Let’s Dance

“Let’s dance” may be a call to action, but it was also the name of a short-lived, but very popular radio program (Dec. 1934-May 1935) that launched the career of Benny Goodman. The format of the New York show was unique in that it was five hours long with three rotating bands, but only three hours of music were “aired” in each time zone. Starting at 10:30 p.m. on the East Coast, the last three hours of the program were heard on the West Coast beginning at 9:30 p.m. and it actually had a much larger audience in the Pacific time zone due to its earlier start time.

While the program was extremely popular, a labor dispute at Nabisco, the show’s sponsor, caused it to cease all sponsorships, and the show was canceled. That summer Goodman took his band on the road, but was met with limited success, as the audiences were indifferent to the band’s performances because they played “stock arrangements” that were not all that “swinging.” Goodman was broke and close to quitting, but that all that changed on the night of Aug. 21, 1935, when the band opened at the Palomar Ballroom, a famous dancehall in Hollywood. The crowd came to dance, but when the band played the same material they had been playing that summer, the dancers were non-responsive and it looked like the end was in sight for the band. However, it was Goodman’s drummer, Gene Kruppa, that turned it all around. Between sets that night he said to Goodman, “If we’re gonna die, Benny, let’s die playing our own thing.” Goodman went “all-in,” opening the next set with Fletcher Henderson’s swinging arrangements of “Sometimes I’m Happy” and “King Porter Stomp.” The dancers went wild, bursting into applause and gathering around the bandstand to watch the band play. What Goodman learned that night was that the crowd was there because they had been listening to Goodman on “Let’s Dance” and they were waiting for the opportunity to do just that … to swing dance. At the end of the three-week engagement, Goodman’s position as the “King of Swing” was firmly established.

So what is swing dancing? Well, let us start with the music that is danced to: “swing” is jazz that has a propulsive drive with musical accents related to a fixed beat. When you hear it, you know it, as you instinctively want to click your fingers and tap your feet and the music has that “swing feel.”

The origins of swing dancing can be traced to Harlem in the 1920’s and 30’s. Known variously as the Jitterbug, Balboa, Shag and Boogie Woogie, and many more colorful names, the most widely adopted of which was the “Lindy Hop.” Its roots go back to African rhythms meddled to European dance conventions – partner dancing. Besides providing sheer joy to the participants, it allowed the dancers to improvise with aerials and other techniques that captured the imagination of young people who did not want to dance like their elders. Sound familiar?

The Lindy Hop got its name from the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, whose 1927 solo flight from NY to Paris brought “Lindy” world fame for his “hop” across the Atlantic. Shortly thereafter, a newspaper reporter asked a dancer what was the name of the wild dance the crowd was performing, he responded, “the Lindy Hop,” and the name stuck.

Ground zero for the Lindy Hop was the Savoy Ballroom, located at 141st and Lenox Ave. in Harlem. Known as the “Home of Happy Feet,” the cavernous dancehall could accommodate 4,000 dancers and was opened seven nights a week with an admission charge of $.60 after 6 p.m. and $.85 after 8 p.m. It had an elongated dancefloor anchored by two bandstands – one at each end of the dance floor. When one band stopped to take a break, the dancers moved to the other end of the floor and without missing a beat, the next band began to play. The Savoy was the scene of many band competitions, or “cutting contests,” as they were known. The most famous swing-era bands led by Count Basie, Chick Webb, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and many more, did battle at the Savoy and it was the inspiration for the great swing-era tune, “Stompin’ at the Savoy.”

Most importantly, the Lindy Hop and the Savoy played an important role in the beginning of the desegregation of the races in America. Annual attendance was 700,000 with an estimated mix of 85% black patrons and 15% white patrons, but some evenings it was 50-50. White dancers went uptown to the Savoy to be part of an evolving dance scene, which would ultimately become a dance craze that would sweep the nation and lead to the tearing down of barriers between the races. The Savoy was in reality a social experiment, not just a dancehall, especially when contrasted with another very famous Harlem establishment only a few blocks away, The Cotton Club, a “whites-only” venue. It was controlled by the “mob” and catered to the wealthy, featuring top black entertainers with an all-black service staff. Decorated with a jungle motif, it reeked of overt racism and the best that can be said for it was that it launched the careers of jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Lena Horne.

