Vail Valley Scenery column: Jazz Gala features The Great Ladies of Song | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Scenery column: Jazz Gala features The Great Ladies of Song

"Jazz," said Howard Stone, founder of the Vail Jazz Festival, "is a four-letter word."

Ah, but what joy a four-letter word can bring. At the recent Vail Jazz Foundation gala, guests were on their feet, applauding talented jazz singer Nicole Henry as she performed a selection of hits from The Great Ladies of Song, from Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald to Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston.

The Lodge at Vail hosted the event with around 200 guests, which raised $100,000 to assist in Vail Jazz educational programs. Jenelle Krissel (and I) co-chaired the event, with tremendous support from the staff, which included Executive Director Robin Litt and Development Director Owen Hutchinson.

The live show is what the Jazz Gala is known for, and in previous years, it has highlighted entertainers including Curtis Steiger and Tony DeSare. This year, Henry, hailed as "this generation's First Lady of Jazz," was accompanied by three musicians who previously attended the Vail Jazz Workshop, an intensive week for 12 select high school students who audition for the spots.

Jumaane Smith, who wowed the audience with his technical trumpet skills, attended the workshop in 1998 and has been a part of Michael Buble's band for nine years. Hailey Niswanger, alto sax, came to Vail in 2007 and graduated from Berklee College of Music. She has released several albums and has been listed in DownBeat Magazine as a rising star for three years. Kyle Tilstra came only two years ago and attends Michigan State University. "Life-changing" is the one phrase unanimously used by the workshop alumni to explain their experiences.

The Vail Jazz Foundation also provides Vail Jazz Goes to School, now in its 19th year, a program by which nearly 18,000 local children have learned about and participated in jazz with Vail favorite Tony Gulizia. More than 1,400 children benefit from Vail Jazz educational programs each year.

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Gala guests included Vail locals Argie Ligeros and Pat Tierney, Merv and Laine Lapin, Ann Smead and Michael Byram.

Jazz is filling the summer in Vail. Be sure not to miss the many shows, including the Wednesday evening "Club Series" located at the Mountain Plaza Lodge (next to Gondola One in Vail Village) at 9 p.m., Thursday night at 6 p.m. in Vail Square in Lionshead Village and Sundays at 8 p.m. at The Remedy in the Four Seasons Vail. The huge Vail Jazz Party is Labor Day weekend. Visit http://www.vailjazz.org to keep up to date on all that is rockin' Vail.

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