Incredible music

Incredible music heard at Idaho Jazz Festival

The first time I watched the Winter Olympic Games on television was in 1960. The games that year were held in Squaw Valley California and I was attending Music College in Los Angeles. To watch, together with my two apartment roommates, we rented a small black & white set for $5. 

The 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley ushered in the era of the modern, televised Winter Games. The CBS network paid $50,000 for the broadcast rights, an astronomical sum for a sports event in those days. The 13 hours of coverage was criticized by newspaper columnists to be a risky financial move that would result in nothing but gallons of red ink for CBS. As usual the Pundits were wrong. Today television networks bid billions for the rights to cover the games. My most vivid memory of those 1960 Olympics was Walter Cronkite leering into the camera and informing America of the U.S. hockey team’s gold-medal upset of the Soviets. Overall in the round robin schedule Canada was runner up and received the silver medal.

Fast-forward 54 years and the recent Olympic Games in Sochi. I watched 11 days worth of the TV coverage on my giant HD TV at home. However, on day 12, I shut off the set at 6:00 am and had Pat drive me to the BC Ferry Terminal at Duke Point. I was scheduled to meet the Alberni District Secondary School Band Bus on their way to Moscow (the one in Idaho) to attend the International Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. The school’s band director Sarah Falls had asked me if I’d like to come along as a chaperone. The clincher was that I could do the piano accompaniment for my grandson Nathan’s trumpet solos at the festival - an opportunity not to be missed. I confess I was somewhat apprehensive about surviving the 12-hour bus trip. However, the time seemed to pass quickly with movies playing on the bus TV set and reading a supply of the latest Time, Newsweek and MacLean’s magazines I’d downloaded to my iPad. 

Photo above: It was a special moment for me at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival held last week in Idaho being able to accompany our grandson Nathan Miller in the trumpet solo class. In another class Nathan received an honourable mention for his solo on The Nearness of You. Michael Addy (Bass) and Devon Barker (Drums).

When I was teaching music at EJ Dunn and Alberni District Secondary School, students looked towards the annual band trips as the highlight of the year. In combination with my wife Pat’s three choral groups we both have wonderful memories of the numerous festivals we performed at across the country. However, after 35 years as a school band director, this trip to Idaho represented my first trip as a chaperone.

The concerts the students heard live were, as the kids would say, “awesome”. Over three evenings at the University of Idaho we heard an unbelievable potpourri of some of the world’s finest jazz musicians including pianist Geoff Keezer, vocalists Sheila Jordon and Rene Marie, the Seattle based vocal jazz ensemble Groove For Thought, a stunning young 21-year old saxophonist/vocalist Grace Kelly, the Grammy award winning instrumental combo Yellowjackets, veteran composer/saxophonist Benny Golson and vibraphonist Jason Marsalis who soloed with the Lionel Hampton Big Band. The 18-piece ensemble included some of the late band leader’s original players. The list of performing jazz stars goes on and on. If you’re a jazz fan check out the festival’s website at 

Main Stage at the Lionel Hampton Festival

The bus trip home from Idaho was a slippery one. Leaving Moscow in a snowstorm at 6:00 am on Sunday, we got over the Snoqulamie Pass east of Seattle moments before a chain-up order for buses was ordered. Along the way we got the news that Canada had won the men’s hockey game. 

Around Bellingham we hit the west coast version of the Pacific bred snowstorm but cleared customs with just enough time to make our ferry reservation at Tsawwassen. The bus dropped me off at the Woodgrove Mall in Nanaimo where I managed to get a cab. Pat’s car was buried under a snow bank making it impossible to get out and up the steep hill near our house. Before trundling off to bed I zipped through the recording of the Canada/Sweden hockey game to view the goals. It’s much less stressful watching when you know the outcome.  

Thanks to Sarah Falls and her wonderful students for taking me along. I had an absolute blast!

Photo above: At the close of each day clinicians select outstanding soloists to perform at a venue called Hamp’s Club. Titled the Young Artist Concerts Series, students experience what it feels like to perform in a real life gig situation. Professional musicians accompany the students.

Here ADSS vocalist Arlene Oldale performs the ballad Misty. Alberni Valley student Erin Netzer was also selected to perform her version of Dream a Little Dream which she sang in French. Other Alberni students receiving honourable mention were George McNally (trombone) and vocalist Danil Sim.

Photo above: Grandson Nathan also performed as part of a piano trio with Michael Addy (Bass) and Devon Barker (Drums).

Photo above: A bronze statue of bandleader Lionel Hampton occupies a corner of the main stage during festival