So let’s dance!

Vail Jazz presents “Swing! Swing! Swing!” at 8 p.m. Friday, March 30 at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch. The evening of swinging dance and live music from the Tony Gulizia Sextet celebrates the 20th anniversary of Vail Jazz Goes to School.  

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Howard Stone is the founder and artistic director of the Vail Jazz Foundation, which produces the annual Vail Jazz Winter Series and the Vail Jazz Festival. 

 

Vail Jazz Goes Swingin’ at The Ritz

The Tony Gulizia Sextet set to deliver a rare evening of swinging dance tunes

Ah, the 1950s … poodle skirts, big bands and unabashed swing dancing in ballrooms. Here’s your chance for a taste of it. Blast back to the best of the big band era on Friday, March 30 at the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch with Swing! Swing! Swing!

Pianist Tony Gulizia heads up the evening of powerhouse live music and dancing, performing big band classics from Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Count Basie, to name just a few.

“It’s going to be a great night of American jazz dance music from the big band era,” Gulizia says. “I get a lot of comments from folks saying there is no place to go dance in the valley, especially swing dance. You’d be surprised how often couples jump up to dance in a restaurant or bar. They’ll have all kinds of space for this event. It’ll be a fun night.”

In anticipation, local musician Kathy Morrow has been shining her dancing shoes along with some of her students at Avon Recreation Center, where she co-instructs a ballroom dance class of East and West Coast swing, foxtrot, waltz, rumba and cha cha with Scott Hopkins.

“We never get the chance to dance to big band music,” Morrow says. “I think I was born 50 years too late, but I dream of being part of that scene. It’s kind of a bygone era and not easy to bring back, since ballrooms are hard to come by. I love to move, love to dance. Tony can really, really swing. This is a great opportunity.”

In addition to Gulizia on piano, the sextet includes his brother Joey Gulizia on drums, Mike Gurciullo on trumpet, Andy Hall on bass, Michael Pujado on percussion and Roger Neumann on saxophone.

The high-energy set list will span the gamut of big band and swing favorites from the 1920s through today. Don’t be surprised to hear classics that beg for the Charleston an tunes from jazz giants like Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima and more.

All told, the live music extravaganza will roll through 100 years of jazz classics.

Swing! Swing! Swing! marks the 20th anniversary of Vail Jazz Goes to School, a Vail Jazz educational program that enlightens fourth and fifth graders about the art and history of jazz music as well as providing an opportunity to actually play and create music.

Since its inception 20 years ago, Tony Gulizia and members of his sextet have served as faculty for Vail Jazz Goes to School, imparting musical wisdom to roughly 22,000 local boys and girls. The program has served as a springboard for musical studies and professional careers for numerous students.

“I’ll bump into kids who are adults now. They’ll say, ‘I remember you from Vail Jazz Goes to School. You really opened my eyes to music and to how diverse jazz is,’” Gulizia says.

Swing! Swing! Swing

Friday, March 30

Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch

The Tony Gulizia Sextet (Joey Gulizia on drums, Mike Gurciullo on trumpet, Andy Hall on bass, Michael Pujado on percussion and Roger Neumann on saxophone) delivers an explosive live performance featuring American jazz from the big band and swing eras at 8 p.m. March 30 at The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch. Pre-show dinner specials will be offered at Ritz-Carlton eatery (970.343.1168 for reservations). Free parking and complimentary shuttle service is provided for all attendees to and from the Bear Lot at the base of Beaver Creek. Tickets are $40, or $75 for VIP, which includes a pre-show champagne toast and premiere seating with table service. All proceeds benefit Vail Jazz Goes to School. For more information, call 970-479-6146.

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Vail Jazz honored for paving educational path

Founder Howard Stone receives prestigious Downbeat Jazz Education Achievement Award.

Howard Stone has served as more than just a springboard for many young musicians’ career paths. But you’d be pressed to get him to admit it.

Try asking him about all the years he hosted the crew of Vail Jazz Workshop students in his very own home or about the time he personally bought shoes for a particularly necessitous young student and he consistently plays down his role.

So it’s no surprise when asking him about the extremely prestigious award he won this spring – the Jazz Education Achievement Award from Downbeat Magazine – that he immediately deflects all credit.

“I’m not an educator,” he says. “There is no question I started the program, but I want the individuals who actually educate to be recognized. It’s one thing to sit in a room and dream up an idea. Sometimes you want to slap idea people.”

Nobody wants to slap Stone. They just want to give him the award.

The education program he “dreamed up” is the Vail Jazz Workshop, launched 22 years ago when Stone realized after one year of organizing the Vail Jazz Festival that he should also establish a tideway for the future of the art form, enlisting famed bassist John Clayton as head mentor.

Each year, the Workshop hosts 12 of North America’s top teenage musical prodigies for 10 intensive days of focused training, all without the help of written music. Since the inaugural workshop, the team of educators has included John Clayton and his brother, saxophonist Jeff Clayton (whose role was temporarily filled by Dick Oates for two seasons), as well as pianist Bill Cunliffe. Trumpeter Terell Stafford and drummer Lewis Nash joined the mentor team 21 and 17 years ago, respectively, followed by trombonist Wycliffe Gordon six years ago.

“There is a healthy understanding of the importance of “giving back, moving things forward and investing in the future,” John Clayton says of the Workshop.

“Some of it gets to be pretty emotional because you see the students at the beginning of the week and share so much,” Stafford adds. “You get to watch incredible relationships blossom.”

Attending the Vail Jazz Workshop has become such a benchmark achievement that organizers receive more than 140 applications from up-and-coming musicians for the 12 spots each year. All arrive with resumés reading like those of accomplished pros and leave with the distinctive, incomparable ability to play by ear.

The Vail Jazz Workshop has cultivated 250 students over the past two-plus decades and many have gone on to illustrious musical careers, including Grammy Award winner Robert Glasper, Beyoncé band member Tia Fuller and award-winning documentary Keep On Keepin’ On star Justin Kauflin.

“The Jazz Workshop allowed me to learn from some of the greatest jazz musicians around and gave me the chance to learn alongside peers that challenged and inspired me to strive to always improve,” Kauflin said during a return visit to Vail in 2014 with various other Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni.  “I’ve been able to keep in contact with faculty and students after the workshop and am so fortunate to be a part of such an elite network of musicians.”

Workshop days are intense. Step into any one of them and you are likely to find students glued to their instrument in heavy concentration of each note or clustered around the mentors, hanging on their every word. After the week of training, Workshops students graduate to the status of Vail Jazz All-Stars and get to take their freshly cultivated skills to the stage, opening the annual Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day weekend, followed by a set from Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni and the mentors themselves, dubbed the Vail Jazz Party House Band.

 

But the education efforts of Vail Jazz continue all year. Following the advent of the Vail Jazz Workshop, Stone teamed up with local piano paragon Tony Gulizia to launch Vail Jazz Goes to School, a four-part educational series delivered to every elementary school in the valley. Here, fourth and fifth graders learn the art of syncopation, the 12-bar blues and improvisation as well as lessons in the history and evolution of jazz music. Since its inception in 1998, Vail Jazz Goes to School has educated more than 18,000 young students. Gulizia’s team is comprised of his brother, Joey Gulizia on drums, Andy Hall (bass), Roger Neumann (woodwinds), Mike Gurciullo (trumpet) and Michael Pujado (congas and percussion).

In 2013, also with Gulizia in the instructional seat, Stone’s next brainchild came into fruition. Vail Jazz introduced Jammin’ Jazz Kids, a free, hands-on class offered to 4 to 12-year-old children every Sunday in July preceding the weekly Vail Jazz@ The Market performance. Gulizia and fellow musician/mentor Brian Loftus equip the crowd of youngsters with xylophones, congas, tambourines, bongos and maracas, and within a few magical moments, the kids are thundering out amazing rhythms. For several children, the experience is pivotal in encouraging instrumental hobbies.

