Q+A with the Vail Jazz Workshop Instructors: Dick Oatts

Brand new to the Vail Jazz Festival and the Vail Jazz Workshop, Iowa native Dick Oatts will replace veteran Jeff Clayton this year in the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In 1977 Dick moved to New York City and joined the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra. Since then he has recorded and toured with an amazing array of stars, including Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Tito Puente, and Mel Tormé, and has appeared on over 100 albums as a sideman. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Amsterdam Conservatory since 1997.

Formerly a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music, he is now the artistic director and a professor (alongside Terell Stafford) at Temple University. Vail Jazz is proud to welcome him to the Vail Jazz Workshop faculty!



What is your connection to Vail Jazz? 

I have had students attend the Workshop and have worked with several members of its great teaching faculty over the years.


What is your favorite pre-gig beverage?

Water or decaf coffee.

Do you have a pre-gig ritual?

Having a good reed that can vibrate the air I can put into the saxophone. Also, not eating too much in order to have enough air for the gig.

What’s your favorite post-gig meal?

I’m a vegan so my meals are usually boring—something with a little salt or spice added.

What is the most striking venue you have ever performed at?

Village Vanguard in NYC and some of the beautiful outside festivals in Italy, Spain or Greece.



Stay tuned for next week’s “Q+A with: Terell Stafford”!

This article is part of a 6-part series highlighting the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors, who comprise the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In it’s 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop recruits 12 of the nation’s most talented teenage jazz musicians who travel to Vail for a week of intensive, two-to-one learning with the instructors. The students refine their skills, learn the art of playing by ear and most importantly, come to own and hone their special talents. Thanks to their Vail Jazz mentors, nearly all of the students have gone on to become professional musicians.

Q+A with the Vail Jazz Workshop Instructors: Lewis Nash

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Lewis developed an early interest in music and began playing drums at age 10. By age 18, he was performing with local jazz groups. Hitting 21, Nash had become the “first call” jazz drummer in Phoenix, working with Sonny Stitt, Art Pepper, Red Garland, Lee Konitz, Barey Kessell, and Slide Hampton during their engagements in the city. In 1981, Nash moved to New York City where he joined the trio of the great jazz vocalist Betty Carter. For nearly four years, he toured internationally with Ms. Carter. He is featured on three of her recordings, including the Grammy winning “Look What I got.”

His impressive discography (over 300 recordings) includes projects with jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter, Hank Jones and John Lewis, as well as new jazz stars Diana Krall, Joe Lovano and Roy Hargrove. In fact, Nash was labeled the “Jazz’s Most Valuable Player” in the drumming world by Modern Drummer Magazine.

On Saturday September 5, Lewis will present a special multimedia tribute at this year’s Vail Jazz Party to his own drum influences, including Art Blakey, “Philly Joe” Jones, Max Roach, Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Cobb. Lewis, in great demand for his mastery of virtually all drumming styles, is the perfect host for exploring past drum masters. Buy tickets here. {Saturday Evening Session}



What is the best aspect of the Vail Jazz Festival? 

The Vail Jazz Festival is participant friendly. The “icing on the cake,” is that the audiences for the Vail Jazz Festival are some of the most enthusiastic and appreciative to be found anywhere!

What is the most memorable comment you’ve received from a fan?

A Vail fan once approached me after a performance and said, “I never liked drum solos before hearing you play!”

What is your favorite on-stage or pre-gig beverage?

Fresh, cool water. Sometimes a protein shake.

What’s your favorite post-gig meal?

I like pasta or rice dishes since I burn a lot of calories when I play.

What is the most striking venue you have ever performed at?

A bullfighting ring in Spain, a castle in France, a coliseum in Greece, at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan, an opera house in the Amazon in Manaus, Brazil, a cave in Italy, ruins near Beirut, Lebanon.




Stay tuned for next week’s “Q+A with: Dick Oatts”!

This article is part of a 6-part series highlighting the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors, who comprise the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In it’s 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop recruits 12 of the nation’s most talented teenage jazz musicians who travel to Vail for a week of intensive, two-to-one learning with the instructors. The students refine their skills, learn the art of playing by ear and most importantly, come to own and hone their special talents. Thanks to their Vail Jazz mentors, nearly all of the students have gone on to become professional musicians.

Q+A with the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors: Wycliffe Gordon

Born in Waynesboro, Georgia, Wycliffe Gordon was raised in a musical family so it’s no wonder he first picked up the trombone at the age of 12. Wycliffe has dedicated his life to jazz on many levels; beyond interpretation and performance, he has served as a musical ambassador of America’s original art form, as a U.S. Statesman of Jazz and ambassador for the U.S. State Department. He is also a committed educator, and is a founding faculty member of the Jazz Studies Program at the Juilliard School.

Professionally Wycliffe has enjoyed a highly successful career as a soloist and in groups, playing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Tommy Flanagan, and Wynton and Branford Marsalis, to name a few. He was recently featured on the cover of Downbeat Magazine, and has won the Critic’s Choice award for Best Trombonist three years running.



What is the best aspect of Vail Jazz? 

It’s about bringing great things to the community but playing it forward by having a program that allows select students to come study with masters of the art form. It’s a great opportunity for them and also great for us to meet the next bandleaders, composers, arrangers, and conductors.

What is the most memorable comment or compliment you’ve received?

All of the audience members who come up with tears in their eyes saying I played something that helped them get up through something. It’s what music does. It brings us all together.

What is your favorite pre-gig sipper?

A very dry martini, a little dirty with a blue cheese olive.

What is the most striking venue you have ever performed at?

Vail is certainly up there, looking at those mountains. Australia: the open land, Sydney, Melbourne… Australia might be number one.




Stay tuned for next week’s “Q+A with: Lewis Nash”!

This article is part of a 6-part series highlighting the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors, who comprise the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In it’s 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop recruits 12 of the nation’s most talented teenage jazz musicians who travel to Vail for a week of intensive, two-to-one learning with the instructors. The students refine their skills, learn the art of playing by ear and most importantly, come to own and hone their special talents. Thanks to their Vail Jazz mentors, nearly all of the students have gone on to become professional musicians.

Q+A with the Vail Jazz Workshop Instructors: Bill Cunliffe



Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and composer Bill Cunliffe is known for his innovative and swinging recordings and compositions. Originally from Andover, Massachusetts, Cunliffe attended Duke University and studied jazz with pianist Mary Lou Williams and later received his master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music.

In addition to receiving five Grammy nominations, he is a two-time Emmy nominee. Cunliffe was awarded a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for “West Side Story Medley,” on the album “Resonance Big Band Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson” (Resonance Records, 2009). On top of his other awards, Cunliffe’s other accomplishments include works with the great Frank Sinatra, James Moody, and Freddie Hubbard. He has also composed numbers for major orchestras as well as TV soundtracks.

The jazz pianist now calls Southern California home and is a Professor of Music at California State University Fullerton. Bill currently plays with his trio; his big band; his Latin band, Imaginación; and his classical-jazz ensemble, Trimotif. He performs in the U.S. and around the world as a leader and sideman as well as a soloist with symphony orchestras.



What is the best aspect of the Vail Jazz Party? 

It merges musicians presenting their own original material but also thrown together in unexpected ways to see what happens. You get a whole different sense of what the musicians can do.

Any on-stage or pre-gig sippers? 

I’ve seen many pianos fall victim to spilled beverages. We pianists tend to shy away from on-stage drinking. I always have water before I go up.

What about a post-gig beverage?

I have been known to engage in an occasional glass of wine. I like bigger reds.

And your favorite post-gig meal?


What is the most striking venue you’ve ever played?

The Vail Jazz Festival outdoor tent. There is no better audience than the Vail audience. You can hear a pin drop, they are listening so intently. They really care about the music.




Stay tuned for next week’s “Q+A with: Wycliffe Gordon”!

This article is part of a 6-part series highlighting the Vail Jazz Workshop instructors, who comprise the Vail Jazz Party House Band. In it’s 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop recruits 12 of the nation’s most talented teenage jazz musicians who travel to Vail for a week of intensive, two-to-one learning with the instructors. The students refine their skills, learn the art of playing by ear and most importantly, come to own and hone their special talents. Thanks to their Vail Jazz mentors, nearly all of the students have gone on to become professional musicians.

Vail Jazz Workshop among America’s most promising outlets for young musical prodigies

It’s true that the key ingredient behind history’s most respected jazz musicians is innate talent. Of course, passion, heart and focus also play a role, but at some point along the way, each musician has learned from another.

The United States has famously produced many of the world’s greatest jazz artists through a slew of famous and elite programs and schools, but the Vail Jazz Workshop has flown under the radar as a springboard for young, prodigal musicians, although it has quietly helped shape the future of jazz for the past 20 years.

This summer, the Vail Jazz Workshop celebrates its 20th year and, as a telltale token of its success and growing reputation, a whopping 140 nominations were submitted for the workshop’s 12 slots.

