Cover photo for Michael Ray Tyler's Obituary
Michael Ray Tyler Profile Photo

Michael Ray Tyler

May 15, 1965 — August 21, 2023

Las Vegas, NV

Michael Ray Tyler, 58, of Las Vegas, NV, passed away August 21, 2023,  at home with his beloved wife, Janet (Robinson) Tyler, and his 15-week-old puppy, Charlie, by his side. Early that morning, the clouds lifted, and heaven gained a beautifully talented soul. 

A funeral service will held at 3:30 p.m., Thursday, October 5, 2023, at the Memorial Presbyterian Church in Marysville.  Rev. Shannon Borgman will officiate.

Burial will be the Marysville City Cemetery.  

Michael Ray, the youngest of seven children, was born on May 15, 1965, in Dallas, TX, to John C. and Willie Lee Tyler. Those who knew Michael knew he was born to perform. John Tyler formed the Family St. John Show Band featuring Michael’s mother, Willie, as the prominent vocalist. Sweet Peaches was Willie’s stage name, and while in college, Michael wrote a smooth jazz piece dedicated to her, entitled “Sweet Peaches”. The family band performed regularly at the Caros Club in Dallas and journeyed often to Shreveport, LA for gigs. Each child was expected to learn two instruments, and at a very young age, Michael learned to play the trumpet from a guitar book, and also chose to learn to play the drums.

Michael attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, where he flourished in both jazz and classical genres. Throughout his time at Arts Magnet, Michael sat first chair trumpet, performed in the Texas All-Region and All-City ensembles, and received countless Outstanding Music Performance awards. During his freshman year, Michael even directed and taught the jazz ensemble when the jazz director was removed from his position. The new director, Curt Bradshaw, was an outstanding leader for the jazz band, and in the spring of 1981, Mr. Bradshaw scheduled a tour to Kansas and the Midwest. Michael was attracted to the University of Kansas and enjoyed visiting with the new Jazz Director, Dr. Ronald C. McCurdy. Dr. McCurdy invited Michael to be a part of the KU Jazz program, and in the spring of 1983, Michael applied to KU and was accepted on a trumpet scholarship.

In the fall of 1983, Michael became a member of the University of Kansas Marching Jayhawks, the KU Jazz Ensemble I, Jazz Combo I, as well as the KU Symphonic Band. Throughout his time at KU, Michael Ray studied private trumpet and flugelhorn with Dr. Roger Stoner and began a lifetime friendship with his incredible mentor. Dr. Stoner helped guide Michael when he considered playing professionally, and he and wife, Shere, truly became parental figures in Michael’s post-college years. While working with Dr. McCurdy, Michael continued to be acknowledged for his outstanding performance and composition/arranging skills, receiving awards at the Wichita Jazz Festival and the University of Northern Colorado Jazz Festival. Michael was often a featured KU Jazz I soloist/writer at numerous National Association for Jazz Education (NAJE) Conferences. In the fall of 1983, while attending his first music education class, on the top floor of Bailey Hall, Michael Ray met his college sweetheart, Janet Robinson. Their friendship was immediate, and in February of 1984, they went on their first date. Years later, and prior to their wedding, they claimed February 14th as their “special” anniversary.

In 1986, Michael visited jazz trombonist Bill Watrous and recording producer Patrick Williams in the Los Angeles area. Bill was working in the recording studio, and Michael was able to observe the overall experience. During the visit, Michael talked his way onto a piece that Watrous was recording, entitled “Mountain Dance”. Michael Ray recorded one take, and Williams and Watrous liked it so much, they decided to keep the addition to the tune. Watrous’ album, Reflections, was released in 1987, and Michael was a featured soloist on “Mountain Dance”. In the summer of 1988, Dr. McCurdy highlighted the KU Instrumental and Vocal Jazz Ensembles on a European tour. The Jazz Band was accepted to play at the Montreux Jazz Festival and Michael’s chart, “Power Excursion”, was a featured piece on the tour. Michael truly enjoyed having the opportunity to use his composition skills and wrote numerous charts for the KU Jazz Ensemble I.

After graduating from the University of Kansas in the spring of 1992 with a Bachelor of Music Education, Michael Ray received a call from Hank Sicalo in Los Angeles, asking if he would like to audition and play for the Las Vegas legend, Wayne Newton. The band would be touring the United States and needed a solo trumpet player with improvisation skills. Michael took the job and was a part of a remarkable tour, with the 7th performance being on the Arsenio Hall Show. At that time, Michael felt like he was on the right track for his performance career. Michael and Janet relocated to Las Vegas in the summer of 1992. Michael performed with Wayne Newton at the Hilton Hotel and Casino for eight months. In 1993, when Wayne Newton moved his show to Branson, MO, the band was downsized, and Michael stayed in Vegas and began substitute teaching for the Clark County School District.