True that Stone is not the teacher conducting the hand-to-hand and ear-to-ear exchanges in these educational sessions, but they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for him.

“There’s something to be said for creators and something more to be said for doers,” he says.

But doers cannot do until the creation is in place. The musical community, young and old, novice and pro, have Stone to thank for this.

Altogether, Vail Jazz delivers more than 50 educational programs every year, imparting musical knowledge to more than 1,400 students annually.

2017 Vail Jazz Gala July 10

Vail Jazz’s educational programs would also not exist if it weren’t for the generosity of donors and supporters. The annual Vail Jazz Gala serves as the organization’s No. 1 fundraiser for its educational programming.

The July 10 event, From Bridge Street to Bourbon Street is bound to do exactly that –  transport audiences to the heart of New Orleans. Starring iconic, New Orleans-based vocalist John Boutté and a colossal combination of Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni, the evening delivers a soulful performance as well as an exquisite dinner, cocktail and appetizer reception. For more information or tickets, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

Vail Today: Vail Jazz Goes to School connects kids with the history of jazz

Jazz and the history of this American gift to the world of music was alive and well at the Vilar Performing Arts Center this week. The Jazz Goes to School program concluded their school series with a concert led by local Jazz Goes to School educator, Tony Gulizia.

Gulizia was joined by the Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet, which consists of musicians from all over the nation. They get together for four sessions at local elementary schools each school year. Many of them have been doing this gig since it began 19 years ago.

“I really wanted to reach out to 4th and 5th graders to help spark the interest at that age, especially since they can join band in the 5th grade,” said Gulizia, who has been a music instructor at Eagle County Charter Academy for the past 24 years and is a fixture on the Vail music scene.

As part of their education during the previous sessions, students were taught the 12 Bar Blues. The kids had to come up with innovative lyrics and show their ability to follow the rhythm and rhyming pattern they were taught.

This is often the highlight of each performance as Tony Gulizia sings the lyrics in a bluesy fashion, crooning about things like having to move on from elementary to middle school, or an ice cream scoop falling to the floor and mom making you clean it up.

The lyrics are priceless and so is the experience. “I have so many former participants come up to me even 10 or 15 years later and say how much they remember what they learned in our program or how they went on to play an instrument,” said Gulizia. “It’s great to hear that we’ve made an impact and are keeping jazz alive for the next generation.”

To learn more visit http://www.vailjazz.org.
12-Bar Blues

The fifth-graders who participated in Vail Jazz Goes to School were challenged to write their own lyrics in sync with the jazz chord progression they had learned known as the 12-bar blues. Compositions were judged on innovative lyrics and the ability to follow the rhythm and rhyming pattern they were taught. Here are the winning lyrics:

1. Eagle County Charter Academy

One day I looked outside, it was a pretty day
One day I looked outside, it was a pretty day
I said, I want to go swimmin’ in the bay

Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night
Yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night
I had a real bad dream, that gave me quite a fright

I woke up in the hospital, realized I cracked my head
I woke up in the hospital, realized I cracked my head
Even through it was a bummer, I was happy, I wasn’t dead

2. Stone Creek Charter

One fine day, I met a tabby cat
One fine day, I met a tabby cat
He stole my watch, my wallet, and my hat

I know a bearded man, his name is Baúl
I know a bearded man, his name is Baúl
He’s my Spanish teacher, he’s very cool

There was an alien, his name was Bob
There was an alien, his name was Bob
I grabbed 2 swords, now he’s a shish kebab

3. Brush Creek Elementary

This is, the Bobcat Blues
This is, the Bobcat Blues
If you don’t understand, you lose

This song, must be sung loud & proud
This song, must be sung loud & proud
Cause it was written by Ava, Caleigh and Rylee, who are so proud

Vail Jazz Goes to School puts musical stamp on 19th year

Wrapping up its 19th year in Eagle County, Vail Jazz Goes to School rolls out its grand finale on the big stage with three performances at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.   

