Velzoe Brown, a longtime Santa Cruz resident, passed away peacefully in her home on May 4 at the age of 101.
Velzoe grew up with musical parents, Metta Amelia Fouke Brown and Roy C. Brown, on a farm in Omaha Nebraska. She followed her mother's example and learned to play the piano in the family parlor at a very early age.
At the age of 16 she began her professional musical career as a trombonist with the Pollyanna Syncapaters in 1926. The Pollyannas traveled from New York to Canada to California in their Studebaker, playing dance music in ballrooms and vaudeville theaters across the country. Velzoe was self taught and was able to play trombone, classical piano, flute, drums, tenor sax and keyboard.
After working as a traveling musician through the Depression and beyond, Velzoe settled in Santa Cruz in 1961. In her home, surrounded by her gardens, she was an inspiration to everybody who knew her. Musicians came from all over the country to have the opportunity to visit and "jam" with her.
Her multi-generation swing band, The Upbeats, performed throughout the Monterey Bay area at dances, eldercare facilities, concerts and private parties for many years.
Here in Santa Cruz, on Sept 8th, 2002, Velzoe was awarded the first Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement by the Jazz Society of Santa Cruz County. This was just one of many prestigious honors bestowed on Velzoe over her many years.
Velzoe is survived by her brother Bob Brown of San Luis Obispo, her nephew William King Judith and various nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers Charles and Jay and her sister Ruth.
A Celebration of Velzoe's Life will be announced at a later date.
Please visit www.pacificgardenschapel.com to sign Velzoe's guest book and leave messages for her family.