Grade-school musician Dawaylon McCoy shook hands with his hero Tuesday.
It wasn’t a famous athlete or rock star. It was jazz great Lionel Hampton.
The 11-year-old traveled all the way from Dallas to the Palouse this week as Hampton’s guest.
A huge smile beamed from McCoy’s face as he was introduced to Hampton on an auditorium stage at the University of Idaho.
“I was nervous, just a little bit,” McCoy said later.
The master of the vibes is in Moscow for the annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival on campus.
The event combines professional performances with student competitions.
Events begin tonight and run through Saturday.
McCoy is learning to play the vibraphone himself. That is why Hampton invited him to the festival.
For McCoy, the chance to meet Hampton was a dream come true, he said.
But Hampton turned the meeting into a lot more than a handshake. He said he hopes to inspire McCoy to follow in his footsteps.
“I want to give him all the help I can,” Hampton said.
Hampton has asked McCoy to perform with him on two songs during Thursday night’s special guests concert at 8 in the Kibbie Dome.
They will do an old traditional, “Summertime,” as well as “C Jam Blues.”
During Tuesday’s introduction, McCoy and Hampton spent about a half-hour practicing, with Hampton giving the boy pointers to improve his technique.
On a couple of practice songs, McCoy moved his mallets flawlessly at times, hitting the right notes at the precise moments.
“I think I want to be a musician,” McCoy said after the session.
He’s a student at George Washington Carver Elementary School in west Dallas. He started playing vibes in the third grade. He said he practices at least four days a week. He also plays the piano and drums.
“He’s got the rhythm,” Hampton said about McCoy.
“He’s got a good conception. He’s got the inspiration. I think he can make it. We need some young vibes players.”
McCoy’s trip to the Palouse was arranged after one of his teachers in Dallas contacted the UI’s Lionel Hampton School of Music last year and told teachers about the boy’s potential. McCoy couldn’t afford the trip.
Hampton heard about McCoy and offered to pay travel costs for McCoy and his grandmother. They flew to Spokane, arriving last Sunday. They will return home this Sunday.
McCoy’s appearance is consistent with the goal of the festival to encourage young jazz musicians.
The event also attracts large numbers of jazz-lovers. As many as 24,000 paid admissions are expected at six major performances, said Professor Lynn Skinner.
“We want to encourage youngsters to play,” Hampton said.