The fourth and final session of the Vail Jazz Goes to School educational program, entitled “A Tribute to the Giants of Jazz”, features the Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet performing a selection of tunes that have shaped the history of jazz in America. Vail Jazz Goes to School educator Tony Gulizia (keyboard and vocals) will lead the Sextet through legendary jazz tunes from Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn, Benny Goodman, Sonny Rollins, George Gershwin, Dave Brubeck & Paul Desmond, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.

“We also perform a medley of blues compositions authored by the fifth graders as part of the concert. Their lyrics are priceless,” Gulizia says.

Drummer Joey Gulizia joins brother Tony on stage, as do Andy Hall (bass), Roger Neumann (woodwinds), Mike Gurciullo (trumpet) and Michael Pujado (congas and percussion).  The Sextet presents a dynamic, foot stompin’ show that pulls together all of the concepts taught in the first three classroom sessions, in which Tony and his educating team visited every elementary school in the valley imparting hands-on musical lessons to fourth and fifth grade classes.

As part of their education during the previous sessions, students were taught the 12 Bar Blues and during the Vilar concerts, a winning student (or group of students) will be announced for their innovative lyrics and ability to follow the rhythm and rhyming pattern they were taught.

Concerts take place at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25 and at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 26. The concerts last approximately one hour and will be attended by local fourth and fifth graders. Tickets are not available online but seats are available at the door to the general public.

Vail Jazz Goes to School educates more than 1,100 local fourth and fifth graders annually and new in the last year, began visiting a handful of elementary schools on the Front Range. Since its inception 19 years ago, Vail Jazz Goes to School has introduced jazz music to nearly 20,000 school children.

To learn more about Vail Jazz’s educational programs, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM.

 

Vail Jazz Goes to School is presented by Alpine Bank and Slifer Smith & Frampton Foundation, with support from Stevens, Littman, Biddison, Tharp & Weinberg, L.L.C., Vail Resorts Epic Promise, United Way of Eagle County, the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Eagle County Schools, East West Resorts and Antlers at Vail.

Vail Jazz Goes to School brings free education to young generations throughout the valley and beyond

In its 19th year, more than 20,000 fourth and fifth graders have learned and been shaped by the progressive musical program

It’s one thing for a child to explore his or her musical skills by tooting a few notes on a recorder. It’s another for a kid to learn the 12 bar blues and then compose an original song. Vail Jazz Goes to School sees to it that every key to unlocking a child’s musical talent is provided and is about to make its first rounds of 2017, hitting every elementary school in Eagle County.

Launching into its 19th year, Vail Jazz Goes to School is offered free to students. A quintet of professional musicians – led by local vocal and piano sensation Tony Gulizia – imparts a four-part series of comprehensive and progressive musical programs to fourth and fifth grade classes throughout the valley. More than 1,200 students will attend Vail Jazz Goes to School throughout 2016-17 and more than 20,000 local students have gone through the program since its inception 19 years ago.

“You can’t believe how creative some of them get,” Gulizia says. “We give them the tools – the rhyme scheme, call and response, writing the lyrics to blues, a geographic lesson, a lesson that becomes like an English class writing the lyrics to blues like writing a poem with how it fits in certain measures … The best part for me is seeing former students who are now in college studying jazz. In some cases, what we did opened their eyes to something big.”

In September, the first program in the Vail Jazz Goes to School series took students through the history of jazz music, from African rhythms through the hardships of American slavery and New Orleans blues to the present, allowing students the opportunity to play ancient African instruments themselves, learning the art of syncopation. The second part of the series, traveling through local elementary schools Jan. 23 to 26, will teach students specifics about rhythm section instruments – the piano, bass and drums. Students will learn the 12 bar blues progression and how each instrument contributes to harmony and melody.

As far as instruction, Tony Gulizia is joined by his brother, drummer Joey Gulizia who tours with Mannheim Steamroller, Andy Hall on bass, Roger Neumann on woodwinds and Mike Gurciullo on trumpet. Students delve into the notes of the blues scale in greater detail, also learning improvisation during the third session (March 6 to 9) and in the final session learn specific musical styles such as swing, ragtime and be-bop. Vail Jazz Goes to School culminates with the addition of percussionist Michael Pujado making Gulizia’s sextet performing some of the students’ own original compositions at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.

