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Lionel Hampton jazzes up the Palouse
Published 2/20/2013 4:59:00 PM
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Jazz will come in swingin' on the Palouse this week.

The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival kicks off its four-day extravaganza all day today at the University of Idaho. This year marks the festival's 46th year. Since it began in 1968, the event has expanded from the single-day event it used to be.

James Brownson, director of development and marketing for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, said the first festival had 15 student groups from Washington and Idaho. It wasn't until almost 20 years later that the festival took the name it has today.

“In 1984, Lionel Hampton and his band made their first appearance at the festival,” he said. “Lionel was so impressed by the enthusiasm of the students that he pledged his support to the festival and in 1985 the festival adopted Hampton’s name.”

Brownson calls the festival a cultural and educational institution. Besides providing concerts from international stars like Regina Carter, TrainchaOosterhuis and Trio daPaz, the festival gives students in elementary school bands and beyond the opportunity to hone their skills.

“Student ensembles and soloists are evaluated by the festival’s student performance clinicians,” he said. “A select number are chosen each year to perform on the festival’s Hamp’s Club and Young Artist Concerts stages.”

In order to keep this four-day event a success year after year, Brownson said there is a full-time staff of four who work all year long, as well as student interns and more than 500 volunteers.

Among these volunteers, a group of students from WSU's music service fraternity Kappa Kappa Psi help run parts of the festival. The group assists with tours, setting up concerts and cleaning up, secretary of the fraternity ReanneNakapa’ahu said.

“We pretty much run a site itself by ourselves,” said Nakapa’ahu. “We get there at 6 a.m., 5 a.m., and we stay until it's done.”

Besides listening to the music performed at the festival, Nakapa’ahu loves participating in community service related to music.

“It's benefited me in giving me the opportunity to do more community service,” she said. “KKPsi and helping the Lionel Hampton helps me target my community service to music.”

To find out more information about the festival and a calendar of events, visit

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