2020 Vail Jazz Workshop

The Vail Jazz Workshop is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.  The winner of the coveted DownBeat Jazz Education Achievement Award, this unique program emphasizes small ensemble playing, improvisation and a focus on learning by ear, with no written music used.  Each year, a dozen of North America’s most dedicated, gifted and promising young jazz musicians are chosen from a broad field of talented applicants, receiving scholarships to participate in the 10-day program.  With a student/teacher ratio of 2 to 1, the Vail Jazz Workshop is designed for the most advanced high school jazz musicians.  The all-star faculty is composed of John Clayton, Terell Stafford, Dick Oatts, Wycliffe Gordon, Bill Cunliffe and Lewis Nash.

Organized in conjunction with the Vail Jazz Party, the Workshop has mentored 298 high school-aged musicians over the past quarter-century. By anecdote, reputation, and word-of-mouth, from students and professionals alike, the 12 annual slots at the Vail Jazz Workshop are among the most coveted music scholarships for pre-college jazz musicians.

Alumni have garnered recognition at all levels of the music industry: from Downbeat Student Awards to Grammy’s, from Essentially Ellington’s Outstanding soloist Awards to Emmys. Alumni of the Workshop have contributed to over 100 Grammy nominated projects, headlined major festivals across the world, and regularly give masterclasses and lessons to the next generation of jazz musicians.

This year the Workshop is virtual with students and faculty working together via Zoom commencing in July and culminating with an intense week of instruction beginning on August 17, 2020.  The instruction will include group lessons and masterclasses and a daily “rap” session during which the faculty will impart to the students invaluable information about their respective personal journeys becoming professional musicians.  In addition, the “Vail Jazz All-Stars,” as the Workshop students have been known over the years, will create join together in virtual ensembles and record their performances, which will be shared with invited guests during a live-streaming of the Vail Jazz Workshop on Friday, August 21, 2020.

Below is the next generation of Vail Jazz Workshop students:

Denali Kauffman – Trombone

Denali was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona and started playing the trombone 4 years ago after deciding to take on a brass instrument, quite a change from the classical piano he grew up playing at 5. Denali has lived and breathed music for a majority of his life, always looking for new artists that can expand his horizons. The sounds of Herbie Hancock, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, J.J Johnson and many more have influenced his perception of jazz and made him a more diversified jazz musician.  Seventeen year old Denali has traveled extensively and is passionate about many styles of music, listing such disparate musicians  such as J.S. Bach, James Brown and Kendrick Lamar, to name a few, who have influenced his playing.

Kellin Hanas – Trumpet

Trumpeter Kellin Hanas, 18, is a recent graduate of Wheaton North High School in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois. Kellin started playing the trumpet when she was 7 after having a dream one night about playing the trumpet on stage. She was later inspired by her middle school band director to start playing jazz and ever since has been in love with the art form. Kellin aims to inspire young women with her performances to get involved in jazz and to help make the music world more inclusive. Kellin enjoys soaking up various sounds and is inspired by Lee Morgan, Booker Little and Wynton Marsalis. In addition to music, Kellin is engrossed in theatre and comedy, and would love to incorporate stand-up comedy into her musical shows one day, and maybe even land a job on SNL!

Tyler Bullock – Piano

Tyler is 17 and was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee.  He began playing the piano before he was 5, but in his early years it was science, not music, that interested him the most.  That changed when Tyler was 14 and he was introduced to jazz, altering his perception on what music could be. “Instead of only playing what somebody else wrote, I could come up with my own way of playing” is how Tyler explains it.  Describing why John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and Kenny Barron are his favorites, he says, “I like Trane for his spiritual way of playing and innovative sound, Herbie for his harmonic sense, and Kenny for his time feel.”

Jeremiah Edwards – Bass

Jeremiah, a lover of a good afternoon nap and trying different foods, has been playing music all his life. Playing an instrument was always a requirement in his home. Now, at the age of 15, Jeremiah recalls his musical background starting on African drums at infancy, then piano and finally moving to the bass for the last 8 years. Midwest born, Jeremiah currently lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.  Jeremiah’s top 3 jazz influences are Ron Carter, Stanley Clarke and Miles Davis.

Colman Burks – Drums

Colman got started on his musical journey in elementary school, playing piano but when he got to middle school he decided to play the drums after being inspired by watching his cousin Stanton Moore play in YouTube videos. A few of Colman’s favorite jazz artists are Mel Lewis, Thad Jones and “Philly” Joe Jones. Seventeen year old Colman resides in Plano, Texas and cites Elon Musk as an influence because of his innovations in space exploration.