“This quintet has been with me almost since the beginning and I couldn’t ask for greater guys or more incredible musicians,” Gulizia says. “They are also great educators. We have so much fun with it. It’s important for kids to learn American music and for these young generations to keep that style of music alive, since jazz encompasses 110 years of different styles.”

When 1,200 fourth and fifth graders embark on this progressive musical program, especially learning to compose an original work of their own, it’s clear that Vail Jazz is paving the way for the future of music.

“It’s amazing to see how quickly these kids can learn in this environment,” says Vail Jazz executive director Robin Litt. “Tony and the other musicians make concepts like the 12 bar blues easy to understand. You really get to see the students tap into their own musical talent.”

Vail Jazz Goes to School is a free educational program delivered to Eagle County schools courtesy of Vail Jazz, Vail Resorts Epic Promise, Alpine Bank, United Way Eagle River Valley and Colorado Mountain Express and contributions from every elementary school and their PTAs. For the first time in its 19-year history, Gulizia and his quintet are taking Vail Jazz Goes to School on the road, bringing the program to elementary schools in Niwot, Lafayette and Boulder later this month.

For more information on Vail Jazz Goes to School, visit vailjazz.org or call 888-VAIL-JAM

Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet performs student compositions at year-end concert

The Vilar Performing Arts Center was alive with toe tapping, knee smacking and head bobbing this week, as Tony Gulizia and the Vail Jazz Goes to School Sextet performed a trio of concerts for local fourth- and fifth-graders to wrap up the latest season of the Vail Jazz Foundation’s Jazz Goes to School program.

Gulizia took students on a historical tour of jazz, from the funeral dirges of early 1900s New Orleans, through Fats Waller and Duke Ellington in the 1920s and ’30s, hitting a crescendo with Dizzy Gillespie’s 1940s be-bop — complete with three-conch shell harmony — and then dialing it back with the “cool jazz” of Miles Davis in the 1950s.

“Your mom’s got some soup on the stove and it’s boiling over,” Gulizia said of the torrid bop of the ’40s. “Well, she turns it down to simmer and boils it off a bit and we have a new style of jazz called ‘cool jazz.’”

The Sextet strolled through Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” sizzled on Tito Puente’s “Oye Como Va” and jammed on Grover Washington Jr.’s pop classic “Just the Two of Us,” as the young audience clapped along, occasionally air drumming or throwing up a finger trumpet, cheeks puffed out like Gillespie.

Decade by decade, Gulizia introduced the tunes with a bit of background about each style of jazz and each musician who helped to make it famous, from the first jazz song that was ever written down on paper — W.C. Handy’s “The Saint Louis Blues” — to the heyday of New York’s Cotton Club to the advent of electronic instruments in the 1960s.

The tour came to an end with Louis Prima’s rendition of “Jump, Jive and Wail,” part of the resurgence of swing in the 1990s.

“Back about 10 years ago, or a little more than that, all of a sudden came a revival of what they called jive music,” Gulizia said. “You’d see kids just a little bit older than you doing the jitterbug and dancing and having a good time.”

FIRST-TIME COMPOSERS

As a new edition to the program this year, fifth-graders who participated in Vail Jazz Goes to School were challenged to write their own lyrics in sync with the jazz chord progression they had learned known as the 12-bar blues.

Gulizia and his fellow musicians concluded each of the three performances by playing a handful of the submitted tunes and, ultimately, crowning a trio of winning songs, rewarding the songwriters with gift cards to Sugar Bar candy store in Edwards.

He sang of run-away dogs, the cool, clear water of a summer swimming pool and making lemonade when life gives you lemons before launching into the first winning composition on Tuesday morning.

“Oh sweet candy, I need you the most,” Gulizia sang, as students craned their necks, searching the audience for the chosen songwriter. “Oh sweet candy, I need you the most. I’m going to win this contest, but I don’t want to boast.”

