Paul Studer biography - Paul Studer 1950s Jazz Photos

Paul Studer was born in 1924 in Bienne, Switzerland, to a Swiss father and an Italian mother. His brother Charlie was born 4 years later. His father died when Paul was 6 years old, and his mother remarried 9 years later. The family moved to Italy where he completed school and went on to the University of Pavia. While at Pavia, he received his Doctorate and did research in pharmacology. In the early 1950s he moved to Ticino, Switzerland and worked as a pharmacy manager. He was devoted to his mother, and on weekends he regularly went to visit her until she died in 1953.


Studer first discovered jazz as a teen while his family lived in Rome during World War II, where they had a neighbor that listened to the BBC Radio station for news. The station frequently featured jazz music, particularly that of Louis Armstrong. Studer was fascinated by this unique genre of music which he had never heard before. His interest in jazz burgeoned through the years, and in 1953, he founded the International Jazz Club. The first European periodical about jazz was “Bulletin du Hot Club de France”,  published by Hugues Panassie since 1933, one of the founders of the Hot Club de France. Studer wanted to facilitate communication about jazz with the rest of the world, and Panassie helped by letting Studer devote pages of the “Bulletin” to the International Jazz Club. Another of the jazz adventures he had while still in Europe was he was sold a saxophone by Mezz Mezzrow.



In the winter of 1956-57, Mr. Studer decided to realize a longtime dream of his, and immersed himself in the New York jazz scene. He packed up his belongings and took the small cargo ship “Frontenac” overseas. Among his other essentials, he brought his entire collection of shellac 78 records. When Mr. Studer embarked on this journey, he did not intend to emigrate. He wished to meet the people who had been playing jazz, his acquired obsession. But one thing led to another, and he eventually became a citizen and has been living a full life as an American citizen since.


Studer first moved to Brooklyn, then later to the East Village. While in Brooklyn, he went to a Louis Armstrong concert, where he went backstage to meet Mr. Armstrong, with whom he formed a friendship. Over time, he visited Armstrong in his home and photographed him backstage, in the recording studio, and in other familiar settings. Jeann “Roni” Failows, a friend of Mr. Armstrong and his wife Lucille was also backstage after the Brooklyn concert. Jeann and Paul hit it off and dated for several years, while Studer still lived in New York.

Studer and Faillows went to many jazz events together. Studer formed a friendship with Willie “the Lion” Smith and he was frequently invited to Smith’s home. Smith invited him to many events, including to the to the Connecticut Jazz Festival in Hartford. Studer and Failows were privileged to ride in the Duke Ellington bus to the festival. He was in awe to be on the bus with all those famous jazz musicians. Mr. Studer also had the pleasure and privilege of meeting all sorts of other jazz musicians, their families, and fans on various occasions in New York City. He always went to these events with Ms. Failows and often with Mr. Smith. His experience of all the visits and events was characterized by an atmosphere of celebration, friendliness and humor. This environment shows through in the vibrancy of his photographs. It was a lively time and place to be, and Mr. Studer felt honored to take part in it.


In the late 1950s Mr. Studer left the New York jazz scene, but not his passion for it. He married Rachel Durand and had two daughters, Elizabeth and Jessica. He resumed his career in research pharmacology at Wallace laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey. Earlier, while still in Pavia, Italy, and later in Princeton, he had noticed that there was a fundamental flaw in the dissemination of science information. Scientific information was accumulating faster than it was able to be shared with the rest of the world. This became a focus of his research, and eventually his career evolved from pharmacology to information dissemination, much of which involved work with early computers, during the 1960s and 1970s. After Princeton he moved to Arlington, Virginia, to work at the Army research office as a project supervisor.  Later he moved to Philadelphia, where he worked on a research fellowship for the Advancement of Medical Communication, commonly know as a “think tank”. When that program was cut, he moved to Geneseo, NY to teach in the university library school at SUNY Geneseo. While in Geneseo, he played clarinet and washboard in the local string band, featuring American folk music and its roots. Through the years he also practiced jazz clarinet and jammed with other musicians. The library school program was cut when he was just 55, so he took the opportunity to study art in the university art department, where he received acclaim from his professors. Previously he had been painting with different media, drawing, and drawing cartoons. In his studies, he expanded his skills to painting with watercolors, oils, and acrylics, jewelry making, and etching. To this day he specializes in painting with acrylics. Today, Mr. Studer lives in Oregon with his two daughters and their families. At age 92 he is still staying creative and going strong.


Paul Studer Memorabilia