Jim Gibson
1952 –   Class of 2014  Performing Arts
Jim Gibson, of Sugar Grove, Illinois, has made a lifetime commitment to the arts and touched the lives of thousands of people in his 44-year career as a performing artist, in venues as diverse as the East Room of the White House to the main stages of Las Vegas. Born in Ottawa, Illinois, on October 27,1952, Jim moved with his family to Aurora, Illinois, in 1960. He graduated from West Aurora High School in 1970.  

Jim joined the Musicians Union at age 17, and won the Best Jazz Ensemble award at the Sonny Stitt Jazz Festival that same year. Just a few years later, he received a Music Performance degree from The King’s College, New York. During his induction into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame, Jim acknowledged the influence of his mother Sara and father Keith on the direction of his life.  Jim also credited piano teacher Mrs. Charles Hoepe for molding proper technique from the beginning, his childhood choir director, Mrs. Jenny Brown, for instilling his passion for the arts, and band directors, George Peichl and Warren Felts, for bringing joy into the process of growing as a musician.
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As a musician, Jim showed great range in performance.  He was a member of 3 different Grammy award-winning bands: the Bill Gaither Trio (gospel) in 1976-1978, B.J. Thomas (pop) in 1978-1979, and the Lionel Hampton Orchestra (jazz) in 1986. He sang with the latter at the Congressional White House Ball for Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. All 3 musical groups featured vastly different styles of music, which speaks to Jim’s versatility as a musician.  

In addition to a wide range of musical styles, Jim also plays a variety of musical instruments.  He has performed professionally as a vocalist and guitar player, as well as bass guitar, keyboards, trumpet, valve trombone, string bass, and sound technician.

As a vocalist, Jim was selected in 1984 (out of 23,000 that auditioned) as 1 of only 13 male vocalists to compete on “Star Search.”  It was the #1 rated show at the time, comparable to today’s “American Idol.”  An audience favorite, he was a regular performer on the “Merv Griffin Show” in
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1985-1986.  In 1986, he was invited to sing the National Anthem for the nationally televised Buffalo Bills/Miami Dolphins game in prime time.  He has recorded 5 solo vocal albums.  

According to George Hourany, CEO of American Dream Productions, “Jim is one of the finest, most natural television hosts you will ever see.”  Jim auditioned and was chosen to host the game show pilots “Buzz Word” and “Dreams Can Come True” for MGM-TV/Merv Griffin Enterprises.  His hosting of “Windy City Alive” on Channel 38, WCFC-TV, won an Emmy in Chicago in 1980 for the “Best Music and Variety Show for a Series.”  He was nominated for another Emmy for his hosting of the Miss Illinois Pageant on WGN-TV.  

He is one of the few performing artists to have won an Emmy Award, television’s highest award, for hosting his own show while also becoming a member of a group that won a Grammy award, music’s highest honor.
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As a pageant host, Jim has been involved in more than 1,500 “live” televised special events, including the Miss USA, Miss Universe in Puerto Rico, Miss Globe in Turkey, and Miss America competitions, on such historic stages as the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.  Jim was instrumental in assisting Donald Trump with the purchase of the Miss Universe Pageant and was appointed as his Director of Pageant Affairs. Trump once remarked, “Jim is incredible, and I have tremendous respect for him and his talent.”

In 1989, Jim was the creator (and continues to host) “Fight Night,” a black-tie entertainment fundraiser in Washington, D.C. The event raised $400 million over 22 years including matching grants.

As a producer, Jim established Big Talk Publishing and released his first book, authored by Denise Crosby with Don Beebe, entitled Six Rings From Nowhere.  It is the true story of professional football player Don Beebe and his journey from construction worker to 6-time Super Bowl player.  The book received great reviews, including one from the Billy Graham Association.  Presently Jim is in the process with Desert Wind Films to create a movie based in part on Six Rings From Nowhere.

Jim also produced a documentary around Don Beebe’s remarkable life and NFL player Leon Lett featuring the 20th anniversary of their Super Bowl play in 1993, one of the most remembered in Super Bowl history.

A seasoned professional in the entertainment world, Jim Gibson recently went to the “big screen” as a line producer and voice-over announcer for “Rockin’ The Corps – An American Thank You.”  In 2014, he contracted with the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas to produce and host a new international model search show.  He hosted a similar, but smaller, event more than 20 years ago where he introduced a shy young African American teenager to the stage.  That young woman was Halle Berry (Miss Teen All American and Miss Ohio).

Years ago, Jim sang at the event when 2006 Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame inductee, Paula Zahn, won the Miss Illinois Pageant.  Many celebrities, including Sandra Bullock (Miss Teen Maryland), Mariska Hargitay (Miss California USA), and Vanna White (Miss Georgia) have benefited from Jim’s guidance and encouragement. Dozens of actors and models have had connections with Jim over the years, and many have formed life-long friendships with him.
Now that he and his wife, Dr. Chiann Gibson, are the parents of a young son, Jim has curtailed many of his traveling engagements to spend more time with his family in the Fox Valley area.  Locally, from 2008-2009, he was co-host of the television show “Money IQ” that aired on the Total Living Network.  He also was the host several years ago for a special Veterans Day Tribute at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois, to honor the aging heroes of World War II.  

Jim said, “I have been so very fortunate to have been able to perform and create so many different venues, types of venues and variety of artistic expression, which have included TV, recording, publishing, etc.  I always saw the glass half full and reached with all my abilities to fill it up to overflowing using my artistic talents and abilities…and I’ve loved every step of the long and sacrificial way.”  

In the nomination of Jim Gibson submitted to the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame, Denise Crosby stated, “In my many years writing stories from the Fox Valley, I’ve failed to come across anyone with Jim’s diverse resume as a professional entertainer…few people realize the scope of his career in the arts world because he truly does want to be just a regular Joe.”

With so much versatility and so many diverse accomplishments, Jim Gibson is anything but a “regular Joe.”  Just ask any of the more than 120,000 young performers whose lives he has touched or mentored on their personal journeys into the performing arts.  No matter which venue or style of expression, Jim always leaves his audiences delighted and impressed.
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 Emmy Award, Best Music and Variety Show for a Series,