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. Attendees from all fifty states, every Canadian province, and several foreign countries gather each October to celebrate live performances of America’s music. The Sun Valley Jazz & Music Festival was birthed out of a love and appreciation for jazz music by Tom & Barbara Hazzard and is held mid-October each year at the Sun Valley Inn in Sun Valley, Idaho.
This experience of telling the story of “American” music is our passion. Amazing isn’t it? We all get to be part of this history while it’s still in the making. The names that ring through eternity—Armstrong, Ellington, Fitzgerald, Beiderbecke, Goodman, Holliday, Basie, Shaw, Miller, and so many more—have created a legacy of delight that lives on through those of us who participate in this jazz festival. The history of this music echoes the history of twentieth century America.
This jazz event is held this year because of your continued support and encouragement. You tell people how much fun it is and that they need to come to Sun Valley. It continues because people have a heart to support the event and because we have incredible volunteers. It will continue as long as we all do our part to provide a place for these dedicated artists to express themselves and expose us to the art form called Jazz.
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.