phone 312.266.1702
Photo by Lauren Deutsch.

As an award-winning saxophonist and music educator, Diane L'il Sax Ellis has inspired and helped thousands enjoy the gift of music.

Now she needs your help.

Diane Ellis suffered a devastating stroke onstage in 2016 while performing a tribute to her mentor Jimmy McGriff for the Jazz Institute of Chicago, and remains paralyzed on her left side. She is unable to work or live independently at this time.
Her dream is to walk again, teach and play music.


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Help Hope Live is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the full extend allowed by law and are held by Help Hope Live in the North-Central Catastrophic Illness Fund in honor of Diane Ellis. Please consider making a donation today.
Online at
By Phone: 800.642.8399
By Mail. Make checks payable to: Help Hope Live
Note in memo section: In honor of Diane Ellis
Please mail checks to: Help Hope Live

Two Radnor Corporate Center
100 Matsonford Road, Suite 100
Radnor, PA 19087

Check this webpage for regular updates about Diane Ellis.

Your donation will help her with:

  • Physical and occupational therapy
  • Psychological care to improve her emotional state
  • Professional 24/7 nursing care (she currently has a volunteer CNA)
  • Mold remediation in basement
  • Wheelchair ramp
  • Safety bars installed in bathroom
  • Right hand saxophone

Diane "L’il Sax" Ellis
Photos by Lauren Deutsch.

Diane Ellis, 62, is an award-winning jazz educator, music teacher, and professional jazz and classical saxophonist.

During her 23-year teaching tenure at Arthur Dixon Elementary School in Chatham Diane taught general music classes and directed after-school jazz band programs for more than 650 students from kindergarten through eighth-grade, providing authentic experiences in music performance and knowledge about music careers. She mentored rising stars, such as Dixon alumnus Marquis Hill, first-place winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition.

Her students actively participated in jam sessions sponsored by the Jazz Institute of Chicago (JIC) at the Chicago Cultural Center and through Diane’s efforts Dixon became the first elementary school jazz band to compete at the annual All-City Jazz Band Competition.

Diane received her bachelor’s degree from Bradley University, where she attended on a full scholarship. She received an Educational Leadership Masters from Concordia University and a Masters in Jazz and Classical Music Performance from Northwestern University.

Prior to her teaching career, Diane spent years on the road as a professional musician. Her musicianship earned her seats in touring bands led by jazz greats Sonny Stitt, Jimmy McGriff and Charles Earland. Ellis comes from a jazz dynasty. Her uncles are trombonist Morris Ellis (d. 2017), leader of the long running Morris Ellis Orchestra, and saxophonist Jimmy Ellis, who taught and mentored generations of young players who have gone on to receive national recognition. Drummer Tony Smith has been her partner, visiting from out of town regularly to work with Diane’s students.

Diane has received numerous awards both as a musician and an educator.


  • 2005 Jazz Institute of Chicago Timuel Black Community Service Award
  • 2005 Dixon Elementary Wins National Marching Band Award
  • 2014 Chicago Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2015 OPPY Winner Oppenheimer Family Foundation for Outstanding Educator
  • 2016 WHPK Awards to Diane Ellis and Jimmy Ellis
  • 2016 Timeless Gifts Lifetime Achievement Award



    Since the benefit, Diane’s family has been focused on getting Diane into the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. [more]


    The sound of two trained hands playing the saxophone is music. What’s the sound of one-hand playing? [more]


    Coming Soon!


  • Diane Ellis iMovie. A retrospective of Diane’s life in photos and videos created for her 6.14.17 Benefit - Video Click here
  • L'il Sax Rides Again by Richie Cole - Video Click here
  • Jazz in the Alley, 1976 Jimmy Ellis and Diane Ellis, A South Side summer jazz tradition. - Video Click here
  • Will Horton The Greatness of You on Determination with Diane Ellis 1990’S. - Video Click here
  • Jazz Gram. Jazz Institute of Chicago. Diane Ellis Chose Her Way September 2012. - Article Click here
  • Houstonia Magazine March 8, 2017 Article on Marquis Hill’s Blacktet playing in Houston, Texas. Hill references Diane Ellis’ personal mentorship and the unique elementary musical program she developed at Dixon Elementary School. - Article Click here
  • Chicago Jazz Community Rallies Around Musician With Benefit Concert. NBC Chicago. - Video Click here
  • Chicago jazz stars ready to play for Diane Ellis. Chicago Tribune- Aticle Click here
  • Jazz Musicians Rally Behind Saxophonist Diane Ellis. CBS Chicago - Video Click here

