Duncan P. Schiedt

Duncan Preston Schiedt

92, passed away on March 12, 2014. He was an internationally known figure in jazz circles, having authored four books on the subject and was a photographer of jazz players from his teens. A native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, Duncan became a professional photographer and film maker during his working years, and specialized in the making of 16mm color and sound movies for nonprofit clients such as universities, hospitals and charitable organizations. The products were used in fundraising and general promotion.

He was cameraman, director, editor or producer of over 100 such films. In addition, his early career encompassed portrait, fashion, advertising and theatrical photography. He operated a commercial studio in New York after his Air Force service in WW2, and became a documentary photographer for the 1946 Bikini atom test series, known as Operation Crossroads. A sense of adventure led him to a role in two subsequent series of test in the Marshall Islands, Operation Greenhouse (1948) and operation Sandstone (1950). During this time, Duncan was engaged in writing his first book, "Ain't Misbehaving", a biography of the famed Harlem jazz pianist Fats Waller, who was Duncan's musical idol.

Following his marriage to Betty Benjamin in 1950, there was a relocation to Hollywood for some eight months, where Duncan worked at the Atomic Energy Commission's film laboratory. Later he and his bride decided to relocate in Indianapolis, to where his parents, Jacob and Kitty Schiedt, and sister Phyllis had moved from their home in Larchmont, New York. In the Hoosier capital, he found outlets for his talents at the Indianapolis Engraving Company, Russell R. Benson Productions, and, finally at Pictorial Publishers, where as a writer and photographer, he continued his interest in motion picture production.

Almost upon his arrival in Indianapolis, Duncan became acquainted with local musicians and jazz record collectors, who were relatively few in number, but equally dedicated to the music. He, along with two other individuals, formed the Indianapolis Jazz Club in early 1956, and organization that celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006. The Club has served over the years as a meeting ground for lovers of "classic American jazz", giving periodic concerts which supported both local and visiting musicians. His deep interest in jazz history led to several in-depth articles for the Club's "Jazz Notes" paper, and eventually a second book, The Jazz State of Indiana, which he self-published in 1977. This work, originally intended as a tribute to largely unsung Hoosier musicians of the past, turned out to be an international hit among jazz enthusiasts as it revealed little known details about the early histories of later-famous musicians and personnel of recording bands that had largely been mysteries. It also provided a narrative as to how jazz music developed in a typical Midwestern state in the early 20th century, Indiana's experience matching that of many other states at the time. The book has had a long life, and remains a valuable reference to later historians and authors. It is currently in print, having been reissued by the Indiana Historical Society.

Two other works bear Duncan's name: Twelve Lives in Jazz, a profusely illustrated volume of essays on a dozen jazz giants of the past, from Jelly Roll Morton and Bessie Smith to Charlie Parker; and deluxe book published by Indiana University Press in 2004, Jazz in Black and White, which presented many of Duncan's own images of jazz players taken over a 65-year period. This book received the Silver Award in the best music book of the year category, courtesy of Foreword Magazine, a prominent book trade publication.

In addition to his personal photography, Duncan diligently collected historic jazz images, rescuing many from oblivion, and made his files available to editors, researchers, authors and various media for use in education and entertainment. He was a prominent contributor to Ken Burns' TV series, Jazz, and had his images used on sets of such TV programs as Grey's Anatomy, the Young Indiana Jones, and the Hollywood film Spiderman 3. He mounted photography exhibitions in many museums and galleries in the US and, with his camera, was a familiar sight at numerous jazz festivals.

Besides his membership in the Indianapolis Jazz Club, Duncan enjoyed his associations with friends in the Portfolio, the Pioneer Broadcasters of Indiana and the Indianapolis Literary Club.

His beloved wife Betty, with whom he had two children, passed away in 1987. He is survived by his son, Cameron, Marietta, Georgia; daughter, Leslie Michel, San Antonio; and two grandsons, Kalen and David. His dear sister, Phyllis Mendenhall, Indianapolis, also survives, as does his long-time friend and companion, Liz Kirk. There will be no funeral services. Guestbook at http://www.matthewsmortuary.com

Funeral Home

Matthews Mortuary
690 E 56th Street Brownsburg, IN 46112-7775
(317) 852-4296

Published in the The Indianapolis Star on Mar. 14, 2014