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.”


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.


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 in the news

22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival

The 22nd Annual Vail Jazz Festival is two months away, and already making headlines!

“The Vail Jazz Festival has recruited numerous internationally known jazz legends for more than two decades, and this season, which kicks off in July, is slated to be its biggest season ever.” -Westword

Check out a special DownBeat article on Colorado Jazz Getaways, focusing on Vail Jazz along with Telluride and Aspen, as must-see jazz festivals in the High Rockies. Covering highlights of the Vail Jazz Festival, Vail Jazz Party, and the Vail Jazz Workshop, the article gives a tantalizing glimpse into what is in store for attendees this summer. Read the article here.

You can also catch more coverage of the Vail Jazz Festival in Denver-based magazine Westwordarticle here.

Vail Jazz Workshop Alumni

Vail Jazz Alumni have also been making waves in national news. A recent in-depth article features Keyon Harrold (’97) and his role as the trumpet player behind actor Don Cheadle in the new Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead. The article also covers his relationship with alum Robert Glasper (’97), who composed the music for the project. Read the article here.

Robert Glasper (the composer on Miles Ahead) was also at the New School around the same time, but Harrold and Glasper actually met at a the Vail Jazz Foundation summer camp [sic] in Vail, Colorado years prior.  Glasper was the one who initially got Harrold the audition.  Funny how things work out.

Also in the news, Terrace Martin (’97), the saxophonist behind rapper Kendrick Lamar’s multiple GRAMMY-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly is garnering attention for his own album Velvet Portraits (NYTime review) and is playing at some of the biggest jazz venues around – including an upcoming sold out performance at SFJazz.


Before you go!
If you haven’t already heard the news, alum Grace Kelly (’08) recently joined fellow alum Eddie Barbash (’05) to play with Jon Batiste and Stay Human on Late Nite with Stephen Colbert!

@jonbatiste and Stay Human getting the crowd warmed up. Any minute now! #LSSCLXXXVII

A photo posted by Late Show with Stephen Colbert (@colbertlateshow) on

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.”


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.


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.

Make way for the next generation of jazz

In its 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop hosts 12 of the nation’s top teenage musicians preceding this weekend’s annual Labor Day Jazz Party

Luca Rodoni wasn’t one of those musical prodigies who sat down at his first piano lesson as a small boy and started playing a symphony.

“When I was young, I hated it,” says the high school senior, one of 12 teenagers selected from a massive pool of applicants to partake in this week’s Vail Jazz Workshop. “I went to every lesson crying. I went home crying. That went on for years.”

So the piano wasn’t his thing.

The trumpet was a different story.

On his ninth birthday, Rodoni’s Swiss grandfather brought him a trumpet. When he had to choose an instrument for school a year or two later, he picked it up. Right before he entered the seventh grade, Rodoni was exposed to a local jazz camp. Although it was “just a dinky thing,” he says the camp “opened my ears.”

Hypnotized by the magic of jazz harmony, Rodoni “got very serious” about music. He began playing his trumpet for hours every day and seizing every opportunity to learn more about jazz. He formed several performance groups, has traveled with the elite Jazz Band of America and even up and moved to Park City, Utah in order to further his blossoming jazz career.

Still, he applied for the Vail Jazz Workshop last year and was not selected.

Determined to make it happen this year, however, Rodoni proved his worth to Vail Jazz Workshop mentor and co-founder John Clayton by transcribing intricate solos of his trumpet heroes – Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Blue Mitchell. Among 140 extremely talented applicants from across the United States vying for one of 12 spots in the 2015 Vail Jazz Workshop, Rodoni made the cut.

In its 20th year, the Vail Jazz Workshop is a 10-day program in which Clayton – a Grammy winner and one of the world’s leading jazz bassists – and the five other members of the Vail Jazz Party House Band intensively mentor the students in technique and playing by ear. The workshop culminates in students transforming into the Vail Jazz All-Stars and performing multiple times throughout the 21st annual Vail Jazz Party, Sept. 3 to 7 alongside the Vail Jazz House Band and 40 other national and international renowned jazz stars. They perform two free shows – at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday in the Jazz Tent in Lionshead.

