| 03.17.2018

The Jazz Fest’s power couple — Vern and Vanessa Sielert operate as a team at work and at home


Vern Sielert said his office is cluttered, even on a good day.

His wife Vanessa, who works just down the hall from him in the School of Music building, is always much neater. She is the organized one in their relationship, he said.

“Golly, she’s very organized,” Vern said. 

Vern and Vanessa have been married for 16 years. Eleven years ago, while they were living in Washington, they heard that the University of Idaho was in need of two professors, so each of them applied and both got the job.

“That doesn’t happen,” Vanessa said. “It just doesn’t happen anywhere … But it ended up happening here.”

Last year, Vern and Vanessa also secured leadership positions for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival — Vern as artistic adviser, Vanessa as academic adviser. Since April, both have been working to make the 50th anniversary of the festival a memorable one.

Vanessa said the couple embraces the fact that they can work so closely together to combine their shared passion for music and education to help students reach their full potential.

Their lives are busy, but Vern said they still try to set aside time to be together as a family. He said their son just turned 7 years old the Monday before Jazz Fest, and even though the event was so close, they tried to make the day about him.

“Once the festival is over and we have a little bit more of a calmer schedule … I know that we’ll plan some other things that may involve a little bit more time than just a game of Mario Kart before bedtime,” Vanessa said.

As artistic adviser, Vern was in charge of booking artists for the evening concerts. Vanessa, as academic adviser, handled the educational aspects of the Jazz Fest, from picking out judges to organizing workshops.

Vern said he considered Vanessa’s job to be more demanding, even though his position might get more attention. Regardless, they both do their part to help each other out with their duties. Vanessa said they try to give the other advice when they can.

Vanessa said the position of an academic adviser is a good fit for her, because she’s more closely associated to the public school experience, as she used to lead middle school and high school bands. She said the role of artistic adviser of the Jazz Fest is perfect for Vern.

“He’s a jazz nerd,” she said.

Musicians don’t get a lot of time off, Vern said. They need to keep in practice with their instruments, so music is the couple’s daily thing. He said they play music together all the time — Vern with his trumpet and Vanessa with her saxophone. He said he has also written at least one song for her.

Vern and Vanessa said their spouse does not realize how talented they are with their instrument.

There was no moment earlier in their relationship when either of them realized that they wanted to get married.

“It was never a question that I wasn’t going to hang out with him forever,” Vanessa said.

Vern said Vanessa has about every good trait he can think of — she’s driven, serious about music and a great teacher. Vanessa said she and Vern have a lot in common, and that was partially what attracted her to him when they first met.

“And then there’s that extra little something that you can’t define,” Vanessa said.

Erin Bamer can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @ErinBamer

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