Put your jazz hands together

University of Idaho prepared for 55th annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival next week


Dorothy Greenhalge

University of Idaho started the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival back in the 1960s. Hundreds of students and musicians from around the country attend the event each year.


University of Idaho will host the nationally-acclaimed 55th annual Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival from Feb. 24-26.

Joshua Skinner, Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival manager, said this year will be a unique experience because of the ongoing pandemic and the different constraints that come with it that UI is trying to accommodate.

The festival will still have the workshops, student adjudication and evening performances like they have had in the past, Skinner said. 

The evening concerts will start at 7 p.m. each night and will have different artists perform, he said. Each concert is crafted and designed by the artistic adviser at UI, who takes suggestions from the community and approaches the concerts in a way that allows everyone to enjoy the final product.

Skinner said Feb. 24 is the world music night, so the festival will be celebrating musicians from different backgrounds and music from around the world. 

Multi-instrumentalist Jay Thomas will be performing, along with the World Music Ensemble, which consists of musical artists Yacouba Sissoko and Jay Gandhi, he said. They will be performing with multiple different ensembles, including a string quartet and a jazz quintet. 

Friday night, the UI Jazz Choir will be performing under the direction of Daniel Bukvich, Skinner said. After an intermission, Dee Dee Bridgewater, jazz master and vocalist, will be performing. 

Saxophonist Chris Potter will open Saturday night with his trio, Skinner said. Closing out the festival will be a performance from the Lionel Hampton Big Band.

All of the evening performances will be held in the international ballroom at the Bruce Pitman Center, Skinner said. 

Nightly tickets range from $20 to $45 and can be found on the Jazz Festival website under the concerts and tickets section. People also have the option of buying a package for all three nights, and prices range from $75 to $120 depending on seating. 

Skinner said artists will host workshops during the day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, each with a different theme depending on what artist is hosting the workshop. 

Usually, people enjoy the “meet the artist” workshops where the artists discuss how they got into their career, he said. 

Vern Sielert, Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival artistic adviser, said the artists will do workshops on various topics at various levels because students who attend have different levels of experience. 

Sielert said there will be some workshops with the dance department, which will connect to the history of jazz.

All of the workshops are listed on the Jazz Festival website in the workshop section. 

Sielert said there will also be student adjudicated performances throughout the day on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

Normally, students would come to UI to perform for judges, Sielert said. Because of the pandemic, schools will send in a recording of the performances and meet with a judge over Zoom to receive feedback. 

Some schools will still come to campus to attend the evening concerts and workshops at the festival, he said. 

Sielert said the Jazz Festival is a great event to attend because it helps UI engage with students and people are hungry for live music. 

“It’s a great chance to hear some really well-crafted world-class artists each of the nights, so I hope that [people] will buy tickets and come out,” he said. 

Having a live audience with the evening performances is going to be a good aspect of the festival because there was not a live audience last year. While there were concerts, only one group was able to perform live with only 20 people in the audience, and the rest of the festival was done virtually, he said. 

Sielert said it is an exciting time, as the campus is busy with students running around with their instruments and community members interacting with artists.

“We’re not going to be quite back to that yet, but just having folks on campus and having the evening concerts in front of live audiences, I’m really looking forward to that and the artists we’re having this year,” he said. “They’re awesome. It’s going to be three great evenings of music.”

There are going to be students ranging from kindergarten to college-aged attending the festival, whether it be the student performances or just the workshops, Skinner said. 

“They have the opportunity to hear these incredible artists and go to their workshops and learn from them,” Skinner said. “What I really look forward to is just seeing the future music educators, music consumers, be inspired by today’s artists.”