“The Vail Jazz Party has committed to simultaneously presenting first class performances as well as being responsible for a high level of jazz education,” Clayton says. “There is a healthy understanding of the importance of giving back, moving things forward and investing in the future.”

Led by fellow Vail Jazz House Band members and mentors Terell Stafford, Bill Cunliffe, Wycliffe Gordon, Lewis Nash and Dick Oatts, the 2015 Vail Jazz Workshop is comprised of 11 other teenage students, who, in spite of their youth, are also on the fast track to becoming professional musicians.

A California native, 17-year-old drummer Alec Smith is also a member of Jazz Band of America. He has won scholarships to the Stanford Jazz Institute and is part of several performing groups. TrumpeterEvan Abounassar (age 16) has already won outstanding soloist awards at the Monterey, Reno and Irvine Jazz Festivals and has played with the likes of The Grammy Jazz Band and National YoungArts Foundation. A brass multi-instrumentalist, trombonist Remee Ashley (16) has split his teenage years performing with the San Francisco High School All-Stars as well as the Berkeley High Chamber Winds & Orchestra and provides free music lessons to underprivileged children. The workshop’s two student bass players have ties to Berkeley as well. Solomon Gottfried (17) also launched his childhood musical pursuits on the piano but by the time he was big enough to handle a double bass, found his true calling, moving to Michigan to attend Interlochen Arts Academy and perform with the Academy orchestra, which included a tour of China. Bassist and Berkely resident Max Schwartz (18) was only 10 years old when he began arranging jazz compositions and now performs regularly at the San Francisco Jazz Center and popular jazz club Yoshi’s.

The piano stuck for Californians Lucas Hahn (age 15) and Luca Mendoza (16).

Specializing in both jazz and classical, Mendoza has, among many other honors, won Best Composition for the DownBeat Student Music Awards and was NextGen Finalist at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Hahn trains with renowned pianist Taylor Eigsti and was selected for the elite Stanford Jazz Workshop Jazz Camp and Residency program at the age of 12. Trombonist Ethan Santos (17) won a DownBeat Student Music Award (for Outstanding Performance) and has been a part of Stanford Jazz Institute, the California Band Director’s Association Honor Concert Band, the California Orchestra Director’s Association Honors Symphony Orchestra, the Cal Poly All-State Music Festival Honor Jazz Band and the 2015 GRAMMYCamp-Jazz Session big band. Both of the saxophone players at Vail Jazz’s 2015 workshop hail from the tri-state area. Growing up in Brooklyn, 17-year-old Rodney James-Spann established an inseparable bond with the tenor sax in middle school after years of piano lessons, earning him a spot in the Julliard Music Advancement Program. Having won many other scholarships to elite nationally recognized programs, he was the youngest member selected for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Orchestra. New Jersey native Alex Laurenzi got his start on violin from the age of 6 before switching to alto sax at age 9, going on to win a DownBeat Student Award for best junior high school soloist, an Essentially Ellington Outstanding Alto Saxophonist Award and a spot in the 2015 Grammy Band. Jerome Gillespie (17) also started out on the violin as a very small boy but gravitated to the drums by the time he was 6. Having won the MusicDoingGood scholarship all-star award and selected as Outstanding Soloist at the Moores School of Jazz Festival, he attends Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Clearly, each of this year’s workshop students is a rising star already. For students like Rodoni, however, this week with Vail Jazz presents the most pivotal learning and performance experience yet.

Although it brought on all those tears as a child, the piano is now a crucial composition tool for the trumpet player, who dedicates five hours a day to playing jazz. Allowing both his talent and passion to guide him, the Bozeman teen has already played with Vail Jazz veteran Wycliffe Gordon, fellow trombonist Robin Eubanks and trumpet great Brian Lynch. He even performed with a band that opened for rock group Journey in front of 45,000 people at a music festival in Salt Lake City. But he views this week’s workshop and upcoming performances in Vail as his next major career step.

“I have so many questions that range from technical stuff to concepts,” Rodoni says. “It’s a great time to ask those questions when you’re around a world class faculty. The accessibility of these very accomplished musicians is really the big thing. I’m theirs for a week and they’re mine. There’s incredible inspiration that comes from that.”

Vail Jazz Festival welcomes students from across the nation

Carolyn Pope for “Vail Valley Scenery,” Special To the Vail Daily

If you see some high-schoolers wandering around Vail this week, instrument cases in hand and a bounce in their step, you might give them a high-five and welcome them to the world of Vail Jazz.

