The first University of Idaho Jazz Festival took place in 1967, with a dozen student groups and one guest artist, Buddy Brisboe. The Festival continued to grow from there – erupting onto the national stage in 1981, when students and spectators packed in to hear Ella Fitzgerald.
In 1984, the Festival’s most important relationship took shape when Lionel Hampton joined the excitement in Moscow. Inspired by the enthusiasm of the students, Hamp pledged his support to the Festival. In 1985, the festival took on his name, becoming the first and only jazz festival named for an African-American jazz musician.
Now having hosted thousands upon thousands of students, spectators, and artists – including Doc Severinsen, Bobby McFerrin, Sarah Vaughn, Dizzy Gillespie, Al Grey, and countless musicians from around the world – the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival is four outstanding days of student performances, workshops, clinics and remarkable world-class evening concerts.
The Jazz Festival has featured nearly 80 musicians from 30 countries, including China, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Peru, as well as students from Canada, Japan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan. In 2006, the festival became known as the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival to reflect this international diversity.
The Jazz in the Schools program began in 1995; the program takes visiting musicians to elementary schools in northern Idaho and eastern Washington to introduce students to this truly American art form. Hampton began an annual tradition of performing at Lapwai Elementary School on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation, sparking interest in jazz among Nez Perce musicians. The Jazz in the Schools program now is a year-round program throughout Idaho and Washington.
In 2006, John Clayton, renowned bassist, arranger, composer, jazz educator and long time Festival friend, joined the Festival as artistic director. Since taking the reins, John’s enthusiasm and passion has filled the hearts of directors, students, staff and friends.
In 2007, the Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival was awarded a National Medal of Arts – the nation's most prestigious arts award. This recognition affirmed the vision shared by Lionel Hampton and the University of Idaho about the power of jazz and education to bridge cultures, inspire creativity, and develop the musical leadership abilities of the next generation of jazz leaders.
As the Festival enters its fifth decade, it will continue to further Hamp's vision and legacy for perpetuating jazz music education for generations to come. With John Clayton’s great ability to educate, and his love for Hamp, the Festival is in good hands and is moving forward at an incredible rate.
What’s in store for 2008…
- Guest artists will include: Dr. John, Roy Hargrove, Hank Jones, Jon Hendricks, Aaron Weinstein, Sarah Gazarek and many others.
- Capping off each evening of the festival will be Hamp’s Club, a new special event following the evening concerts. Soloists chosen from the day’s adjudicated performances will get to experience what it’s like to play the clubs. Students will take the stage while one of the festival's special guests serves as emcee.
- The Saturday evening concert will feature Hamp's Big Band Birthday Bash and Dance Party: This capstone event will be an old-fashioned battle of the bands between the Lionel Hampton Big Band and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. The festival will introduce dance floors to get people up and swinging to the new vibe.
- Some 10,000 students from more than 300 elementary school, middle school, high school and colleges from all over the U.S. are expected to participate in adjudicated performances.