Jesse McGuire

JESSE McGUIRE

Trumpeter and Jazz Singer

Written By Debra Gelbart
April 2020

Trumpeting Success

Musician famous for rendition of national anthem supports Seena Magowitz Foundation.

Dr. Jesse McGuire has a reputation that precedes him. He’s played the Star-Spangled Banner on the trumpet in front of three U.S. presidents. And before the start of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. And at Game 6 of the NBA Championship series in 1993, along with countless other public appearances.

Quite by happenstance, his rendition of the national anthem on the trumpet has become the most famous in the world, and the Seena Magowitz Foundation is lucky enough to count him and his wife Donna as unwavering supporters.

He’s also a phenomenal jazz singer. Jesse McGuire grew up in Ypsilanti, Michigan and attended a large church in Detroit. “In church was where I cut my jazz and gospel music teeth,” he said. Jesse didn’t choose the trumpet when he was in elementary school and rented an instrument from the school. “The trumpet was the only one left that other kids hadn’t picked,” he said. “I had wanted to play the snare drums and make some noise, but my only opportunity was the trumpet if I wanted to play in the school band.”

In the late 1980s, when Jesse heard singer Marvin Gaye’s singular version of the Star-Spangled Banner before NBA games, he thought to himself, “I bet I could play that on the trumpet.” Jesse created a signature rendition of the national anthem on the trumpet, and slowly gained recognition for it.

He got the opportunity to play lead trumpet for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra of New York City and for the band Tower of Power. Jesse also holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Freedom Bible College, a seminary in Rogers, Arkansas.

Opportunities Continue

He and his wife Donna and their children moved to Phoenix from Michigan in 1988, partially because Donna’s parents lived there. It was only a year later that Jesse got a big break. He heard that the Phoenix Suns were holding open auditions for the chance to perform the national anthem before Suns games.

Jesse jumped, but not quite quickly enough. “I called a gentleman at the Suns’ organization named Stan Richards and he said, ‘That’s cool, but the auditions were yesterday.’ Stan said to me, ‘I’ll tell you what. I’m in my office and If you can get me a tape of your national anthem before I leave my office today, I’ll at least listen to it.’”

Under ideal circumstances, it would have been difficult for Jesse to get Richards the recording in such a short time. But Jesse realized he didn’t even have a recording in his possession. He scrambled to make an audio recording at home, deciding the bathroom was the optimal place acoustically. He first removed as much as he could from the room that might interfere with the sound quality. “I stood in the middle of the bathtub and I played the Star-Spangled Banner and recorded it on a big boom box,” Jesse said. He arrived with the recording in hand just as Stan Richards was leaving his office.

Moments after Jesse returned home, the phone rang. “It was Stan Richards, with two questions: ‘Can you play like that all the time?’ And ‘Can you play at the Suns/Detroit Pistons game tomorrow night?’ The rest is history.”

National Acclaim As A Solo Artist

In 1992, he played the national anthem at the opening of the new arena that would be home to the Phoenix Suns. That attracted national attention and he was asked to play the anthem at Game 6 of the NBA Championship series between the Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns in 1993. He was hoping to bring the Suns good luck. But the Bulls ended up sinking a three-pointer in the last seconds and won the game.

After the game, NBC broadcaster Marv Albert complimented Jesse on his clothes. Jesse realized the colors of his tuxedo, shirt and boots were specific to the winning team. “It just did not dawn on me that red, black and white were Bulls’ colors,” Jesse said.” So I ended up bringing good luck to the other guys.”

His biggest career break came in 2001. The William Morris Agency called Donna to offer Jesse the opportunity to play the national anthem at the start of Game 7 of the World Series (between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks) and play “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. “We were already booked for that weekend but I was able to cancel that engagement,” he said. After Game 7, when the Diamondbacks won the Series, Jesse McGuire was in great demand.

“After I did the World Series, Metropolitan Mattress—owned by Roger Magowitz—asked me to do a commercial for them. The commercial went over very well and I stayed in touch with Roger.”

Supporting Pancreatic Cancer Research

Roger’s mother passed away in June 2001 and he established the Seena Magowitz Foundation in her memory in 2002. Jesse and Donna McGuire have been supporters of and ambassadors for the Foundation since its inception.

For more than a decade, Jesse has supported the Seena Magowitz Foundation as a star attraction, playing the national anthem on the trumpet to kick off the golf tournament portion of the Foundation’s annual fundraising event and by playing the trumpet and singing at each annual event’s meet-and-greet.

“My great aunt on my mother’s side died of pancreatic cancer,” Jesse said, “so I have a connection to the cause.” The philanthropists, generous donors and guests at each year’s fundraising event have told Roger they look forward to hearing Jesse perform. “He is a big reason why we get such amazing attendance every year,” Roger said.

Jesse said he wants readers to keep in mind that pancreatic cancer researchers funded in part by the Seena Magowitz Foundation “are doing everything humanly possible to find a cure. And they are relentless in their research. The funds go to a good cause. These are wonderful people working to find a cure.”

“The research has had an impact on a lot of people’s lives already,” Donna said.

“You really can’t say enough about Roger and the researchers,” Jesse emphasized. “They’re still going strong and they’re not gonna give up until a cure is discovered or developed.”

Most entertainers, Jesse said, “when they reach a certain level, want to give back. And they find a cause or find a way to support and lend their name to something important. Donna and I are not rich, but any time that we can lend our name to a good cause, we try to do that. To whom much is given, much is required.”

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