This week, 12 young men from across the nation are in Vail honing their skills with some of the best jazz instructors and musicians in the country. Education is the cornerstone of the Vail Jazz Foundation. It’s not just about bringing in world-class musicians for all of us to enjoy; it’s about passing the torch to the next generation, and the folks of the Jazz Festival, under the watchful eye of Howard Stone, have been doing just that for the past 20 years.

“This may be the most talented group we have ever seen,” said Owen Hutchinson, development manager for the Jazz Foundation.

The students were introduced to their host families, a group of six families from Vail to Edwards who volunteer their homes and hospitality for the week the students are attending classes. Dinner was served at Lion Square Lodge, and a casual jam session featuring the students ensued. The young men had only been together for one afternoon, which gave the audience a first look at their talent.

Maureen Mayer, along with her husband, Wing, have hosted students for the past four years. “I love jazz, plain and simple,” she said. “I want to see the art form move further, and the only way for that to happen is to have young people learning and playing jazz.”

The other hosts echoed her sentiments.

“The kids who get chosen are not only talented but intelligent,” she said. “They have to fit all their gigs in on top of school, and they are all stellar students.”

Also hosting students are locals Karen Rosenbach and Tom Daniel, Sharon Kirschner and Dan Brajtbord, Glen and Margaret Wood, Karen and Jay Johnson, and I couldn’t resist, either, since my son headed off to college this fall, so I have two great kids, Alec Smith, a drummer, and Alex Laurenzi, who plays alto saxophone.

Spotlight on the Vail Jazz Festival

Tony Gulizia speaks to Vail Mountain about what makes the Vail Jazz Festival so special!


“If you are a jazz aficionado and you follow the different styles of jazz you will see at this festival undoubtedly some of the greatest names in the world and you can sit down and listen to what I consider to be the cream of the crop. Over the years with all of the musicians who I have had the opportunity to perform with, or just to hang with, these players love so much to come here.

For the whole year they look forward to coming here, not just because of the venue but because of the surroundings, hanging and playing in Vail. Here you can sit in a small room and listen to some of these great players and actually get to meet them… some of the greatest players in the world, and when they’re done you can go up and shake their hand.

I think that one of the highlights of the Vail Jazz Festival is that the artists are so close-knit to the audience. They become part of the whole jazz family, and after 4 or 5 days while they’re here at the festival they really get an opportunity to meet these people and realize that gosh, these jazz musicians really are cool guys, or cool cats as people say.”


The Vail Jazz Festival culminates over Labor Day Weekend with the Vail Jazz Party, from September 3-7. With over 40 of the jazz world’s biggest name convening in Vail, this event is a must-see for music lovers! Find out more information here.



Five Play set to shine for intimate Wednesday, DIVA will deliver big band Thursday

From the early days straight to the big time, band leader Sherrie Maricle tells the story

When it comes to talent, gender has nothing to do with it. DIVA, the 15-piece all-female jazz orchestra from New York, delivers a jaw-dropping wall of sound that puts many all-male acts to shame. That each ironclad musician looks like she’s having the time of her life at every performance makes for incomparable, swinging and gripping entertainment.

DIVA drummer Sherrie Maricle became the first member of DIVA when the band was formed more than 23 years ago by fellow drummer and artist manager Stanley Kay. As Maricle tells it, she was performing in the pick-up orchestra at a Maurice Hines concert  that Kay was conducting for the Shubert Theater’s 75th anniversary. After the showA, Kay approached Maricle and “asked if I knew other women who played as well  as I did.” Of course, she knew plenty. After an audition bringing in 40 top musicians from all over the world, the group was whittled down to 15 and DIVA was born.

“Over the last 23-plus years of leading the band and playing with dozens of others, I can tell you with 100-percent certainty that there is absolutely NO difference in talent, skill, passion or creativity between DIVA and any other world-class concert jazz orchestra,” Maricle says, naming Jazz at Lincoln Center, Maria Schneider, Clayton-Hamilton, Count Basie, Vanguard and Gordon Goodwin as examples. “The only thing I have noticed is that the DIVA performance dynamic – collectively and individually – is one that is fully engaged, aware, supportive and wildly enthusiastic regarding the music, each other and the audience. I don’t always experience that with other groups.”

