The University of Idaho kicks off its 53rd Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Friday with two days of workshops, music competitions and performances including Friday’s headliners, the vocal jazz group Vertical Voices.
While a fixture in the Moscow community, organizers say it’s easy for locals to underestimate the esteem the jazz festival carries with musicians and educators all over the world. In its heyday, the event attracted some of the greatest names in jazz music including the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and, of course, Hampton himself.
Managing Director Josh Skinner said the two-day festival is known throughout the country as a unique event that gives high school students the opportunity to interact with and glean wisdom from some of the biggest names in the business.
“Before I took this job, I traveled up with a school from Utah and so I think just having that experience of meeting with an artist and learning from an artist is very impactful,” Skinner said. “We can read things in print or watch videos online but that live experience is very different when they actually have that one-on-one or that communication with you and your ensemble.”
Since taking over management of the festival last year, Skinner said he has made an effort to include more workshops and guests that can give attending students insight into music business. He said because of how the industry has changed, it’s important to show students that music as a profession is more than just teaching and performing.
Bob Santelli, former executive director of the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, said all of the workshops he will lead will be Grammy-related. He said not only will his workshops touch on the art of songwriting and about how great Grammy music is made, but also will address things like how a Grammy Awards telecast is put together.
“The workshop is really designed to give high school students who are interested in careers in music – and also the creative process behind the making of great music – pointers and things to work on as they mature into musicians and composers, et cetera,” Santelli said.
Santelli said the kind of student who attends the Lionel Hampton Jazz Fest has already committed a lot of time and effort to their craft and presumably wish to turn that effort into a fruitful career. He said it is his hope that his years of experience working with all manner of music professionals will prove valuable to those in attendance.
Santelli said this will not be his first time visiting Moscow for Jazz Fest and in the past he has been impressed by the students with whom he has spoken.
“They have aspirations to maintain a deep musical connection with their instrument and also to grow as a musician and something to even compose or produce, or do other other things in the music world,” Santelli said. “My hope is that I could just shed some light on that path or those paths.”
The festival begins each morning with student competitions and workshops, culminating in an evening concert featuring student musicians and headliners.
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