| 03.20.2018

No rest for Jazz Fest

Jazz musicians prepare for Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival


The opportunity for immersion in both the jazz community and the comforting sounds that play alongside the genre’s nuances will return starting Thursday.

Jazz musicians and performers have been coming to the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival for over 50 years, joining icons like Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, who appeared in the past.

“There’s a national awareness in the jazz community,” said Vern Sielert, artistic advisor for the festival and director of jazz studies.

Sielert said even if students do not have much jazz experience, they can still expect to learn many new things.

The festival will feature competitions, solo performances and group collaborations, including guest organist Joey DeFrancesco.

University of Idaho students can acquire a two-day pass for Friday and Saturday, starting at $15 for outer section seating and $25 for floor passes, while UI employee prices start at $20 but extend to $35 for exclusive club seating.

Thursday is exclusive to those who signed up before the capacity limit was reached, with the two following days available to the public. Alongside schools from British Columbia, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, bonus day participants can attend a stylistic variety of musical workshops from 12-5 p.m., led by the Lionel Hampton School of Music faculty.

Competitions begin 8 a.m. Friday, with vocal and instrumental contests from collegiate, elementary and middle school students. Student performances will also take place Friday, lasting from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Grayson Hughbanks | Argonaut

“Every hour during the day there’s something going on,” Sielert said.

Following the student performances, the Young Artists concert will be held in the Kibbie Dome.

“Jazz is a big world, it encompasses a lot of styles,” Sielert said. “So, we’re trying to have some diversity over the two nights.”

Capping off the night is a “Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley” tribute, featuring Antonio Hart (saxophone), Brianna Thomas (vocalist) and Terell Stafford (trumpet).

High school competitions begin 9 a.m. Saturday and will continue throughout the day, followed by another Young Artist’s concert.

Headlined by DeFrancesco, the festival will end with a performance from the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Big Band, featuring Stafford, Tanya Darby and vocalist Kate Skinner among other artists.

Sielert has been involved with the festival for 15 years, and said part of his mission is choosing people that are passionate about education and who will pass on information and enthusiasm to younger generations.

“The way jazz musicians learn is by studying the people that came before them,” Sielert said. “Understand what they did, before you can effectively create your own voice.”

Sielert said the workshops put on for the Jazz Festival are centered around what the artists and hosts want to discuss and teach the audience. Regardless of musical ability or engagement within the jazz community, the workshops are designed to be a welcoming environment to all participants that wish to be taught, motivated or inspired.

“Go in with an open mind, because there are lots of things you can focus in on when listening to music,” Sielert said. “Just go with whatever catches your attention.”

Sielert said he wanted to emphasize the uniqueness of these performances.

“That particular group that’s up there on stage, they’re going to be playing this piece,” Sielert said. “And that’s the only time that the piece will be played like that. Certain elements may be the same … but it’s always going to be different.”

With the large number of performers and scale of the event, Sielert said it can be hard to narrow down one piece to look forward to specifically.

“I’m excited about everything,” Sielert said.

Uniqueness and variety dig themselves deep into the festival, shown through a range of workshops such as Hip Hop and Krump, Math and the Musical Scale, Smooth Ballroom/American Foxtrot, and “What Might Be Living in My Instrument.”

Sielert said he hopes students will participate in the workshops and have fun dancing, even if they might not have experience.

All workshops are open and available to all students and community members, free of charge.

“Jazz is, first and foremost, rhythmically based music,” Sielert said. “It developed not as an art form, it developed as a social function, for dancing, because people wanted to dance. The rhythm and the feel of it at the very least should make you want to tap your feet, and be involved.”

Vanessa Sielert, associate professor of music and educational advisor for the Jazz Festival, emphasized how great of an opportunity the festival is, and said students shouldn’t miss out.

“It’s not really what you miss, it’s what you find,” she said. “There’s beauty in all of it.”

Rem Jensen can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu

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