Vail Jazz Announces Leadership Transition

As the beat goes on, the organization’s founder will be stepping off of the stage

After 26 years, Howard Stone is handing off the beat. The Vail Jazz Foundation has announced the transition plans of its founder and the appointments of his successors – Garret Davies to the position of Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors and Don Lucoff to the position of President.

“People often ask me if Vail Jazz has gone according to plan and I say, ‘what plan?’ Stone said after making the announcement at a Feb. 10 Vail Jazz board meeting. “I’m deeply grateful to have spent these last 25 years connecting the music I love with this place that I love.”

Stone has held the titles of Vail Jazz’s Chairman of the Board of Directors and President since launching the organization in 1995. He retired as President effective Feb. 10 and plans to retire as Chairman at the end of Vail Jazz’s 2020 summer season. However, Stone will have a busy “retirement.” He will remain on the Vail Jazz Board of Directors and will continue to support the organization in development and education activities, including the annual 10-day Vail Jazz Workshop for promising young jazz musicians.

“Vail has become a destination for world-class jazz music and an important chapter in the story of many prolific musicians taking this art form into the future and now we’ve got a great team in place to take the organization into the future as well,” Stone said.

Photo by Steve Pope.

Fresh off of a busy year in 2019 celebrating Stone and the 25th anniversary of the Vail Jazz Festival, the Vail Jazz Foundation is gearing up to celebrate 25 years of jazz education in 2020 honoring the award-winning faculty including Vail Jazz Workshop Director (and Grammy-winning bassist) John Clayton and Vail Jazz Goes to School Director Tony Gulizia.

“It’s an incredible time to be a part of the Vail Jazz community,” said Vail Jazz Executive Director James Kenly. “We are in celebration mode with back-to-back silver anniversaries of the festival and education programs and the remarkable contributions and achievements of Howard and Cathy Stone. We’re thrilled to welcome Don Lucoff to the organization and Garret Davies to his new leadership role to steward Vail Jazz into its next quarter century.”

Lucoff is a jazz industry veteran of 35 years and comes to Vail after eight years at the helm of the PDX Jazz Festival in Portland, Oregon. He also consulted Jazz Aspen Snowmass at its founding in 1991 and married his wife, Maria Echeverria atop Ajax Mountain the following year.

“I am thrilled to join the Vail community,” Lucoff said. “Vail Jazz is an influential organization in the regional jazz ecosystem and has been the architect of a nationally recognized, 25-year legacy serving jazz education that has had an enduring impact on fostering the careers of many of today’s shining lights including Robert Glasper, Tia Fuller, Sullivan Fortner and countless others.”

Lucoff is the founder and President of DL Media Music, a publicity firm serving the jazz industry since 1988. He has represented storied jazz labels like Blue Note, Mack Avenue, Sony Music, Universal Music Enterprises, Mosaic and Justin Time Records, ECM, and Smoke Sessions, among others as well as artists such as Branford Marsalis, Kurt Elling and Christian McBride, plus many alums of the Vail Jazz Workshop and Vail favorites like Cecile McLorin Salvant, Cyrille Aimee, Emmet Cohen, Catherine Russell, Joey DeFrancesco, and Veronica Swift.

Garret Davies is a full-time resident of the Valley and joined the Vail Jazz Board of Directors in 2013. He has held a variety of management positions in his work career and brings strong strategic and systems thinking to his new leadership role.

When in Vail, Stone plans to continue doing what he loves best … enjoying live jazz music.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity over the past quarter century to have pursued a dream – combining the music that I have loved since I was a kid with a community that I fell in love with over 50 years ago. In the process, Vail Jazz has enriched my life and the lives of so many others, while becoming an important cultural asset of our community,” he said. “Now it is time to pass the torch to a remarkable team of highly talented and dedicated individuals that I am confident will lead the organization into the future.”

The 2020 Vail Jazz Festival season launches July 16 and culminates with the Vail Jazz Party over Labor Day weekend.