Jazz music is America’s quintessential art form, blending classical harmonies, African rhythms, blues, swing and more.
But does jazz make you think of Vail, Colorado? Well, it does if you know Vail resident Howard Stone. This is a man who eats, sleeps and breathes jazz.
“A great jazz band relies on communication. It relies on cooperation and collaboration and understanding. You’re speaking the same language, but you’re putting your own spin on it.”
-Vail Jazz Foundation Development Director Owen Hutchinson
On an impulse, Howard invited some of the world’s best jazz musicians to come to Vail to collaborate over a Labor Day weekend in 1995. That event, born of a love of the music and keen interest in creating more of it, spawned a groundswell of participation that is now represented by the nonprofit Vail Jazz Foundation.
The Foundation has grown to host more than 80 performances annually. But it’s not just for spectators: there are also three wildly popular, hands-on educational programs–Jammin’ Jazz Kids, Jazz Goes to School and the Vail Jazz Workshop.
“We have an obligation to let young people know about their culture. And unfortunately, in the schools that isn’t a major emphasis,” said Howard. “So, if you believe in the values of our society and think that young people should know about jazz and opera and classical music, that’s what we’re about.”
The Workshop, now in its 23rd year, brings together 12 aspiring teenage jazz musicians to train alongside five professional players for an intensive 10 days. The program culminates with a performance at the Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day weekend. Of the 262 alumni, dozens have gone on to highly successful musical careers.
“Jammin’ Jazz Kids is this family experience where parents and kids get to play instruments and learn about the origin of 12-bar blues and the components that go into this incredible music we call jazz,” said Development Director Owen Hutchinson. “And that’s just the start.”
Vail Jazz Goes to School, in its 21st year, is an ambitious enrichment program that the Foundation brings to every fourth and fifth grade classroom in Eagle County, four times a year. More than 1,000 students learn the basics of jazz from up to six musicians. “The kids light up because there’s so much life and passion in the story of music,” Owen said. “A great jazz band relies on communication. It relies on cooperation and collaboration and understanding. You’re speaking the same language, but you’re putting your own spin on it.”