When asked to name highlights in DIVA’s decorated career, Maricle says “Oh My Gosh…there have been soooo many!”

Among them, the first of DIVA’s many featured performances with The New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, the 25th Anniversary of the Kennedy Center’s TV Special and the band’s first tours of Finland, Japan and Vietnam. Then there was the feature on NPR’s “Piano Jazz,” and creating the soundtrack for New York City’s (NBC and Macy’s) enormous fireworks display. Oh yes, there was also that pivotal appearance in the award-winning documentary “The Girls in the Band” (which will be presented at this Labor Day Weekend’s Vail Jazz Party). Maricle says that her band’s (DIVA and also the jazz quintet Five Play, each of which produces and performs all original compositions and arrangements) 13 albums including a couple of new additions coming soon “are like my children.”

Since attending parades as a small child and singling out the drummers as the coolest members of the band because they never stopped playing, Maricle has been drawn to the drums. But “the true enlightenment moment” came when she was 11 and saw Buddy Rich perform with His Killer Force Orchestra.

“When the band played their first note I got goose bumps and was riveted the entire night,” she recalls. “I had never heard or seen anything like that before –  the intense power, force, energy, swing and sophistication of a big band … music played with such fire and passion. I ran home and told my mother I was going to be professional drummer. Since that night I never wanted to do anything else with my life.”

As a bandleader, Maricle has aimed to follow in Rich’s footsteps, as well as those of Mel Lewis, Louis Bellson, Jeff Hamilton, Gene Krupa and Chick Webb.

“The most fun for me is being in the center of the band  – literally and metaphorically – and leading from the inside, creating a pulse like a heart beat. Drummers naturally have a lot of control, leader or not, over the band dynamics, energy and phrasing … so that’s exciting. I also aspire to always inspire, highlight and support my band mates, as well as listen to their musical opinions. Each and every one of them is a stellar musician and creative artist,” she says. “I’m very honored to share the stage with them.”

The inspiration goes well beyond the stage. Over the last two decades, Maricle and DIVA artists have provided “life-changing” instruction for dozens of young and up-and-coming musicians and several audience members have experienced such sheer awe at performances that they’ve been brought to tears.

“I remember an older woman coming up to us sobbing with joy, saying she always wanted to be a musician, but wasn’t allowed. She just couldn’t believe how great we played. It made me cry, too,” Maricle says.

Don’t miss Sherrie Maricle and jazz quintet Five Play at 9 p.m. July 29 in the intimate lounge dinner setting of Cucina at the Lodge at Vail for the Vail Jazz Club Series. The talent pool multiplies into 15-piece jazz orchestra DIVA from 6 to 8 p.m. for Vail Jazz @ Vail Square on Thursday, July 30 in the Vail Jazz Tent in Lionshead. For tickets or more information, visit or call 888-VAIL-JAM.




In 1995 life-long jazz fan Howard Stone launched the inaugural Labor Day Weekend Vail Jazz Party. A resounding success, the Weekend Party spawned the Vail Jazz Foundation, its mission to showcase the talent of prominent and up-and-coming jazz musicians as well as educate and nurture the genre’s next generation of greats. Vail Jazz has grown to include year-round programming such as Vail Jazz Goes to School and 12 weeks of live performances every summer with The Vail Jazz Festival’s Vail Jazz @ Vail Square, Vail Jazz @ The Market, Vail Jazz @ Sweet Basil, Jammin’ Jazz Kids and The Vail Jazz Workshop for a total of 52 live performances and 10 educational programs.