Excited murmurings shot through the crowd as Faith Sandoval, a fifth-grader at June Creek Elementary, recognized her song, embellished by Gulizia’s blues crooning.

“When I heard it, I was like, oh my god,” she said. “I was proud of myself that I worked so hard on it.”

After learning about the 12-bar blues, and the potential reward of a sweet treat for winning the competition, Faith said she was inspired to write on the theme of candy.

“I really like making up beats of songs, and what made me think of the candy, I really wanted to inspire little kids to keep on going to do this,” she said.

MORE 12-BAR BLUES

Tuesday afternoon brought a songwriting duo to the stage to collect their winnings. Maddox Fitzgerald and Keegan Collins, of Edwards Elementary School, wrote their song “Home Run” about America’s favorite pastime.

“I started with a conclusion,” Maddox said. “I really wanted to do that conclusion, and he came up with the baseball theme and he came up with the middle part, and then together it took us a while to figure out the middle part.”

Keegan said he was speechless when he heard Gulizia sing the first few lines.

“I didn’t think it was ours at the very beginning,” he said. “I thought it was some else’s because I thought we called it something else.”

“I heard the ‘Home Run’ and I was like, that could be ours or it could be someone else’s,” Maddox said. “I wish I could do that again, write another song again.”

The final winner was called to the stage at the third concert on Wednesday morning. Sammi Boeke, of Red Hill Elementary School, said her song “Springtime Blues” was inspired but the current weather in the high country, starting with chirping birds and growing gardens and concluding with “crazy snowing.”

“I was really surprised,” she said when she found out her composition had been selected, adding that she wouldn’t be keeping her candy winnings to herself. “I’m going to share it with my brothers.”

Vail Jazz Goes to School returns with a sweet reward in store

Vail Jazz Goes to School, Vail Jazz’s music education program for fourth- and fifth-graders, returns to schools in Eagle County starting today. This third session brings a trio of professional musicians and educators into 15 local schools to share their love of jazz and American history, and to inspire young people to embrace America’s own art form, whether as spectators or musicians.

Musician and educator Tony Gulizia leads the program.

“When the kids get to use their own hands to play an instrument as they do in this session, the beauty of the music really comes alive for them. They understand how it works and why improvisation is at the heart of all jazz music,” Gulizia said.

Two jazz educators — Gulizia’s brother, Joey, drums, and Andy Hall, bass — join him in this session as they introduce the blues scale and other techniques used in improvisation. Students are taught the notes of the blues scale and musical concepts such as dissonance and syncopation. With this foundation, the older students then get a chance to try their hand at creating their own jazz by writing 12-bar blues compositions, with lyrics put to a blues beat.

At the final concert on May 10 and 11 at the Vilar Performing Arts Center, a selection of fifth-grade students’ blues compositions will be presented in medley. New this year, one group of students will be awarded for having the best lyrics at each of the three final concerts, thanks to support from Sugar Bar. The Vail Daily will also recognize winning lyrics by publishing them in the newspaper.

“Most kids would never be exposed to jazz, much less understand its development and relevance to American history, without this program,” said Dawn Vallejos, music teacher at Eagle Valley and Edwards elementary schools.

The program provides music teachers with a comprehensive curriculum, pre- and post-visit lesson plans and follow-up activities that complement the three sessions with the musicians in the classroom.

Vail Jazz Goes to School, now in its 16th year, supports and promotes jazz with a focus on educating young audiences. Jazz Goes to School is presented by Vail Jazz to Eagle County fourth- and fifth-graders at all public schools and Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, Vail Christian Academy, Stone Creek Elementary School and St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School.

Vail Jazz Goes to School will reach more than 1,100 Eagle County students this school year and has exposed more than 17,000 students to this unique American art form since its inception.

Eagle County Swings with Vail Jazz Goes to School

Vail Jazz Goes to School, Vail Jazz’s unique jazz education program for fourth- and fifth-graders, returns to Eagle County schools Monday through Thursday. The program features a quintet of professional musician-educators who travel to 16 local elementary schools to share their love of jazz and American history and inspire young people to embrace jazz, America’s original art form.