Contact Us

Team Diane

DON BUDZINSKI - • JOHN FOSTER BROOKS - Musician, Former student of Diane Ellis • JOAN COLLASO - Jazz Vocalist, Timeless Gifts • LAUREN DEUTSCH - Jazz Institute of Chicago • CURTIS ELLIS - Diane’s Brother • DIANE “L’il Sax” ELLIS - Herself • DELLA ELLIS - Stepmom • JOSEPHINE ELLIS - Mom • LENNIE BASS JONES - Diane’s Cousin • HANNAH MARKS - Social Media • DIANE CHANDLER-MARSHALL - Jazz Institute of Chicago • ADOLPH MCGOWAN & SEAN JEFFERSIN - Ujamaa Construction Home Repair • SUSAN OPPENHEIMER - Team Diane Supporter • TED OPPENHEIMER - Oppenheimer Family Foundation • ERIC SCHNEIDER - Musician • JUDITH E. STEIN - Hyde Park Jazz Society • CHARLENE & AL SWANSON - Diane’s Cousin and Team Diane Lead. Family link to TeamDiane • JOY THORTON - Social Media, Former student of Diane Ellis • ALMARIE WAGNER - Hyde Park Jazz Society • SELENA WATKINS - Dixon and Chatham Communities; Former student of Diane Ellis • MONICA CHAPMAN - Social Media Lead

TeamDiane, We are the leadership team that fundraises and seeks support for Diane “L’il Sax” Ellis. We are a rotating leadership and urgently need volunteers.  

Give what you can 1 hour a week or more …Join Us. Skills & Qualities Needed

  • Organized, focused, doer, energy
  • Social Media Experts and Fanatics
  • Legal: Willing to check out laws, services
  • PR: Writing, Graphics
  • A Leader for Volunteers
  • Medical:
    Help find the best & pro bono help- physical therapy, massage, body work
    Help navigate the health care system

Help create and expand a lifeline of community support for Diane Ellis.

Her doctors say that after 90 days of therapy, she will be able to care for herself. Insurance has refused payments for physical therapy, cortisone shots and doctors’ appointments.  We don’t know when she will receive physical therapy. And, when she does receive it, she will need help after the 90 days.

MEALS.Help set up a schedule where you bring a healthy warm meal at set time.
MOBILITY. Strong youth needed to move from bed to wheelchair & back.
VISITS. Call or text Diane to schedule a time to visit.
PACE. Diane now travels by PACE. Setup an outing with her.

Join us at TeamDiane: write to
Tell us how you are interested in helping Diane and these efforts.
Send us your name and contact info. What is the best way to contact you? Home phone? cell phone? email? text? When is the best time to contact you?

Thank you!

Benefit For Diane Ellis June 14, 2017 Musicians Program

  • Set #1
    Piano: Kirk Brown
    Bass: Yosef Ben Israel
    Drums: Charles Heath IV
    Drums: James Watts (student)
    Vocals: Bobbi Wilsyn
    Saxes: Ari Brown; Jarrard Harris
    Trumpet: Ryan Nyther (Diane’s Former Student)
    Conga Drums: Dr. Cuz

  • Set #2
    Piano: Bethany Pickens
    Piano: Robert Irving III
    Bass: Kati Ernst
    Drums: Greg Artry
    Vocals: Maggie Brown
    Saxes: Jabari Powell
    Sax: Rajiv Halim

  • Set #3
    Piano: Miguel De La Cerna
    Bass: Junius Paul
    Drums: Ernie Adams
    Vocals: Dee Alexander
    Clarinet: Eric Schneider
    Sax: Juli Wood
    Sax: John Foster Brooks
    Trumpet: Orbert Davis

  • Set #4
    Piano: Willie Pickens
    Bass: Stewart Miller
    Guitar: Mike Allemana
    Drums: Charles Heath IV
    Vocals: Joan Collaso
    Sax: Richie Cole
    Sax: Eric Schneider
    Trombone: Audrey Morrison
    Trumpet: Pharez Whitted

  • Closing ”’L’il Sax’ Rides Again” Written/Performed By Richie Cole With Rhythm Section

    Piano: Willie Pickens
    Bass: Junius Paul
    Bass: Micah Collier (student)
    Guitar: Mike Allemana
    Drums: Jeremiah Collier (student)
    Sax: Eric Schneider
    Sax: Richie Cole
    Sax: Isaiah Collier (student)
    Sax: Juli Wood
    Sax: Ernest Dawkins
    Sax: Al Smith
    Trumbone: Audrey Morrison
    Vocals: Diane Ellis

Thank you for your help and support

AL CARTER BEY - WDCB • SILVER CRUZ - Web Design • MARGARET JOHNICAN - Caretaker • ALTHEA ORR - Psychophysical Healing • ED MEAD - Videographer • HOWARD REICH - Chicago Tribune • LANEICE SAUNDERS - Ellis Family Friend • KEN SCOTT - WDCB • LEE ANN TROTTER - NBC • JIM WILLIAMS - CBS • JOAN MENDELSON - IT and Social Media support • YVETTE JACKSON MOYO - Publisher West of the Ryan Current & South Shore Current • CAROLYN ALBRITTON - Hyde Park Jazz Society • MARY BONNETT - Her Story Theater • DAVID DeJONG - Marketing • Olivia Harris - CNA • LINDA & MORRIS (d. 2017) ELLIS (Ellis Family) • CAROL FRIEDMAN - CPS Retired Principal • CHARLES & BETTY THOMAS Hyde Park Jazz Society

Photos by: Farrad Alis, Lauren Deutsch, Olga Lopez, Jack Siegal.