PASSINGS: Phillip Walker, Robert M. Jaffe, Denise Jefferson, Mac Foster, Kaye Cowher
Phillip Walker

Blues guitarist and singer

Phillip Walker, 73, a blues guitarist and singer who backed such stars as Etta James and Lowell Fulson, died of heart failure Thursday in Palm Springs, said Marc Lipkin, publicity director for Alligator Records.

Walker performed for more than 50 years, recording many solo albums and touring with zydeco legend Clifton Chenier for two years.

Walker was born in Welsh, La., on Feb. 11, 1937, and grew up in Port Arthur, Texas.

In 1959, he moved to California, where he earned a reputation as one of the region's top guitarists. He also joined Little Richard's band for a brief time.

Over the last decade, Walker continued to record albums and tour, including an October 2009 stint in South Africa. His most recent album, "Going Back Home," was released in 2007.

Robert M. Jaffe

Head of California youth art retreat

Robert M. Jaffe, 57, director of the California State Summer School for the Arts since 1987, died July 16 in Davis of primary amyloidosis, a rare disorder caused by abnormal protein accumulations in the body.

The summer school, a retreat for select high school students, offers training by professionals in music, theater, video and film, visual arts, dance, creative writing and animation.

More than 11,000 students have attended the four-week study program, known as InnerSpark, at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

Jaffe built connections among artists, Hollywood agents and studio heads, politicians, and private foundations and corporations to raise scholarship money for the school, which was created by state legislation as a public-private partnership.

He was a program director for the California Arts Council from 1981 to 1986 and previously spent almost two years as managing director of the Sacramento Civic Theatre.

Born in New York in 1953, Jaffe played trombone in a band as a boy.

He earned a degree in English and drama at Kenyon College in Ohio and a master's degree in theater administration at the Yale School of Drama.

Jaffe began working as managing director of the Viola Farber Dance Company in New York and joined the Spreckels Theatre in San Diego before settling in Sacramento in 1979.

Denise Jefferson

Dancer led the Ailey School