There’s no place like Vail for year-round recreation, outdoor pursuits and cultural activities in the heart of the Rockies. Located just two hours west of Denver, Vail’s fresh air, rugged beauty and charming pedestrian village await visitors. Discover a quaint mountain town where outdoor activities abound and the performing arts flourish. Matching the incredible winter mountain experience, Vail from May through October is characterized by a rich culinary scene, family activities, a world-class events schedule and everything in between. This summer guests can experience events like the new Vail Summer Bluegrass Series, GoPro Mountain Games, Vail Jazz Festival, the Vail International Dance Festival, BRAVO! Vail, USA Pro Challenge, Gourmet on Gore culinary festival and much more. Vail offers a diverse range of lodging options from luxury brands to boutique hotels, condominiums and vacation rentals. For more information on a Vail vacation, please visit For more information on the community, please visit

Riverwalk First Fridays debuts June 5th

The Riverwalk at Edwards is home to a new four-part concert series in summer 2015 – Riverwalk First Fridays. Held in Edwards’ delightfully scenic new gathering place for community functions and entertainment – the Riverwalk Backyard Amphitheatre – First Fridays will bring together local merchants and jazz greats from the Front Range for 4 iterations of what is sure to be a charming assembly of great music, local beer, wine, food and vendors.

Nestled on the banks of the Eagle River and flanked by Riverwalk’s shopping and dining options, Riverwalk First Fridays promises to deliver a casual, affordable experience on the first Fridays of June, July, August and September.

Executive Director Robin Litt on TV8

The series is sponsored by Alpine Bank, a longtime supporter of music and culture in the Vail Valley, and is produced by Vail Jazz and KZYR 97.7 The Zephyr. A free concert series that features kids activities and a weekly vendor theme, First Fridays presents a wonderful new multi-generational, family oriented entertainment option for mid-valley residents and visitors. And for the shopper looking to explore what Riverwalk has to offer, each week will feature a theme, where special promotions and activities will be built around two to three Riverwalk businesses. The themes consists of 4 summery variations on beauty, activities and family fun: June 5th – “Ultimate Camp Out,” July 3rd – “All American Kids,” August 7th – “Something Fishy,” and September 4th – Mountain Makeovers.”

Gates open at 4:30pm for vendor, food and beverage sales and performances will take place from 5:30-7:30pm. The party continues into the night on July 3rd and August 7th at Main Street Grill for an “Official After-Party,” complete with more live music.

The series will commence on June 5th with the salsa and Latin jazz group Ritmo Jazz Latino, one of Denver’s finest Latin bands. The band’s exotic blend of salsa, afro-cuban, and Latin jazz influences have collectively translated into the band’s stunning reputation on the Front Range music scene. Trumpeter Dr. Walter Barr leads the group, a well-known educator and clinician based out of The Metropolitan State University of Denver.

July 3 welcomes the upbeat blues and boogie-woogie songcraft of Lionel Young, a popular bluesman from the Denver area. Young’s All-American blues fiddlin’ will kick off the holiday weekend celebration with a style that hails from Mississipi and Kansas City. With violin virtuosity that has impressed the likes of Count Basie, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Paige/Robert Plant, and Doc Severenson, Lionel Young and his 4-piece band will get the crowd stomping into the holiday evening with a little extra soul in each step.

Otone Brass Band, an eight piece group comprised of seasoned pros of the Front Range, will bring a funky New Orleans flavor of street music to First Fridays on August 7th. Complete with trumpets, saxes, trombones and even a sousaphone, the occasion is a recipe for a funky dance party.

The series rounds out on September 4th with Brothers Keeper – the hometown boys. You can regularly find these blues rock veterans holding down the late night set at Shakedown Bar in Vail Village. With national tours and regular appearances alongside John Popper and Hall and Oates under their belts, the men of Brothers Keeper are an exceptional Blues Rock and American roots band that will bring a fervent close to Riverwalk First Fridays’ first year in town.

“The goal from the beginning with Riverwalk First Fridays was to utilize this ideal new music venue, and to give Edwards families a great reason to get together and enjoy incredible music, beer, wine, food and good company,” said Vail Jazz Development Manager Owen Hutchinson. “This series is well on its way to becoming just that.”

In addition to Alpine Bank, sponsorship for the new series comes from the Riverwalk Association, Gateway Real Estate, 1st and Main, Alpine Insurance, Bonfire Brewing, Vail Board of Realtors, Bloch & Chapleau, and Riverwalk Wine & Spirits. Vendor space is available with discounts for Riverwalk businesses. Businesses can sign on for one event or for all four at a discount. Vendors already confirmed include all sponsors listed above, plus Merle Norman Cosmetics, Kids Cottage, Sugar Bar, Rocky Mountain Silver and Beads, Old Forge Pizza, Vintage Magnolia, Bishop Orthodontics and more.