Vail Jazz Workshop
THE 2023 VAIL JAZZ WORKSHOP HAS WRAPPED. Stay tuned for updates regarding applications for Summer 2024.
Each year, a dozen of North America’s most dedicated, gifted, and promising young jazz musicians are chosen from a broad field of talented applicants, receiving scholarships to participate in the 10-day Vail Jazz Workshop in Vail, Colorado.
In conjunction with the Vail Jazz Party, this highly-regarded summer program enters its 28th year, mentoring over 300 high school-aged musicians since its inception. The VJ Workshop, among the longest-running programs of its type, enables student musicians to be coached in an environment that emphasizes intense interaction with instructors and fellow students while providing them with the unique opportunity to perform alongside legendary professional musicians at the VJ Party over Labor Day Weekend.
The 12 annual slots at the VJ Workshop are among the most coveted music scholarships among pre-college jazz musicians today. Many Workshop Alumni have advanced to highly successful musical careers, garnering numerous awards, Grammy® nominations, albums, and tour dates with jazz greats, as well as fronting their own groups at notable jazz venues and festivals across the globe. In honor of the exceptional talent of our Workshop Alumni, the VJ Party features these now working professionals to perform in the Vail Jazz Alumni Sextet.
Scroll down to meet the Vail Jazz Workshop Class of 2023!
Elijah Allen is a New York City-based trumpeter. He is a member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center (JALC) Youth Orchestra, has played in the JALC Middle and High School Jazz Academies, and attends the JALC Summer Jazz Academy at BARD. Elijah has performed at the Brooklyn Bowl, JALC’s Dizzy’s Club, Caramoor Jazz Festival, The Spiegeltent at BARD SummerScape, and the National Jazz Museum of Harlem to name a few. He recently graduated from the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art where he played with their Jazz, Philharmonic, Wind Symphony, and pit Orchestras, as well as Gospel Choir (horn section) and The New Music Ensemble. Elijah is a recipient of the Outstanding Soloist Award in the Big Band category at the 15th Annual Charles Mingus Competition and Festival and was selected into the NAfME All-National Honor Jazz Ensemble. During the Vail Jazz Workshop, Elijah looks forward to being mentored by some of the masters of jazz and helping him on his journey of becoming the best human he can possibly be. In the Fall of 2023, Elijah will be attending the NYU Steinhardt Jazz Studies program.
Webster Groves, MO
Trombone player Miles Cole was originally inspired by jazz when he first heard Matt Wilson’s “Christmas Tree-O” album at the age of 10. Since then, he has spent countless hours listening to legendary big band albums from Count Basie to Duke Ellington. Born into a musical family, Miles’ father is both his high school band and jazz band director. Active in the St. Louis jazz scene, Miles has participated in the Missouri All-State Jazz Band, JazzSTL All-Stars, and outside Missouri with Monterey’s Next Generation Jazz Orchestra and the Brevard Summer Jazz Institute. Miles has had the opportunity to share the stage with VJW alumni Tia Fuller and Bryan Carter and most recently was featured with Sean Jones’ Dizzy Spellz at JazzSTL. Throughout the Vail Jazz Workshop, Miles hopes to better himself as a person and player by connecting with those with similar goals. He believes jazz is a place for people to connect emotionally and he looks forward to sharing that love for music with others.
Evan Dexter is a jazz trombonist, composer, arranger, and vocalist from Chatsworth, California. Evan studied jazz at the LA County High School of the Arts (LACHSA) under Alex Hahn and is also an alumnus of the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s Bill Green Mentorship. In addition to performing with LACHSA’s Big Band and Blue Note Combo, Evan has played lead trombone in the 2022 and 2023 California All-State High School Jazz Ensemble(s) and is currently playing lead, writing, and arranging for the Colburn Big Band. In addition, he was named a 2022 YoungArts Finalist in Jazz Instrumental and Merit Winner in Jazz Composition, and a 2022 Grand Prize Winner of The Music Center’s Spotlight program. Ethan aspires to be a versatile musician drawing from influences across a wide variety of genres from John Coltrane and Freddie Hubbard to Bruno Mars and Snoop Dogg. His compositional influences include Vail Jazz’s very own John Clayton, as he aspires to write and arrange for a big band of his own. In the Fall of 2023, Evan will be attending the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.
Hailing from Miami, Florida, pianist Brandon Goldberg began playing at three years old. Now at seventeen, he has released two jazz albums, “In Good Time” and “LET’S PLAY!” Brandon’s performances have taken him to festivals across the country including the Newport and Twin Cities Jazz Festivals, Caramoor, and Monterey, where he played with the Next Generation Jazz Orchestra. Brandon has also received numerous awards including the YoungArts Foundation Merit Winner in Jazz, Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award, and numerous DownBeat Student Music Awards in composition and as a soloist. Brandon has participated in programs including Litchfield Jazz Camp, French Woods Festival Jazz Band, and performed with the University of Miami Summer Honors Jazz Orchestra, NYO Jazz, and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra. Brandon serves as the Musical Director for “Playing for Change” in which he organizes concerts benefiting those in need, the war in Ukraine, and hurricane relief. While participating in the Vail Jazz Workshop, Brandon hopes to fully immerse himself in the program and looks forward to his time in the mountains.
