spain, and the Dominican Republic.
He is survived by his daughters Ella Eckels and Bobbi Eckels, and their mother Melissa Knitter. He is also survived by his sister Deanna Eckels (Pete Skoro), his brother Steven Eckels, his niece Chessa Eckels Anderson (Riley Mitchell), and his nephew Tyler Eckels. He was preceded in death by his parents Robert Eckels and Lucille Eckels.
Donations in Jeffry’s name can be made to the Denton County LOSS Team at dentoncountylossteam.org or 940.205.6706