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Honoring Vail Jazz founder Howard Stone

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August 6, 2022, 10:25 am

Vail Jazz Executive Director Amanda Blevins on Friday issued the following letter on the passing of Vail Jazz Foundation founder Howard Stone:

It is with great sadness that I share the news of Howard Stone’s passing, who died on August 3, 2022 of post-surgical complications.

Howard Stone

Howard’s lifelong passion for jazz and the Vail Valley led him to organize the first-ever Vail Jazz Party in 1995. The following year, he launched the Vail Jazz Foundation to perpetuate his beloved artform through the presentation of jazz performances and educational programs for young people. 

Over its 28-year history, Vail Jazz expanded to include a summer-long jazz festival, a winter music series, jazz soirées, an immersive jazz workshop for promising high school musicians, an elementary school program in Eagle County called Vail Jazz Goes to School, free concert series, and numerous educational programs. Under Howard’s leadership, DownBeat magazine named the Vail Jazz Workshop as the nation’s best jazz educational program in 2019. There are approximately 100 working jazz musicians – and dozens of jazz educators – who are alumni of the Vail Jazz Workshop.

Always working in tandem with his wife and Vail Jazz co-founder Cathy Stone, Howard also orchestrated performance and education collaborations with other local nonprofits, including Bravo!Vail Music Festival, The Vail Symposium, and The Vail Valley Foundation.

In addition to his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Jazz — and his captivating stories of musicians past and present — Stone will be remembered by those in the Vail Valley for his warmth, self-deprecating sense of humor, and his bolder-than-bold dress palette. His eye-catching, wildly colored shirts and shoes became a trademark and made him a recognizable figure in the community.

Howars’s impact was massive. Careers were launched and lives enhanced thanks to his vision. In addition to entertaining thousands and thousands of audience members over the past 28 years, the Vail Jazz Workshop has trained over 300 outstanding young jazz musicians, and Vail Jazz Goes to School has educated over tens of thousands of students in Eagle County. Each of these programs will continue to grow as part of Howard’s legacy.

At the time of his passing, Howard served as the Vail Jazz Artistic Director. He recently stepped down as Chair of the Vail Jazz Board of Directors as part of a broader strategy to bring new energy and resources to the organization. Current Board Chair Garret Davies credits Howard for leaving Vail Jazz on such firm footing and is confident in the future of the organization.  The staff and Board of Directors are prepared to continue the work he so cherished.

Thank you to the outpouring of support we have received from this jazz community. We are working in tandem with Cathy Stone and the family on a tribute to Howard. Details will be forthcoming.

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