It’s always a tough pick, said Howard Stone, founder of the Vail Jazz Foundation, which brings the lucky 12 to Vail every summer, providing full or partial scholarships. Stone has even shopped for dress shoes with at least one workshop student and run out to purchase a trumpet for another whose instrument could not hold up to the demands of the program, as many participants come from poverty-stricken backgrounds.

Look at any of the 238 artists that have attended the Vail Jazz Workshop over the last two decades and the vast majority has gone on to notch jaw-dropping accomplishments.

For example, Vail alumni and recent Labor Day Jazz Party returnee Tia Fuller is the band leader of Beyonce’s notoriously talented all-female band. Obed Calvaire drums for the San Francisco Jazz Collective and performs with Monty Alexander, Wynton Marsalis and many others. Saxophonist Grace Kelly has been featured on CNN, NPR and in Glamour Magazine, and of course you’ve all heard of Grammy-winning pianist Robert Glasper, who won the 2013 Grammy for Best R&B album and nabbed his second Grammy this year for Best Traditional R&B Performance.

“Getting to study and meet the incredible faculty was an experience I can’t quite put into words,” said Kelly, who returned last Labor Day weekend as part of the Vail Alumni Quartet.

“I learned so many important lessons musically at Vail and the most important thing is they didn’t teach out of music books. They taught right out of their life experiences,” Kelly said.


Vail Jazz Workshop faculty members are also the talent behind the Vail Jazz Party House Band — John Clayton, Terrell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and new this summer, Dick Oatts replaces 20-year Vail Jazz saxophone instructor Jeff Clayton, who is now living in Australia.

Unlike programs set up more like masters lessons, the Vail Jazz Workshop is focused on rounding out the students’ existing talent with the ability to play by ear, using memorization and no written music during the 10-day program.

“It’s about balance. The person who can play by ear and read music and understand theory — they have more choices,” said John Clayton, who effectively masterminded and launched the Vail Jazz Workshop 20 years ago along with Vail Jazz founder Howard Stone. “On that first day at the workshop when we get a feel for their level, through the years, our eyebrows go up higher and higher. We look at each other and say, ‘Wow. Not only are they doing stuff we could never do at their age, but they’re doing stuff we can’t even do now.’ Still, we offer them things they haven’t been exposed to and that they can really take with them even if they can — and I’m exaggerating a little bit — play rings around us.”

With six instructors and 12 students, each young musician gets ample one-on-one mentor time in the workshop, and in Fuller’s case, the introspective coaching she received from Clayton has truly shaped her career.

“What I value most from John Clayton is his ability to show you that you have the power,” Fuller said. “Whenever I’ve asked him a question about my playing or a problem, he always turns the question right around on me and I have had the solution the whole time.”

All students are nominated for the program by individuals who have taken stock of their talent … often a high school music teacher or band leader.

“It’s amazing to have a program that reaches out to the kids who would not be able to afford to participate in such an event,” said Calvaire, who learned to play drums by ear in his family’s church while growing up in Miami. “At 16, you’re still looking for a voice and looking for ways to find your musical journey and path, and that program really helps you find it.”

Interview with John Clayton: “Vail Jazz Workshop – 12 of the best HS players in U.S.”

Interview with Vail Jazz Workshop Director of Education, John Clayton

by Steve Chavis for KUVO Jazz, KVJZ

Only 12 slots exist at the annual Vail Jazz Workshop.  For this year’s class, a committee had to pare down a record number of applicants – 130 of them –  so that Workshop director / bassist John Clayton and his faculty could select the finalists.  Clayton visited “First Take with Lando and Chavis” to talk about his own jazz education and the climate at this year’s 10-day jazz intensive.

“These are 12 of the top high school players in the nation,” said Clayton.  “It blows our mind how much vocabulary and insight they have at such a young age.”

Profiles of the 2014 class at the Vail Jazz Workshop and the performance schedule is posted at www.vailjazz.org.

Music on this feature is by The Clayton Brothers, “This Ain’t Nothin’ But A Party,” from the CD The Gathering.

Vail Jazz Workshop is sculpting the next generation of stars

VAIL — When Isaiah Thompson’s parents decided he “needed a hobby” at the age of 5, unlike many small kids who are led to a piano bench, he did not think it was a chore to sit down and play. Not only did he not dread his weekly classical lessons, he relished them.

It wasn’t until he was about 11 and heard famed cornet player Nat Adderley play jazz music that Thompson was introduced to what he now knows is his life calling.

