Junior jazz in the Vail Valley | VailDaily.com

Junior jazz in the Vail Valley

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO Colorado
Rebecca Moidel/Vail Daily

Five 10-year-old kids wait on the deck of the Vail Chophouse listening to jazz. It’s Saturday ” shouldn’t they be running around playing some mischievous game in the warm afternoon sun? So why are they jamming out to Tony Gulizia and The Headliners playing old jazz tunes instead of doing normal kid stuff? The answer is simple: Gulizia and his bandmates have spent the past several months teaching the five kids ” and nearly a thousand others from schools across the valley ” all about jazz. This could be called continuing education.

The Vail Jazz Foundation’s educational program Jazz Goes to School is taught by local jazz aficionados Tony and Joey Gulizia, bass player Andy Hall, saxophonist Roger Neuman, trumpet player Kirk Garrison and percussionist Michael Pujado. The sessions allow fourth- and fifth-graders from more than 10 Eagle County schools to learn the history and techniques of the genre while gaining an appreciation for a musical style many of them may have never heard before. There’s even a hands-on portion of the class in which the students get to play instruments with the teachers, sharpening their improvisational skills and learning to play together as a band.

“It’s kind of a lesson in social studies that has jazz as the focus,” said Mia Vlaar, executive director of the Vail Jazz Foundation. The curriculum, Vlaar said, goes deep into jazz’s rich history, including its origins in other countries and how the different aspects of the music came together to form standard jazz.

“The mission of the Vail Jazz Foundation is to perpetuate the art form itself,” Vlaar said. What better way to do that than to spark an interest in our youth about jazz?

Showcasing jazz

The Jazz Goes to School program will culminate with two free concerts at the Vilar Center tonight. In attendance will be nearly 1,000 students from various schools, but the public is welcome, too. The concert ” “Showcasing a Century of American Jazz” ” will feature Tony Gulizia and The Headliners playing compositions by jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. The band also will be performing blues songs with lyrics written by some of the students.

“I like that you got to write your own song,” said Eagle County Charter Academy student Isabella Calabrese, who wrote a song called “The Homework Blues” during class.

Henry Eyrich, a fourth-grader at Stone Creek Elementary, said his appreciation of jazz definitely has grown because of the Jazz Goes to School program and that one day he would like to learn an instrument and possibly play jazz.

America’s musical gift

Considering that many adults don’t understand the intricacies of jazz ” the different styles, eras and classifications ” these kids will have a much deeper knowledge of the material if they stay interested in it. No problem for Henry who said the jazz classes were so fun it felt like he wasn’t even in class. Parents, don’t be surprised if soon your kids will be able to tell you the difference between the big-band and rag-time eras of jazz or what the standard rhythm section of a jazz band consists of.

Jazz pianist and instructor Tony Gulizia said the fourth and fifth grade is the perfect time for kids to begin learning about jazz.

“Since it’s America’s gift to the music world, it’s good to try to get young kids involved in learning more about it and appreciating it,” Gulizia said.

He has been teaching the Jazz Goes to School program for the past decade and believes he is helping kids understand a form of music that often is downplayed or misunderstood. It’s obvious by the passion in his voice that he cares deeply about not only jazz music but teaching others to understand and love it as much as he does.

Watching the five young students take in live jazz music on a Saturday, it appears Gulizia is doing something right.

High Life Writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.

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