| 03.17.2018

A look back




A University of Idaho professor started the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival to cultivate a learning environment through musical education in the form of celebration. 

Bruce Bray, the director of Music Education, began the festival and hosted the first performance in 1967.

Fifteen regional high school bands and UI jazz bands and musicians participated, said Kate Skinner, UI jazz instructor.

“He felt that we had a really strong jazz band and he felt it would be great to bring some regional high school bands and have them learn from our faculty and students,” Kate said.

The festival grew in size in the years after and the Jazz Festival invited prominent musicians and jazz icons to perform in the 1970s, Kate said.

By 1977 the festival had 92 bands and was extended to a two-day event, and in 1980 the festival became a three-day event, according to UI Special Collections and Archives Department archives.

Lionel Hampton, a jazz musician and vibraphonist, visited the festival for the first time in 1984. He was the first African American to perform in a quartet with white men and played a huge part in the desegregation of jazz music, Kate said.

Kate said Hampton formed a close friendship with Doc Skinner, the director of the festival from 1978 to 2006, and became heavily involved with the festival and school of music at UI.

“He came here every year and had a really instrumental role in picking who would play at the big concerts and gave clinics and worked with the students,” Kate said.

Hampton and Chevron donated $15,000 to the production in 1985, the same year the festival’s name changed to the “Lionel Hampton Chevron Jazz Festival,” Kate said.

The festival is the first jazz festival to be named after an African American jazz musician.

By 1986, 200 bands from all over the Pacific Northwest participated in the festival.

In 2007 President George W. Bush awarded the prestigious National Medal of the Arts to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, according to UI Special Collections and Archives Department archives.Doc has had a huge impact on the success of the festival, Kate said.

Jazz bands and artists would agree to come to the festival at a reduced rate because they admired and respected Doc, Kate said.

Kate said the emphasis of the festival has always been education and Doc was passionate about the educational aspect.

The festival brings in professional musicians, educators and clinicians to provide 30 minutes of feedback to students after they perform for them, Kate said.

“The point is that we are educating young musicians and helping them learn about what jazz music is and how jazz music is art,” Kate said.

There are daytime clinics that cover topics such as improvisations, how to direct a band and how to get the best sound out of an instrument, Kate said.

Brie Slavens can be reach at arg-arts@uidaho.edu 

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