In Memoriam: Mary Ann Trainor

A bright light in the Southeast Michigan jazz world has gone out with the passing of Mary Ann Trainor. A friend, fan, supporter, and advocate of and for local musicians.

To me, she was a dear friend. We reminisced about our lives in New York over lunches at Barry’s Bagels, hung out together, texted silliness to each other, and generally had fun.

She was one of what Paul Keller dubbed “the Knights of the Round Table,” the fans who regularly sat at the center front table at Zal Gaz Grotto on Monday evenings to hear the Paul Keller Orchestra. She helped organize the annual PKO birthday parties, creating PKO picture board, making sure there was cake, printing programs for the evening. Paul loved writing tunes to honor the “Knights”, and for her he wrote “Mondays with Mary Ann”. Those of us who joined her at that table will now have to spend our Mondays without Mary Ann. This will be sad and difficult. We will miss her laughter, her passion, her love for the music, the musicians, and her kindness to all of us, but the music will help us through.

Here are some thoughts from just a few of the people she loved and who loved her:

Perhaps twelve or thirteen years ago, a charming, lovely woman started volunteering at WEMU answering phones for the pledge drives. She was always trim and fashionably attired including a fedora which she’d remove to sport her phone headset. This beloved WEMU donor and volunteer was Ms. Mary Ann Trainor whose passing we mourn in this SEMJA Update and will miss forever. If Mary Ann was at the table, you could be assured that brilliant conversation would ensue. Mary Ann listened attentively to whoever was speaking and offered insight from own vast life experiences. She cared about people. It was evident. I had to sit down and get to know this woman at the conclusion of my shift. 

What a life she led! She was proud of growing up in Detroit, of Detroit’s creative jazz community and her friendship with the legendary vibraphonist Jack Brokensha. Mary Ann spent many an evening enjoying swinging music in Brokensha’s nightclub. Mary Ann was also proud of her years in New York with Pan Am Airlines and McGraw Hill Publishing. This is where she learned how to craft compelling, professional press releases – a skill she brought to bear voluntarily for area musicians such as Paul Keller, Mr. B, R.J. Spangler and George Bedard. And while in New York, she was the loving single mother of son Patrick. Patrick, you have the heartfelt condolences of an entire music community.

From the moment I met Mary Ann Trainor, I was impressed with her eloquence, humor and compassion. I asked her if she would join me on the air to raise funds and she declined as her speaking voice had developed a tremor. But she continued to volunteer and to send emails and Facebook posts, staying in touch with her music community. Even during the pandemic, Mary Ann would pick up the phone just to see how you were doing. That’s love in action.

Mary Ann shared that love with so many including those less fortunate. For years she headed up the homeless ministry for Ann Arbor’s Vineyard Church. Her love in action included feeding homeless persons at Liberty Plaza as well as offering them clean, warm clothing. 

I’ll miss Mary Ann’s timely, professional press releases when one of her friends planned a special appearance. Mary Ann’s chair will seem strangely empty at the Zal Gaz Grotto on Monday nights when the Paul Keller Orchestra swings into action. The corner of Detroit Street and Catherine will seem less festive if Mr. B and Pete Siers return without Mary Ann’s support and smile.

Heaven’s doors opened wide for Mary Ann Trainor, a woman of indomitable, generous spirit. I am better for having her in my life as are all who knew her. Thank you for sharing your love with us, Mary Ann.

Linda Yohn, former music director at WEMU, on air host WRCJ


Mary Ann Trainor spent most of her life in New York, but after she retired from Pan Am she moved to Ann Arbor. Lucky us! 

She was a dear, sweet, beautiful, smart, funny, friend who was always searching for the next kind thing she could do for us. Lucky us!

Mary Ann sat at the front table at Zal Gaz Grotto for all of our gigs and showered us with her applause and appreciation of our music. Lucky us!

Mary Ann thrived lifting up her friends. She created so many excellent press releases for our events; she created printed programs for our events; she created photos albums of our events. All because she loved us! 

The last kind thing she did for PKO was to actually create a big band gig at Balfour, her new home that she loved.

I celebrate that our music brought her a great measure of joy! Lucky us, that we could provide that happiness for her! 

At the same time that our hearts are broken, we recognize that we couldn’t have had a better friend than Mary Ann. She was so good to us. Lucky us! 

She’s gone now, but she will never be forgotten and we will always carry her fondly in our hearts. 

So long, dear friend!

Paul Keller, musician, composer, band leader


Much like Pannonica de Keonigswarter in New York of the1950s, Mary Ann Trainor was a patron of the SE Michigan Jazz scene, and a friend to many musicians. I met Mary Ann Trainor through my mom. A hip lady, who fearlessly wore a red fedora everywhere she went, Mary Ann was a bright spot in the lives of everyone she met. With no hyperbole, I can state I owe the life I have now to Mary Ann. With her passing there will be a hole in my life, the lives of my family, and in the SE Michigan Jazz scene.

Daniel W. Long, host of the Groove Yard, WEMU


Mary Ann was not only a great friend, but a tireless promoter of local musicians, asking nothing in return for her hard work. Through the Homeless Ministry she also involved us with the community, serving Thanksgiving dinners at her church and pizza at Liberty Plaza. We will always be grateful for her help with George’s Ark shows and will miss her humor and friendship.

George Bedard, musician, and Wendy Smith


Mary Ann was sweet, kind, full of good humor and wit, had a strong love of life and a never-ending urge to make life better for those in her sphere. Some people are uniquely irreplaceable, and Mary Ann was one of them. She had a selfless approach to generating awareness and sharing in the enjoyment of our regional music scene. She wanted the best for all of us – genuinely, and never ever put herself at the center of anything she promoted or attended. What a kind and pure hearted lady. Let’s all try to incorporate a little of what Mary Ann displayed. She made our world better and brighter. She will be sorely missed, but always treasured.

Mark Braun (Mr. B)


I met my friend Mary Ann Trainor through Michael G Nastos a number of years ago. We worked on a couple of projects together and I found her to be just the best person to work with on such an endeavor. She really gave her all. Completely professional, a dear to be around, just a number one all around! 

When WEMU celebrated fifty years, this was before she knew Chuck Andersen, she asked me to be her date and of course I said yes! What an honor! 

She had all these philanthropic activities through her church and other important functions. That was Mary Ann. Always giving back. Thanksgiving, etc. 

She promoted my friends George Bedard (who was involved with her charities), Paul Keller, Mark Braun and of course my own little projects.

Let’s just call her a jazz angel, because that is what she was, okay? I’m pretty sure my friend Chuck will agree.

I’ve met a lot of people along the way in this biz. Not many like Mary Ann Trainer.

RJ Spangler, Planet D Nonet


There have been many Facebook posts about Mary Ann since her passing, a clear reflection of how many lives she touched, in and outside of the jazz community. She moved into Balfour, a senior living community, just about a year ago. In that short time, it seems that nearly all the residents had gotten to know her. She began bringing musicians in to play for the residents, writing a newsletter, and bringing groups to music venues.

She leaves many heavy hearts. On September 25, 2022, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., a memorial service will be held at the Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor located at 2275 Platt Road. All are welcome to attend.