Allen Green – Alto Saxophone 

A first-degree black belt, Allen Green is also a multi-reed player. A senior at Agoura High School in Agoura, CA,  Allen has been playing the alto saxophone for 6 years, clarinet for 4 years and just picked up the flute a few months ago. On a tour of a middle school, Allen was exposed to a jazz band and immediately gravitated to the saxophone, “from then on, I knew what I wanted to do.” Allen’s jazz inspirations include Cannonball Adderley, Phil Woods, Dick Oatts, and of course the legendary “Bird” (Charlie Parker). Allen’s greatest influences are his two teachers, Tom Peterson and Dan Higgins, who have shown him what it takes to succeed as a professional jazz musician, studio musician and performing musician in Los Angeles.

Jacob Smith – Drums

Jacob is 17 and a rising senior at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northhampton, MA.   The sounds of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Duke Ellington have surrounded Jacob since he entered the world as both of his parents are high school band directors.  They recall Jacob tapping along to any music that was ever played in their home and it wasn’t a surprise when he started playing the drums at 3.   A leader of a student-led acapella group, Jacob is influenced by Cedar Walton, Art Blakey, Robert Glasper (1997 Vail Jazz Workshop alumni), as well as Alicia Keys.  Jacob is truly honored to have been selected for the 2020 Vail Jazz Workshop.

Sophia Kickhofel – Alto Saxophone

Seventeen year old Sophia has been playing the alto saxophone for 6 years. Floridian by birth (where her love for surfing sprouted), Sophia currently resides in Apple Valley, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis, and attends Apple Valley High School. Sophia states her interest in the saxophone came from her mother, who also played the instrument when she was in high school. Sophia’s musical influences extend beyond the jazz masters, as she is also inspired by more contemporary players such as Joel Ross and Immanuel Wilkins.

Aidan McCarthy – Bass

Living in Oakland, California, Aidan recalls a passion and borderline obsession with music since he could remember. Attending French bilingual school from kindergarten to 8th grade enabled Aidan to become immersed in a multitude of different cultures and traditions, naturally extending into music. His early fascination with rock n’ roll was replaced by the allure of jazz when Aidan attended a summer music camp where an older camper turned him on to the upright bass.  Aidan cites Paul Chambers as his most important influence on the bass, explaining: “He walks and solos and just his energy overall has come to deeply resonate with me.”  He also lists John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins as musicians that have had a major impact on him and whose work he returns to time and time again. Aidan is a lover of the arts in general, with a passion for literature and the legendary works of film director David Lynch.

Dan Ventura – Piano

Dan Ventura is a 17, born and raised in Rhode Island. Fascinated by a small keyboard at 3, he went on to classical lessons at 5.  His music teacher played a jazz tune for him a few years later and he has loved both genres ever since. Some of his favorite artists include Bill Evans, Chick Corea, and Brad Mehldau.  He also enjoys the music of Chopin, Debussy, and Ravel. Dan is learning to play the drums and trumpet in an effort to become a more well-rounded musician. Aside from music, Dan creates and teaches origami, and has embarked on a search to find the world’s best iced coffee.

Jack Towse – Trumpet

Jack grew up on Long Island, NY and has older and younger brothers, both of whom also play jazz. Nine years ago, after discovering the horn his father played in high school, Jack began playing the trumpet and has been playing ever since. Jack’s biggest trumpet influences are Kenny Wheeler, Freddie Hubbard, Ambrose Akinmusire (2000 Vail Jazz Workshop alumni) and Ingrid Jensen. Jack is a rising senior, and as of now, is hoping to continue studying music at a conservatory level.

Aidan Doyle – Trombone

Seventeen year old Aidan, lives in Guilderland, New York, plays the trombone, and loves to run. Aidan recalls choosing the trombone because “the idea of being able to play a note, then slide to another note was very attractive to me.” Aidan’s favorite jazz artists are Chris Potter, Dave Liebman and Kenny Garrett. Reflecting on a non-jazz influence, Albert Camus, Aidan shared this life insight: “After reading The Stranger, the way I looked at life completely changed, I recognized the absurdity in everything we do, including music. I realized that practicing a musical instrument is beneficial in that it creates a tension in your mind that can give you strength, but is no better or worse than any other form of hard work that challenges your perception of the world.”