Vail Valley Scenery column: Families host Vail Jazz workshop students | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Scenery column: Families host Vail Jazz workshop students

One of the main components of the Vail Jazz Festival and the Vail Jazz Foundation is working with youth. Most people in the valley are very familiar with the inimitable Tony Gulizia (Tony G, as he is best known) for his work with fellow musicians in the Jazz Goes to School program and his work with Jammin' Jazz Kids at the Sunday Vail Farmers' Market & Art Show.

One of the biggest parts of the education program, however, is the Vail Jazz Workshop, which brings in 12 youth from across the country (and one this year from Toronto, Canada) who audition and are selected from more than 150 who apply. Bringing these talented youth into Vail for 10 days each summer is not an inexpensive endeavor. The Vail Jazz Fest relies on its donor base to assist, as well as generosity from local businesses and families.

Six families step up every year to host two youth each in their homes. The routine isn't rigorous; it involves serving breakfast and being home in the evening when the exhausted musicians are done with the day. Of course, there's so much more to it than providing a bed and scrambled eggs.

Maureen Mayer has hosted youth for five years. She and her husband, Wing, have been involved with the Jazz Festival for 20 years, and Wing holds the post of workshop director. Students Jasim Perales and Jake Sasfai are hanging out at their home.

"I love to see the musical metamorphosis of the student that gets here and the student who ends up leaving," Maureen said. "It's an amazing thing to watch. I have a piano in the house, and we have a jam session most every night. We raid the fridge and hang out and talk."

Last Saturday, a handful of patrons, host families, instructors and students shared dinner at LionSquare Lodge, and the students performed an impromptu concert to show off their talents for the guests. In the beginning of the week, it's easy to see their raw talent and individual skills, but after a week of coaching by the staff, including trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, pianist Bill Cunliffe, sax player Dick Oates, bassist John Clayton, drummer Lewis Nash and trumpet player Terrell Stafford, the kids really knock it out of the park, supporting one another, coming together and still shining individually.

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Continuing today and Monday, the Jazz Festival takes over Lionshead Village in the tent at the Arrabelle at Vail Square and the Marriott Grand Ballroom at night. There are even late-night jazz sessions, beginning around 10:30 p.m., when the students get to hang and groove with their instructors. Make sure you check out the schedule for the events at http://www.vailjazz.org.

"The Jazz Festival gives greats concerts and great parties, but the educational component is dear to my heart," Maureen Mayer said. "We can keep jazz alive through these students."

Carolyn Pope has covered community service events since 2001 and co-authored "The Women of Vail." She can be reached at 970-390-9913.