In the fall of 1993, both Janet and Michael landed full-time teaching jobs in the CCSD. Michael taught band at Swainston Middle School and Janet taught choir at Garside Middle School. Michael was fortunate enough to continue performing on the Vegas strip with various bandleaders: Mark Barrett with the group Nightshift, Bobby Morris with a dixieland group at The Showboat, Gary Stevens with the group Fast Company, and also Jazzin’ Jeanne Brie at the Italian American Club. There were many corporate gigs that exposed Michael Ray to some renowned celebrities such as: Michael Bolton, Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi, Lionel Richie, Stevie Nicks, Jay Leno, Lou Rawls, Joan Rivers, Joe Williams and Mary Wilson to name a few. Michael also formed a gospel group that was featured at The Country Star, owned and operated by Reba McIntyre and Vince Gill.

Michael was extremely creative. Over the years, he has written over 100 big band and combo jazz pieces as well as many big band arrangements. In 1999, Michael received his Master in Jazz Composition from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and he put his talent to work by composing and arranging several pieces for the required Master’s recital. In preparation for local performances, the Michael Ray Tyler Cool Big Band rehearsed at Hemmings in Henderson, and prior to the pandemic, also in the Tyler home. The band was blessed to have performed at Ron Decar’s Vegas Event Center and the E-String Bar & Grill. Michael’s jazz and pop combo performed at The Orleans inside Brendan’s Irish Pub, at the Freakin’ Frog near UNLV, at The Bootlegger for the Las Vegas Jazz Society, and also in the historic Commercial Center. Michael was excited to get the MRT Cool Big Band back together and had recently been finishing up the Chuck Mangione/Al Jarreau Show. He was exporting these parts the day before his passing.

Michael’s 3 CD Odyssey was a five-year endeavor and so many fans enjoyed these albums. The first album of the smooth jazz genre, Grazing the Land (2008), featured contemporary combo tunes with added vocals. He then composed and arranged Fire & Desire (2008), which was a culmination of his pop vocal pieces, and finally the big band album, Cool Breeze (2009), which was his favorite of the three. The 3 CD Odyssey showcased his musical genius and various styles.
No matter where Michael Ray traveled, he would be recognized. Whether it be a trip to Honolulu, Kansas City, San Diego, Orlando, or Santa Monica, he would always run into someone that knew him from either shows on the Strip or as a substitute teacher in the secondary classroom. He had a presence that people never forgot. In Las Vegas, there were countless instances where Michael Ray would run into adults who were fortunate enough to have had him as a guest teacher in middle or high school. They always mentioned his performance of the “Cheeseburger Rap”, and what a cool teacher he was. The “Cheeseburger Rap”, as well as the Chuck Mangione arrangements were the final pieces that Michael had completed. He could not wait to get the MRT Cool Big Band back together and was on a real mission to get it all done.

Michael Ray invented several household and musical items that he was looking to share through online sales. First, there was the “Scrubby Feet”. They were lightweight socks that you could wear in the shower that had sponge/abrasive-like fabric on the bottom so you could clean your shower floor while getting your shampoo on. He also created the “Car Door Buddy” and the “Flute Buddy”. The “Car Door Buddy” is a magnetized soft towel that aids in the protection of your car doors when parking side by side in your home garage. The “Flute Buddy” is a sturdy fabric sleeve that allows the musician to cover the flute on a horn stand instead of putting the instrument away each time it’s played.

Michael was preceded in death by his father John C. Tyler, his mother Willie Lee (Lilton) Tyler, his sister Bernadette Tyler, his nephew Bernard Lilton, and his niece Stephanie Tyler. Michael is survived by his wife Janet (Robinson) Tyler, brothers Ricky and Derrick Tyler, sister Kay Tyler, stepbrother Earl “Shagg” Lilton, and step-sister Mary “Sue” Lilton.

In lieu of flowers, please consider either donating to the jazz scholarship fund, or donating to help his wife publish his big band and combo scores. The Michael Ray Tyler Jazz Scholarship is currently being created for music students at Michael’s alma mater, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, in Dallas, TX. In order to donate to this scholarship fund, please contact the school: 2501 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201 or email: smodabberi@dallasisd.org Please make checks payable to: Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Include in the Memo portion - MRT Jazz Scholarship. Donations may also be directed to Michael’s spouse. A fund will be established to ensure that Michael’s music is published and continues to be played and heard.

Arrangements are by Kinsley Mortuary in Marysville.

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Thursday, October 5, 2023

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Memorial Presbyterian Church

200 N 10th St
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