This One Time, at Jazz Camp . . .
As the sun dips behind the lofty peaks of Vermont’s Green Mountains, there’s an electricity in the air that leaves you a little breathless. A crowd of people are gathered all around you on the velvety green lawn when you climb the steps to the outdoor stage. Your buddies in the band strike up the first few notes, then you lift your horn and out pour the sweetest swinging notes you’ve ever blown. One thrilling hour later, your set wraps up and another sound fills the air—the thunderous applause from hundreds of true jazz aficionados. This, you decide, is bliss.
Though perhaps not what you think of as a typical adrenaline adventure, Jazz Vermont has been making dreams like this come true since 1984, when an impromptu group of players realized they were having the time of their lives while vastly improving their music skills. The jazz camp moves to a different resort location each summer; past venues have included the Killington Grand Hotel in Killington, Marble Island Resort in Colchester, and Bolton Valley Resort. About 70 musicians now make the trek each year, along with a limited number of spouses and other family members. Non-musician guests are treated to a full slate of activities such as tennis, yoga, antiquing, painting, and hiking the verdant hills of rural Vermont. The cost for participants runs in the mid-$1,000 range, plus extra for guests.
Despite the bucolic settings, this is no lazy summer jam session—folks here are serious about taking their music to new heights, and though no improvisational experience is needed, players are expected to be intermediate-level or higher and able to sight-read the music of Glenn Miller, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and other jazz standards. Musicians should also bring their own instruments—mercifully, an exception is made for piano players.
The camaraderie that forms in the 6-day retreat is like no other; many first-time attendees are startled to find that the drummer they befriended only days ago is actually a neurosurgeon the rest of the year. And most of those first-timers feel compelled to return again—some 70 percent of Jazz Vermont musicians are repeat guests. —ML
Jazz Vermont ( 800/242-8785; www.jazzcamp.com).
When to Go: An annual mid-summer event.