Primarily a bass player he toured with the big bands of Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Buddy DeFranco, created a jazz program at the University of Missouri at St. Louis where he taught for decades, and owned a music store with his wife (Pro Music Shop). For ten years he worked as a lecturer at the Kenton Jazz Camps and after Stan Kenton’s death it became the Widner Jazz Camps, which he directed . He led his Jim Widner Big Band for over 30 years releasing a number of albums. He was a product endorser for Yamaha. He was part of the team that established the Jazz Educators Network (JEN).