Vail Jazz Goes to School program returns to valley |

Vail Jazz Goes to School program returns to valley

Shauna Farnell
Special to the Daily
Tony Gulizia, far left, and Joey Gulizia, playing an African drum, are once again in local elementary schools this week as part of the annual Vail Jazz Goes to School program. This is the program's 19th year.

EAGLE COUNTY — March is a special time for fourth- and fifth-graders in Eagle County, because Vail Jazz Goes to School is making another round through local elementary schools.

For 19 years, Vail Jazz Goes to School has offered free music lessons to students. A small group of professional musicians — led by local vocal and piano sensation Tony Gulizia — conducts a four-part series of comprehensive and progressive musical programs with fourth- and fifth-grade classes throughout the valley. More than 1,200 students will attend the current series, which began last fall, continued with a second session in January and travels through every elementary school in the valley in March with its third session.

Practicing the basics

What happens in a session? In the first part of the series, students learned about the history of jazz, from African rhythms through the hardships of American slavery and New Orleans blues to the present, allowing students the opportunity to play ancient African instruments themselves, learning the art of syncopation. The second part of the series focused on specifics of rhythm section instruments — the piano, bass and drums — as students practice the basics of a 12-bar blues progression and how each instrument contributes to harmony and melody.

“We have so much fun with it.”Tony GuliziaMusician, Vail Jazz Goes to School

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For this third part of the series, Gulizia is joined by his brother, drummer Joey Gulizia and bassist Andy Hall. Students delve into the blues scale in greater detail and practice techniques used in improvisation. They are introduced to musical concepts including dissonance and syncopation.

Creating music

The fourth session culminates with students creating their own jazz by writing 12-bar blues compositions and matching lyrics to a blues beat. At the final concert in April at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, a selection of fifth grade students’ blues compositions will be performed by the Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet.

Overall, Vail Jazz Goes to School has educated more than 20,000 local students since the program’s creation 19 years ago.

“We have so much fun with it,” Gulizia says. “It’s important for kids to learn American music and for these young generations to keep that style of music alive, since jazz encompasses 110 years of different styles.”

For more information on Vail Jazz Goes to School, visit or call 888-VAIL-JAM (824-5526).

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