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A Force for Jazz

Jazz Fest has long been a stage for Potlatch senior Allyson LeForce

Potlatch High School senior Allyson LeForce made her debut at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in 2012 as a sixth-grader — and won her division as a vocalist.

A frequent performer at the University of Idaho’s signature music festival in the years since, LeForce will return this month to compete in a vocal combo, a small ensemble.

The performance will cap a junior high and high school career for LeForce, a future Vandal whose roots in music have played such a vital role in her life that she “couldn’t imagine life without it.”

Family Roots

LeForce grew up surrounded by her musically talented mother and sister, and it was her mother who first introduced her to jazz and the blues. They frequently sang “You Are My Sunshine” in LeForce’s home growing up.

Following in her older sister Savannah’s footsteps, Savannah also a frequent performer at the festival, the younger LeForce said it was a given she would enter the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival’s annual competitions when she was old enough.

In addition to her family, the support from Potlatch School District Music Director Doug Richards has been an integral part of LeForce’s musical career since kindergarten — and has contributed to her success.

“He is such a positive influence on me and has pushed me to do my best and further than what I thought was possible,” she said.

A Winning Debut

When she won the junior high division as a vocal soloist in 2012, LeForce was able to perform in “Hamp’s Club,” a small workshop that allows performers to take the stage in a jazz club-like setting.

Rosana Eckert, an internationally known vocalist and jazz educator who has served as one of the festival’s clinicians, worked with her in the seminar and LeForce said offered advice that has helped shape the young singer. LeForce has been to many of Eckert’s workshops since and went on to win in the high school division as a vocal soloist in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Among those who have helped LeForce refine her craft has been Kate Skinner, a jazz instructor in U of I’s Lionel Hampton School of Music. LeForce said Skinner helped open her eyes to the art of improvisation singing in jazz.

“It clicked,” she said of her work with Skinner.

Musical Development

Every experience at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival has been amazing,Allyson LeForce

Out of all of her musical experience growing up, from listening and singing along with her sister, mother and grandmother, LeForce believes the jazz festival has most aided her development as a singer. After she entered the high school division as a ninth-grader, LeForce was exposed to a different level of intensity that made the rivalry of competition more challenging, which made her eager to compete. 

By participating in the festival, LeForce has found a love for the excitement of performing in front of a large audience on stage.

“Every experience at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival has been amazing,” she said.

LeForce has always loved the jazz genre because of a musician’s ability to personalize each piece.

While performing a jazz piece, any singer can personalize the music by utilizing vocal improvisation, like scatting.

Future Vandal

LeForce, herself from a family of Vandals, plans to become a member of the Vandal Family in fall 2019. Those plans include studying biology with the goal of eventually pursuing a career in the medical field as a cardiothoracic surgeon.

“I enjoy helping people and this is a way that I can have a really big impact,” she said. “I also enjoy challenging myself and becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon will do just that.”

But she won’t end her music career. LeForce will pursue a music minor at U of I to stay involved with her lifelong love of the art form.

Article by Kylie Smith, University Communications and Marketing
Published in February 2019

Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival

Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival

Mailing Address:
Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival
875 Perimeter Dr., MS 4021
Moscow, ID 83844-4021

Phone: 208-885-5900

Fax: 208-885-7254


Web: Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival