If you are a music lover, summer is a great time to visit Vail Colorado. The Vail Jazz Festival takes place each year starting at the beginning of July and running through Labor Day. In 2023, it celebrated its 29th year.

Vail Jazz Festival

I visited during the festival and had a chance to catch the Drew Zaremba Trio doing a sound check. After a shopping filled day in Lionshead Village, I popped into the Tavern on the Square (located in the Arabelle Hotel). I had heard music…these guys were great. So, I decided to have a glass of wine and enjoy the show. The bartender Bill told me that Drew had just been selected as the new artistic director of the Vail Jazz foundation. 

Drew Zaremba Trio by Kathy Leonardo

Drew Zaremba Trio

History of the Vail Jazz Festival 

Before the Vail Jazz Festival was created, there was a jazz party put on every year on labor day by jazz producer and aficionado Dick Gibson. This started in 1963 and continued for 30 years until he retired. 

Howard and Cathy Stone always loved attending the Labor Day Jazz Party. They were longtime residents, and Howard thought it would be fun to put on one more event. 

The first Vail Jazz Party (VJP) was held at the Westin Hotel (now the Grand Hyatt) in the Cascades neighborhood. The event featured renowned jazz musicians like John and Jeff Clayton, Tommy Flanagan, Slide Hampton, and more. It was a huge success.

Vail Jazz Festival Sullivan Fortner Trio by Kathy Leonardo

Sullivan Fortner Trio

Vail Jazz Foundation

Then Howard created the Vail Jazz Foundation, aiming to promote jazz through performances and educational programs. Volunteers played a crucial role in its early years. Over nearly three decades, Vail Jazz continues to offer headliner performances, free community concerts, and jazz workshops for high school musicians.

Its educational programs, including Vail Jazz Goes to School and Jammin’ Jazz Kids, enrich young musicians. Vail Jazz collaborates with local programs like Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival and Vail Dance. Sadly, Howard Stone passed away in 2022. His legacy however lives on through Vail Jazz’s dedicated staff, led by Amanda Blevins, the Board of Directors, and generous supporters committed to sustaining his vision.

The Vail Jazz Festival has become a significant cultural event in Vail, offering a vibrant jazz experience and fostering young talent through its educational initiatives.

Find out more about the annual Vail Jazz Festival, along with a full schedule, on its website – https://vailjazz.org

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