We often say that the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival is grounded in tradition while breaking new ground.
That unofficial motto is especially true this year as we open the 54th annual festival to the entire world this weekend. Vandals across the globe can enjoy the evening concerts from our homes, a free virtual experience celebrating America’s first original art form.
But while the format has shifted, the focus on inspiring young artists has remained central to our mission. Elementary, junior high, high school and college student performances populate this week’s workshops headlined by world-class artists and university faculty. Students who can’t take part live can tap into the workshops through the rest of the school year as they fine-tune their skills.
We are reaching a bigger audience, including students who might not have had the ability to travel to Moscow in previous years. That engagement allows more young artists to celebrate Jazz Fest as a capstone celebration – workshops and clinics with today’s jazz greats fill the day, followed by evening performances alongside professional musicians. These connections are inspiring to see, and they speak to Lionel Hampton’s vision of celebrating jazz through music education.
That’s what’s so special about the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. We’re teaching music, but we’re also opening young minds up to a world of possibilities. The jazz festival has created these opportunities for more than a half-century, opening our eyes to what’s possible when education meets music here at the U of I.
Such notes of encouragement bring the idea of a college education to the forefront for these students, regardless of what they may study in the future. In fact, about 25 new University of Idaho students enroll each year because of their jazz festival experience. These students don’t all go into music, but they do continue their education in other career fields that benefit Idaho and our future. The festival traditionally brings more K-12 students to the Moscow campus than any other single event each year.
Hampton’s contribution to music education is realizing increased prominence in 2021. Evening concerts this weekend feature archive footage of the legendary vibraphonist and band leader, another aspect made possible as a result of this year’s virtual festival. Later this spring, Hampton will be honored posthumously by the GRAMMYs as a recipient of the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hampton spent his life encouraging the talents of young artists. It’s fitting that new generations of student performers around the globe continue to discover his work. Think of it as another way his legacy continues to break new ground.