History of the Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival

Tom Hazzard, a southern California boy, grew up surfing Laguna Beach and sneaking into jazz clubs to hear the exciting new music pioneered by Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden, and other “unsavory characters.” His heart was captured by Louis Armstrong, the Dorsey Brothers, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith and a score of others who were swingin’ to the new Dixieland beat. Tom scooped up the hit recordings of his favorites, a collection boasting over 7,000 records in his later years.

Fast forward to spring of 1988. Tom Hazzard was driving home to Boise, Idaho, after enjoying a jazz festival in California. Accompanied by the love of his life, “Barbara Jean, the Village Queen,” Tom was dreaming up a marvelous concoction. He envisioned modern-day Dixieland artists struttin’ their stuff for adoring fans in the mountains of Idaho. He pictured a five day party at the classy Sun Valley Resort, complete with marching band salutes, big band bashes, and swing dancers cutting a rug into the wee hours of the morning.

Two years later, the Sun Valley Swing ‘n’ Dixie Jazz Jamboree was born. Tom and Barbara, with the help of Sun Valley Company General Manager Wally Huffman, cooked up a jazz festival and plugged it into the slowest weekend of the year in Sun Valley. They held their breath as the long-awaited day arrived. Fans came in droves and a legend was born.

Over two decades later, the Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival continues to delight festival goers from all fifty United States, every Canadian province, and dozens of foreign countries. Tom and Barbara’s daughter Carol and husband Jeff work year-round to perpetuate Tom’s dream: live music performed by 180 musicians in 260 concerts over a five day period.

Now that’s a party!

Keeping the Jazz Alive Since 1989

The third weekend in October each year, the annual Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival celebrates a history of jazz music.   Each year between five and six thousand jazz connoisseurs from each of the fifty states and several foreign countries attend the event.

Largest and Most Popular Single Event

The success of the event since 1989 is tied to the quality of music presented as well as the draw of the location.  Sun Valley, Idaho, is an attractive, exciting destination that adds to the charm and allure.  “All the bands want to play in Sun Valley,” said Bill Alred of Orlando, Florida, the leader of one of the festival’s most popular groups.  “Things are perfect here – the venues, appreciative fans, accommodations – everything, not to mention a spectacular setting in these gorgeous mountains.  An invitation to come here is a prized possession in our industry.”  The event was integral to the expansion of the summer tourist season as well.  “The festival is our largest and most popular single event,” said Wally Huffman, past General Manager for the Sun Valley Resort.   “We fill the resort for a week.  What’s more, the in-town accommodations, stores, restaurants, and other facilities in Ketchum do tremendous business, so it’s an economic boom as well as a crowd favorite.”

Original American Art Form

The Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree was granted 501(c)(3) public charity status in 2009.  The new designation will allow for the expansion of educational outreach programs.  “We are developing a twenty year continuance plan.  The new non-profit status plays a significant role in our ability to reach more people and educate them about Jazz,” said Carol Loehr, Co-Director of the Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival and daughter of the Hazzards.   “We are shifting from a generation that grew up during the jazz and big band era; their tie to the event is a sense of nostalgia.   As time goes by, our focus changes to keeping the music alive by sharing this truly original American art form with a new generation through education and live performances. “ To this end, one goal for the event is to expand the long history of grade school and high school workshops and performances to as many of the schools in Southern Idaho as the finances allow.

  • Five straight days of music
  • Forty Bands
  • One Million Smiles
  • One Hundred Eighty Musicians
  • Two Hundred Sixty Shows!

Jazz festival tickets are available online or by phone 877-478-5277. The event will host guests and musical groups  from around the nation, Canada, and Europe.  Groups will perform in the scenic, prestigious Sun Valley Resort.

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