“I wanted to figure out how to do that,” says the 17-year-old New Jersey native, who now equates playing the piano — something he does every day for at least two hours — to finding true solace.

“It calms me,” he said. “When something sad or bad happens, going to the piano is the first thing I do to take my mind off things. It’s the one thing I can go to that makes me really happy and calm.”

Thompson is one of 12 teenagers selected from at least 125 young musical prodigies nominated for the Vail Jazz Workshop, the Vail Jazz Foundation’s 10-day intensive program directed under the mentorship of the Vail Jazz Party House Band — John and Jeff Clayton, Lewis Nash, Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe and Wycliffe Gordon. It culminates in a series of Vail Jazz Party performances, the teens transforming from workshop students into to the Vail Jazz All-Stars.

“I’ve heard of the Vail Jazz Workshop and Festival in the past few years, but I didn’t realize how great this festival was. I’m so grateful to be part of the workshop this year,” says Californian Kanoa Mendenhall, 16, who is well-versed on the cello, trombone and the Japanese shamisen but has truly found her heart in the bass.

“When I started playing classical cello, in my free time, I would actually pretend to play jazz bass lines,” Mendenhall says. “Sooner than later, my father, a jazz pianist, taught me how to “walk” a blues scale on the cello. I think what drew me to the bass was the deep sound it produced and the role it had in the band supporting others. It took some time to start playing the bass (because) I’m quite short, but eventually I graduated from pretending to be a bass player to getting a real bass in middle school. That was one of my happiest moments.”

All 12 of the workshop students, in spite of their youth, already have resumes that read like accomplished pros. They’ve all taken top honors at some major national competition or other, led charity coalitions and play in high-profile youth bands. Pianist Chris Fishman has played at Disney Hall, tenor sax player Morgan Guerin has played the Atlanta Jazz Festival, trumpeter Anthony Hervey has won the Louis Armstrong Award. Kevin Jiang is lead trombonist for Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra. Drummer Christian McGhee earned outstanding soloist recognition at more than one major jazz festival. Trumpeter Michael Werner has toured France and the Netherlands with a brass ensemble. Saxophonist James Robertson is a featured artist at the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Bassist Chris Palmer plays local restaurants and jazz clubs with his own quartet. Mendenhall has won multiple Outstanding Soloist awards. Drummer Jared Silverstein as well as Thompson have even played Carnegie Hall and trombonist Nick Lee has toured through Japan with Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation Jazz Orchestra.

When speaking of his experience with Next Generation, Lee, 17, said, “It was amazing. The musicians in the big band were all incredible, and we did cultural exchanges with a few high school big bands in the cities we visited. It’s also a really special feeling to know that we inspired so many young Japanese musicians.”

These accomplishments are but a small sample from each teenager’s lengthy resume. But they all have very specific goals for the Vail Jazz Workshop, now in its 19th year, which among many others skills, teaches students the art of playing and improvising by ear, without any sheet music.

By the time the week is up and the big stage awaits, both students and mentors have struck profound chords.

“Some of it gets to be pretty emotional because you see the students at the beginning of the week and share so much throughout the week. You get to watch incredible relationships blossom in five days,” said Terell Stafford, who has been a mentor and a performer at the Vail Jazz Party for all but three or four of the festival’s 20 years. “By the time you get to performances, you just feel so proud and motivated. So when it’s time to play, you feel all the energy and warmth. You just want to give it all. At many festivals, you just play your set. This is about playing your set in front of people who have shared so much with you and you’ve shared so much with them.”

The last Jazz @ Vail Square of the season features a triple bill grand finale at 6 p.m. tonight. The evening begins with the 12 teenage prodigies performing as the Vail Jazz All-Stars, then the Alumni Quintet — comprised of former students and current stars Justin Kauflin, Katie Thiroux, Bryan Carter, Grace Kelly and Alphonso Horne and culminating with the mentors themselves — The Vail Jazz Party House Band. The evening kicks of the 20th anniversary Vail Jazz Party, running from today through Monday with nonstop live performances featuring more than 40 nationally acclaimed contemporary jazz artists. If you miss the Vail Jazz All-Stars today, they will perform for free on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 a.m. in the Jazz Tent in Lionshead. For more information, visit www.vailjazz.org.

Shauna Farnell is a freelance writer contracted by  Vail Jazz to write this story. Email comments to cschnell@vaildaily.com

18th Vail Jazz Workshop commences

You’ve heard of young musical prodigies, seen movies about them discovering their uncanny knack to play a particular instrument like a professional adult when they are only 5 years old and surmount obstacles such as poverty, loss and relocation. But just imagine the energy and combined prowess that abounds when you get 12 of such characters together as one well-tuned team ready to play their hearts out.

The summer grand finale of the Vail Jazz Festival is the five-day live music Labor Day Weekend Party. Bringing in the country’s top contemporary jazz artists, to ensure a future of continued stardom, every year the festival selects 12 teenagers from across the country for an intensive, 10-day workshop with mentors John and Jeff Clayton, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and Terrell Stafford.

After the intensive training, the 12 students transform into the Vail Jazz All-Stars and perform throughout the weekend party, kicking off Thursday for Jazz @ Vail Square and again Saturday and Sunday.

Of course, every one of the students arrives with an inspiring story behind his talent.

Drummer Adrian Cota’s begins when he was 2 years old, listening to his father’s Latin band rehearse at their home in Sinoloa, Mexico. Surrounded by a family of musicians, the young Cota would spend so much time listening and would get so absorbed that one time he fell asleep on one of the speakers. “The reason why I chose drums is I always hear a pulse. I think it started when I was very little. I always liked to be precise – that’s how I see myself. I like pulse, something that’s always there.” says 17-year-old Cota, who started his senior year of high school last week.

Driven by his desire and supported by his family who wanted him to have a real opportunity to steer his talent into the spotlight, Cota left Mexico three years ago to live with an uncle in Los Angeles.

He has made great strides so far, not only selected as a drummer for the Grammy Band Jazz Combo and receiving full scholarships for several residency and jazz programs, but Cota has also managed to adopt a full command of the English language during his short time in the U.S.

Cota has received a full scholarship to this year’s 18th Annual Vail Jazz Workshop. “I couldn’t speak that much English when I got here. I learned most of it here,” he says. “I knew it was something that I really needed. There was no other option. I had a lot of struggle with it, but I got better. I told myself I’m going to learn English. When you want something and know you need it, it just happens.”

It’s with that same drive and commitment that Cota aims to one day be surrounded by his whole family – who visited him for a few days before he made the trip to Vail – and lead his own band.

“You might think I’m getting a little deep right now, but everything is related to love. I moved here and knew it was going to be hard,” Cota says. “But I had a dream. I knew I was going to accomplish it. I would like to be together with my family. If they were here it would be amazing. But my dad is the director for our own family band in Mexico. He’s pretty well-known there. I really want them to be here at some point. I want to stay here and make music.”

As far as being selected for the Vail Jazz Workshop, Cota is still in awe that he was even considered for it. “I was really excited first of all that I got recommended. Lewis Nash is one of my favorite drummers. I saw him in concert once. That inspired me a lot,” he says. “When I auditioned and I got in, I couldn’t believe it. It’s such a beautiful feeling to really want it and then get it. I was prepared, though. If I didn’t make it, I would be glad just that I got the interview.”

Raised in New Orleans in the care of his grandmother, 17-year-old trombonist Jeffrey Miller comes from a different background but his story is equally inspiring. He too, is driven by a love for music … and a good bit of talent, too.

“Music is literally my life,” Miller says. “So, the only thing I really do besides music is school. I go to Ben Franklin High School for my academics and then NOCCA in the afternoon. Ben Franklin has a pretty rigorous curriculum, so I can be pretty hard to juggle that AND my music. For example, since my sophomore year, I’ve been performing every Wednesday night with Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra at Snug Harbor from 8 p.m. to sometimes 12 a.m. You can see how that would be challenging to do that and go to school the next day.”

Miller still manages to “do the regular teenager stuff, like movies and dating,” but he has some notches on his belt that a scarce few 17-year-olds posses, playing with jazz greats and also appearing on the HBO series “Treme.”

But the performance at Carnegie Hall is his standout achievement to date. “There are a lot,” he says of his musical highlights so far. “But if I had to choose, it would be performing at Carnegie Hall when I was 15 with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. It was a sold out concert and I was just so thankful from the plane ride out there to the performance itself because not many people get to say that they’ve played Carnegie Hall, let alone at 15. I don’t mean to sound cocky or anything, but I was just so thankful and blessed. And it was my very first time in New York at all, so that in itself was a new experience for me, you know?”

When asked where he sees himself in the future, Miller doesn’t mince words. “You know, standard rich and famous-type stuff,” he says, but is then quick to delve into his more profound ambitions and also gush with gratitude to his one-woman support team.

“I’m not in it just for the money, of course,” Miller says. “I want to change the world with my music. I want my music to make people feel happy, or emotional … just any way they want to feel. But the only reason the money wouldn’t be such a bad idea is because of my grandmother. Since my mom passed when I was a year old, she’s been raising my twin sister and me. Really, without her, I definitely wouldn’t be who and where I am today. She is the one who always supported my endeavors and sacrificed so much so that I’d be where I am today and the least I can and WILL do is make sure I pay her back for all the time, money and love she’s selflessly given to me. I want to be rich for her. I want to change the world for her. I want HER to be happy, and I want her to see that all her hard work and sleepless nights were in no way in vain.”

Miller has also received a full scholarship to the Vail Jazz Workshop. The Vail Jazz Workshop is funded through individual donations from supporters of The Vail Jazz Foundation.

Don’t miss the Vail Jazz Workshop AKA Vail Jazz All-Stars, which, in addition to Cota on drums and Miller on trombone, are comprised of Ashwin Prasanna on drums, Kyle Tilstra on trombone, John Michael Bradford and Fernando Ferrarone on trumpet, Cole Davis and Nashir Janmohamed on bass, Jamael Dean and Micah Thomas on piano and Alejandro Ramirez on alto saxophone.

Following their performance Thursday, their mentors themselves will play a set.

Vail Jazz Workshop alumni named prestigious 2009 Brubeck Fellow

June 24, 2009 — You may be familiar with the work of the Vail Jazz Foundation; perhaps you’ve enjoyed a Vail Jazz Festival concert, your kids may have told you about Jazz Goes to School, or you may have even heard of the Vail Jazz Workshop. But the Vail Jazz Foundation’s endless pursuit of supporting the jazz art form extends far beyond Eagle County, as do its results.

The Brubeck Institute, one of the most acclaimed jazz studies programs worldwide, recently announced The Brubeck Fellows for this coming year. Being named a Brubeck Fellow is one of the most coveted honors possible for a high school jazz musician.

Prestigious indeed, since the Brubeck Fellows become members of the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet, five recently graduated jazz musicians who have been selected to study jazz at University
of the Pacific for two years.

The Brubeck Fellows perform together at over 25 concerts each year around the U.S., which affords them a unique opportunity to gain performance experience while continuing their formal education.

And Downbeat magazine, which many consider to be the “Bible” of
jazz, recently named the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet as the finest college jazz group in the nation.

So what is the big deal? Well, for 2009, the Brubeck Fellows have been named, and each and every one of them is an alumnus of the Vail Jazz Workshop, an educational program of the Vail Jazz Foundation.

The Brubeck Fellows for 2009 are: Noah Kellman, piano, Zach Brown, bass, Corey Fonville, drums, Nick Frenay, trumpet and Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, saxophone.

“We are absolutely thrilled that five of our Workshop alumni have been recognized with this tremendous honor,” said Howard Stone, chairman of the Vail Jazz Foundation. “It’s a testament to each of them, and to the dedication and skill of our educators, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for their years of service supporting these young jazz artists.”

For the past 14 years, the Vail Jazz Foundation has produced a 10-day-long intensive jazz workshop in Vail that has helped shape some of the most promising young jazz artists of today.

The program graduates a dozen students each year, each of whom has been chosen from hundreds of highly gifted high school aged jazz musicians in North America. Grammy award winning bassist, composer and educator John Clayton leads the workshop, and he is joined by four other professional musician/educators, John’s brother Jeff Clayton (saxophone), Bill Cunliffe (piano), Terell Stafford (trumpet) and Lewis Nash (drums).

“The entire staff is consistently blown away at the quality and talent of these young musicians,” said Clayton, who also serves as Director of Education for the Vail Jazz Foundation. “It’s a true privilege to teach these kids and watch as they go on to achieve great success in later years.”

Mia Vlaar, executive director of the Vail Jazz Foundation, said the 2009 workshop students will be announced in a matter of days.

“Once they’ve completed the workshop, we refer to them as the VJF All-Stars, in recognition of their accomplishment,” said Vlaar.

On Sept. 3 in Vail Square, 2009 VJF All Stars will take the stage with the Clayton Brothers Quintet and will perform as part of the Vail Jazz Festival.

“Last year the audience was mesmerized by the talent of these kids, and we expect the 2009 group will wow them as well,” said Vlaar.

The concert is free and takes place at 6 p.m. in a tented venue just outside the Arrabelle Hotel in the Lionshead area of Vail.

By realvail.com