Bringing the beat for Vail’s Fourth |

Bringing the beat for Vail’s Fourth

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

The Fourth of July is a holiday full of noise. From late-night firework explosions to screaming children waving sparklers in the park, the familiar sounds of Independence Day are as much an American tradition as the holiday itself.

But a more orderly and melodic noise play in Vail this Independence Day. The annual town parade will feature students from Los Angeles-based Inner City Educational Foundation schools and Washington Prep High School. This will be Washington Prep’s eighth year in Vail. The ICEF Jazz and Marching Band will present the talent of more than 100 high school student musicians from South Central Los Angeles who were given an opportunity to excel with their musical talents while giving back to the communities they belong to.

“I want the kids to understand that they can compete with anyone. I want them to really understand the level of talent that they actually have,” said Fernando Pullum, program director for ICEF schools.

Pullum and the kids made the 20-hour drive from Los Angeles Wednesday evening to arrive in Vail early Thursday morning.

The point of bringing his students to Vail is to show them it’s possible to do something beyond the confines of their circumstances and city. But in order to take the trip to Vail, Pullum required many of his students to perform a community service of some kind ” part of his teaching philosophy which centers around the importance of community.

These kids try hard to be viewed as musicians, not the troubled, inner-city problem children that many see them as, Pullum said. And while life can most certainly be difficult for his students, Pullum hopes that their experiences in places like Vail will help them see that the power of music is universal.

“Whether you’re rich or poor, when you pick up an instrument you’re the same. You know, it’s an equal thing,” Pullum said.

Pullum hopes Vail community members will also learn a thing or two about the spirit and passion his students bring to the music they love, and that they won’t be viewed as another stereotype.

Howard Stone knows the importance of investing in programs that try to reach kids through the arts. As the founder of The Vail Jazz Foundation and Success Through The Arts Foundation, Stone is very familiar with the way music can change people’s lives. His programs work with ICEF schools and Washington Prep to make this trip possible.

“It’s been an extraordinarily rewarding program for the kids,” Stone said.

Many of the instructors on this trip to Vail are Pullum’s former students, Stone noted.

“Fernando is one of the most amazing human beings on the planet,” Stone said. “The reason why I’ve done the work that I’ve done with this foundation is he showed me what the power of one motivated educator could be.”

But Pullum made it clear that this trip is all about his students having a shot at something better.

“Give a kid an opportunity (and) they all can be successful. Don’t write ’em off, give ’em something to do,” Pullum said.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or

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