First Virtual U of I Jazz Festival Will Reach Global Audience
Skinner, the manager of the iconic Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho, began gathering resources last July to ensure that this year’s all-virtual festival — set to kick off Thursday, Feb. 25 — will be more far-reaching than ever.
With the help of colleagues and a host of university departments — and in conjunction with instructors and administrators at hundreds of middle schools and high schools — Skinner said the 2021 virtual jazz festival is ready to roll.
“There have been a lot of challenges that we as a team encountered, crossing five or six time zones,” Skinner said. “We feel we’re in a good place. We’re checking and rechecking, planning for contingencies.”
This year’s virtual festival will follow the template that the university’s jazz festival has followed since it began in 1967. The festival’s foundation includes three main ingredients, said Vanessa Sielert, the music school’s director said. They include evaluations, workshops and attending concerts.
Having student performances evaluated by adjudicators is a hallmark of the in-person festival in which students take part in workshops led by accomplished musicians and teachers. In a non-COVID-19 year, festival participants on the U of I campus would also attend evening performances by renowned artists.
Because the entire 2021 program is virtual, however, recordings of student performances will be reviewed and critiques presented via Zoom. In addition, the online workshops students and teachers attend during the three-day festival will be extended, allowing participants to tap into the online mentoring in home classrooms during the remainder of the school year. Evening concerts, which will kick off at 5 p.m. during the festival, will be complemented by video footage of bygone jazz festivals.
“They will be the best clips of on-stage performances of years past,” Sielert said.
And because it’s all online, the 2021 festival is expected to see much greater participation.
“That’s the silver lining,” Sielert said. “We can reach a much bigger audience and hopefully we can inspire kids to study music and visit the University of Idaho campus.”
Skinner said his team has booked a series of events scheduled a week earlier, to ring in the upcoming jazz festival, which has an additional component this year: Lionel Hampton, the masterful jazz artist and namesake of U of I’s school of music and the jazz fest, will be recognized at this year’s GRAMMY Awards with a recording academy lifetime achievement award. Hampton, who began playing at the annual jazz festival with his band in 1984, will be among 10 musicians honored on Sunday, March 14, at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards 63rd annual ceremony in Los Angeles, California.
Sean Quinlan, dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, to which the music school belongs, said the award speaks to Hampton’s significant contribution.
“This is an exciting moment for his legacy and reputation in the musical community, both nationally and internationally, and it’s definitely an achievement to be celebrated,” Quinlan said.
By Ralph Bartholdt, University Communications and Marketing.
Published January 2021.