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Since the 1960s at the University of Idaho, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival has brought jazz masters together with elementary, junior high, high school and college students to share and celebrate a truly American art form. The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival has grown from a one-day event to an amazing three-day experience!

The first University of Idaho Jazz Festival took place in 1967, with a dozen student groups and one guest artist. The festival continued to grow from there — erupting onto the national stage in 1982, when thousands of students and spectators came to hear Ella Fitzgerald.

In 1984, the festival’s most important relationship began when Lionel Hampton joined the excitement in Moscow. Inspired by the enthusiasm of the students, Hamp pledged his support to the festival and, in 1985, the festival was renamed in his honor.

Now having hosted thousands upon thousands of students, spectators, and artists — including Doc Severinsen, Bobby McFerrin, Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, The Manhattan Transfer, and countless musicians from around the world – the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival is three outstanding days of student performances, workshops, clinics and remarkable world-class evening concerts.

The Jazz in the Schools program began in 1995. The program takes visiting musicians to elementary schools in northern Idaho and Eastern Washington to introduce students to this truly American art form. Forty-two schools participated in the 2015 Jazz in the Schools program, reaching over 9,000 K-12 students during the week of the festival.

In 2007, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival was awarded a National Medal of Arts — the nation's most prestigious arts award. This recognition affirmed the vision shared by Lionel Hampton and the University of Idaho about the power of jazz and education to bridge cultures, inspire creativity and develop the musical leadership abilities of the next generation of jazz leaders.

As the Festival enters its fifth decade, it will continue to further Hamp's vision and legacy for perpetuating jazz music education for generations to come.

Lynn “Doc” Skinner and Lionel Hampton
In this photo from Special Collections and Archives at the University of Idaho Library, Lynn “Doc” Skinner and Lionel Hampton pose for a picture in 1990.

The Visionary, Doc Skinner

Over the last five decades, the jazz festival at the University of Idaho has been led by a handful of committed directors. But there’s one man who is credited with transforming the event into the nationally known tradition it has become today: Doc Skinner.

Lynn “Doc” Skinner has been part of the jazz festival since he arrived in Moscow in the early ’70s as the director of music education at the university. He became festival director in 1976, and in 1984,
Skinner invited Lionel Hampton to the festival. The pair of musicians bonded over a passion for jazz and a shared dream to keep the art form alive and well through youth education. The two formed a partnership and friendship that infused the festival with an inspiring energy and a renewed focus on educating the next generation of jazz musicians. Skinner served as executive director of the festival — which was renamed in Hamp’s honor in 1985 — until he retired in 2007. During his tenure as executive director of the festival, he brought some of the world’s greatest jazz artists to Moscow. In addition to Lionel Hampton, headliners included Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Toots Thielemans, Ray Brown and Sarah Vaughan.

Thanks to Skinner’s efforts, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival received the National Medal of Arts in 2007. In 2010, his impact on music education was recognized with the Governor’s Awards in the Arts for Support of Arts Education from Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Still a resident of Moscow, Doc Skinner continues to share his passion of jazz by teaching and attending the festival each year.

Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival

Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival

Mailing Address:
Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival
875 Perimeter Dr., MS 4021
Moscow, ID 83844-4021

Phone: 208-885-5900

Fax: 208-885-7254


Web: Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival