Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival Collection

Memorabilia related to the University of Idaho's Jazz Festival, 1969-2020

Contents: About the Collection | An Inauspicious Beginning | The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival | Tech

About the Collection

This collection consists of posters, programs, photographs, and other materials documenting the history of the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival. Materials span the years 1969 to 2020, and originate primarily from the Jazz Office records. Also included are a series of oral histories conducted by the 2020 Berry Jazz Fellow, Spencer Manning, with long time festival director Lynn “Doc” Skinner.

An Inauspicious Beginning

The University of Idaho held it’s first jazz festival in 1967 under the direction of Bruce Bray a faculty member in the University of Idaho School of Music. The following year, the festival was taken over by David Seiler and Robert Spevacek who ensured the focus of the festival was on music and jazz education for students. In the early years of the festival, the concerts showcased the University of Idaho’s jazz bands and the top performing high school jazz bands from the region selected during the day’s competition.

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1st Annual Idaho Jazz Festival Program

By the mid-1970s, the festival had grown from a single day of competitions culminating with a concert into a two day event. It was around this time that the festival, under the direction of Rich Werner and Denny Gold, began bringing nationally recognized jazz artists to hold clinics and perform at their evening concerts. Some early guest performers include: Roy Burns, Bill Tole, Gary Burton, and Lew Tabackin.

In 1978, Lynn “Doc” Skinner took over as director of the festival. As director, Skinner wanted to further expand the educational aspect of the festival to ensure students were able to learn from the jazz festival. By 1980, the festival had grown to include three days of activities, hosting close to 1000 students. Under Skinner’s direction the festival continued to grow and in 1982, he was able to secure one of the world’s most notable jazz vocalists to perform, Ella Fitzgerald. Performing in Memorial Gym, Fitzgerald’s performance brought some attention to the festival.

15th Annual University of Idaho Jazz Festival Poster [1]
15th Annual University of Idaho Jazz Festival Poster [1]

The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival

Lionel Hampton first performed at the University of Idaho Jazz Festival in 1984. After seeing the festival’s dedication to educating students, Hampton and the University began a long lasting relationship. This relationship saw the jazz festival and School of Music named after Hampton. Hampton would also go on to receive an honorary doctorate from the university in 1988. With the influence of Hampton behind it, the festival continued to grow and feature world class jazz musicians.

Lionel Hampton Speaking at School of Music Dedication
Lionel Hampton Speaking at School of Music Dedication
Lionel Hampton in Doctoral Robes
Lionel Hampton in Doctoral Robes

In 1995, Lionel Hampton wished to see the educational aspect of the festival expand into K-12 schools in the region. Thus began the Jazz in Schools program. This program was initially tied directly to the jazz festival. Visiting guest artists would travel to nearby schools to teach students about jazz. Every year during the Jazz in Schools program Hampton would travel to Lapwai, Idaho to teach students about jazz. Today the program continues, but takes place throughout the year and not just during the jazz festival.

Jazz in Schools Poster
Jazz in Schools Poster

At it’s peak the festival was a four day event featuring music, dance, and jazz history clinics; student competitions; and, evening concerts featuring festival competition winners and guest artists. In 2007, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and the University of Idaho were an honored recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, making it the first jazz festival (and university) to receive the highest honor for the arts in the country.

Lionel Hampton and his New York Big Band
Lionel Hampton and his New York Big Band

Technical Credits - CollectionBuilder

This digital collection is built with CollectionBuilder, an open source tool for creating digital collection and exhibit websites that is developed by faculty librarians at the University of Idaho Library following the Lib-STATIC methodology.

This site is built using CollectionBuilder-CDM which utilizes CONTENTdm APIs to create an engaging “skin” on top of an existing digital collection repository.

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