Vail Valley Scenery column: Jazzin’ it up at Donovan Pavilion |

Vail Valley Scenery column: Jazzin’ it up at Donovan Pavilion

Vail Jazz Staff: Back row: Ryan Bernardi, Jennifer Lucas, Christin Fergus-Jean and Owen Hutchinson. FrontrRow: Ashley Kemmer, Robin Litt.
Carolyn Pope | Special to the Daily |

“Twenty years ago, I decided to throw a party,” said Jazz Festival founder Howard Stone. “That’s turned out to be the Jazz Festival. We started with 300 guests at the Cascade; now we’re now up to 45 shows with 25,000 people.”

The Vail Jazz Festival, though completely about the music, is also about musical education. In the Vail Valley, 16 different elementary schools participate. Over 1,100 fourth and fifth graders annual get classes throughout the year that expose them to the genre, its history, the impact on the United States, and of course, musical performances. That’s more than 17,000 school children who have had this opportunity. Ask a kid in the valley who Tony Gulizia is, and a huge smile will come to their face. He is the face of jazz in the schools, and has inspired many a child to play a sax, a guitar or a drum set.

Last week, the Jazz Festival threw a birthday party for itself: a 20th year celebration at Donovan Pavilion. The inimitable Tony DeSare performed with his group. The New Yorker mixed it up, from some of his originals to a truly sexy “Sinatra-ish” version of Prince’s “Kiss” that had the women in the audience swooning. His bass player, Mike Lee, has something in common with the Vail school kids; Tony Gulizia was his music teacher back in Omaha, Nebraska.

Rob LeVine, of the Antlers at Vail, was honored. LeVine has been at The Antlers for 35 years, and is an integral part of the business and non-profit community (and of course, a supporter of the Jazz Festival).

Over the 10 years of the Jazz Fest, 250 high-school aged musicians have come to Vail to study under jazz greats; kids who, most likely, would never have such an opportunity. This year, 12 students — 16- and 17-year-olds — are arriving on Aug. 13 from Louisiana, California, New Jersey, Florida and more.

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Summer Jazz Events

Locals and visitors reap the benefits of the Vail Jazz Foundation throughout the summer. Included are performances at the Vail Farmers’ Market each Sunday (free), Jazz at Kelly Liken on Sunday evenings, Jazz at Vail Square in Lionshead, to the Big Daddy of them all, the Vail Jazz Party, that kicks off over Labor Day Weekend. The House Band is a who’s who of the jazz world: John Clayton, Jeff Clayton, Wycliffe Gordon, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash. There’s also lots of special events, including a Jazz Festival favorite, the “Gospel Prayer Meetin,’” held on the closing day.

And, of course, you’ll have a chance to see those twelve talented high schoolers perform.

The Jazz Festival couldn’t do it without its sponsors and donors. Some of the corporate sponsors include Alpine Bank, the town of Vail, Colorado Mountain Express, Colorado Creative Industries, New Amsterdam, the Vail Daily, Kelly Liken and more.

For tickets and information about the upcoming Jazz Party over Labor Day Weekend, or to find out what else is jammin’ in the Vail jazz world, check out or call 970-479-6146.

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