While September’s Session 1 focused on the origins of jazz and the rhythm section with handmade bongos and drums, this second session of the four-part program adds in the horn section.

“We want to introduce the kids to the heart of jazz, while the cool combination of drums, piano and bass forms the core of all jazz music,” said program director Tony Gulizia. “Now, we add in the saxophone and trumpet to create a clean, cool sound they love.”

COMPOSING JAZZ MUSIC

Later in the Vail Jazz Goes to School curriculum, the older students will try their hands at writing their own jazz music. The final concert in May at the Vilar Performing Arts Center includes blues compositions created by the fifth-graders, performed in an exciting medley format.

Vail Resorts EpicPromise, the company’s philanthropy program, has identified Vail Jazz Goes to School as a necessary and valuable way to help bring the arts into our schools.

“Vail Resorts supports Jazz Goes to School as an incredibly important program that teaches the wonders of jazz to the children of Eagle County,” said Nicky DeFord, manager of charitable giving for Vail Resorts. Additionally, Alpine Bank’s grant to Vail Jazz provides funds to bring accomplished jazz instructors from around the country into all elementary schools in the region.

“We encourage parents of fourth- and fifth-graders to attend their children’s programs to share their enthusiasm for what they’re learning,” said Robin Litt, executive director of Vail Jazz. “Their love for the program can be really infectious.”

Tony Gulizia (keyboard and vocals), directs Vail Jazz Goes to School along with his brother Joey, who is also a professional jazz musician and educator, on drums. Other musician-educators performing and teaching this week include Andy Hall (bass), Roger Neumann (saxophone) and Mike Gurciullo (trumpet).

Now in its 18th year, Vail Jazz Goes to School supports and promotes the jazz art form with a focus on educating young musicians and young audiences — fulfilling the mission of Vail Jazz.

Vail Jazz Goes to School swings into Eagle County schools

Vail Jazz Goes to School, the Vail Jazz education program for fourth- and fifth-graders, returns to schools in Eagle County starting Monday. A staff of professional musicians and educators join local jazz musician and Tony Gulizia, the program director, to bring this innovative educational program to 16 local schools. They share their love and knowledge of jazz and American history to inspire young people to embrace jazz, America’s own art form.

“Children’s eyes light up when Mr. Gulizia works with them on the introduction to jazz,” said Robin Litt, executive director. “There’s nothing like Vail Jazz Goes to School elsewhere in the country, and we are so lucky to have such a talented teaching staff lead the program.”

The first of four sessions, titled What Is This Thing Called Jazz?, explore the evolution of the music from its origins in Africa and the American south through to present day. Students will examine the customs and musical traditions that African slaves brought to America, how the migration of the black population brought blues to New Orleans and the history and evolution of many musical instruments. Throughout the session, students are encouraged to try their hand at playing special handmade percussion instruments from West Africa and learn the African rhythms that found their way to New Orleans.

Now in its 18th year, Vail Jazz Goes to School supports and promotes the jazz art form with a focus on educating young musicians and young audiences — fulfilling the mission of Vail Jazz. For this first session, Gulizia is joined by his brother Joey on drums, also a professional jazz musician and educator, and Michael Pujado on percussion.

ABOUT JAZZ GOES TO SCHOOL

Vail Jazz Goes to School is presented at all Eagle County public schools, plus the Eagle County Charter Academy, Vail Mountain School, Vail Christian Academy, Stone Creek Charter School and St. Clare of Assisi Catholic School. Vail Jazz Goes to School reaches more than 1,200 students each year and has exposed more than 16,000 students to the course about this uniquely American art form.

Since 1995, Vail Jazz has brought attention to jazz music through live performances, which showcase the talent of great jazz musicians, and through jazz education, with a focus on young musicians and young audiences. Vail Jazz Goes to School is presented through grants from Vail Resorts Epic Promise, Alpine Bank, United Way Eagle River Valley and Colorado Mountain Express, along with donations from individuals who support sharing jazz with younger generations.