Saxophonist Miriam Goroff-Behel hails from Wilmette, Illinois, where they participate in music at New Trier High School and attend the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory, where they play in the big band and combos. Miriam has performed with the Illinois Music Education Association Jazz Band and received an Outstanding Soloist award at the Chicago Essentially Ellington festival. Miriam comes from a musical family, growing up with parents who loved listening to jazz vocalists and experiencing live jazz performances. By transcribing solos of some of their favorite musicians, including Cannonball Adderly and Charlie (Yardbird) Parker, Miriam is able to dig deeper into the music stylistically and technically. Miriam is especially inspired by Cannonball’s intensity and Bird’s fluid bebop runs. During the Vail Jazz Workshop, they hope to improve their overall musicianship and continue discovering the possibilities of expression through the saxophone.
Double bassist Læsio Littlejohn “tames the bottom and keeps it in the pocket.” Awarded first chair in jazz bass, Læsio performed in the Texas Music Educators Association’s 2023 All-State Jazz Ensemble and was a featured artist in Fort Worth Opera’s 2022 and 2023 Night of Black Excellence. In 2022, Læsio played with the Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation Jazz Orchestra and performed on the Jimmy Lyons mainstage. He was also a YoungArts Honorable Mention and awarded a 2nd consecutive full-merit scholarship to Berklee College of Music’s Summer Jazz Workshop. Læsio donates his time, talents, and services as a peer tutor and performs for numerous non-profit organizations, churches, and educational institutions. Laesio is a rising Junior at his new school, Plano West Senior High School in Plano, Texas. Inspired by the playing of Christian McBride, Paul Chambers, and John Patitucci, Læsio hopes the VJW will help expand his musical knowledge and deepen his thoughtfulness while playing.
Drummer Beckett Miles is a recent graduate from the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DASOTA) in Jacksonville, Florida. He was born into a musical family, his mother a jazz vocalist, and his father and grandfather both jazz drummers. His interest in playing jazz blossomed at the age of eleven when he began his mentorship with Juilliard Jazz faculty member Ulysses Owens Jr. Most recently, he was invited to be a member of NYO Jazz in the summer of 2023. This includes a performance in Carnegie Hall along with a European tour with special guest Dee Dee Bridgewater. In 2021, the DASOTA JE1 received a DownBeat Award for Best Performing Arts High School Jazz Ensemble where he also received an Outstanding Student Performance award for drum set. Beckett has performed at the 2023 and 2022 JEN Conferences and at the Jacksonville Jazz Festival. Beckett has always been drawn to jazz because “it offers a sense of ‘freedom of the individual without the loss of group contact’ (Dave Brubeck).” This fall, Beckett will begin his studies at The Juilliard School.
José André Montano
José André is a self-taught jazz pianist from Washington, DC. José has had the opportunity to play at festivals and concert halls across the globe including Finland, Malaysia, Italy, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and many more. In Washington DC, he has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center, DC Jazz Festival, and Blues Alley. José will be entering his senior year at Duke Ellington School of the Arts where he performs in its Jazz Orchestra. He has also played with big bands including Bethesda Blues and Jazz Youth Orchestra, the Blues Alley Youth Orchestra, and the NJW All-Star Jazz Orchestra. In 2019, José was a winner of the VSA International Young Soloist Award which recognizes talented, emerging artists with disabilities from all over the world. José has participated in the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz National Peer-to-Peer Jazz Quintet and as part of the Kennedy Center’s 50th anniversary, was selected as one of The Kennedy Center’s “Next 50 Leaders” on the basis that his art is always transmitting love and passion, moving towards an inspired, inclusive, and compassionate world; lighting the way forward. As he always says, “Life is beautiful if you love your differences. We always have to see life with a great smile every day.”
Saxophonist and clarinettist Lucas Netto hails from Miami, Florida. His love for competitive tennis and the physical and mental toughness it demands has lent itself to his career as a young jazz musician. At the New World School of the Arts, Lucas has performed with the jazz combo, band, wind ensemble, symphony orchestra, and as an opera and pit instrumentalist. He has won notable awards for both saxophone and clarinet including the YoungArts Winner Merit for Jazz Saxophone three years in a row, Essentially Ellington Competition Clarinet Soloist Award, and has participated in the Florida All-State Jazz Band and Concert Bands. In 2022, Lucas played with the NYO Jazz Ensemble at Carnegie Hall followed by a US tour with Grammy-nominated Jazzmeia Horn. The jazz form excites Lucas “beyond belief” as he first fell in love with the saxophone by listening to and studying Sonny Rollins. As a young player, Lucas hopes to learn as much as he can at the Vail Jazz Workshop and strives to tell authentic stories that are truly unique to him.
Drummer Ethan Oliver from Garner, North Carolina, began his musical journey at 3 years old when he discovered his love for “hitting anything that could make a beat.” Since then, Ethan has dedicated himself to the drums, studying with renowned drummers including Kobie Watkins, Jerome Jennings, John Lamkin III, and Jeff Hamilton. Ethan has also attended programs including UNC’s summer jazz camp and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Summer Jazz Academy and has won numerous awards from the Essentially Ellington Jazz Competition. Some of Ethan’s early musical influences include iconic jazz ensembles like Duke Ellington and Count Basie big bands, as well as the Thad Jones Mel Lewis big band and the Miles Davis quintet.
Ethan is not only passionate about music but also enjoys playing basketball, video games, and riding ATVs during his spare time. This summer at the Vail Jazz Workshop, Ethan looks forward to becoming a better musician and making new connections.
Hailing from Orlando, Florida, trumpeter Preston Rupert was exposed to jazz at an early age by his father, saxophonist Jeff Rupert. At the age of 10 years old, he decided to pick up the trumpet after hearing Cootie Williams’ “Tootie for Cootie” where he was attracted to Cootie’s soulful style and emotion. Since then, he has participated in prestigious jazz programs including the Jazz at Lincoln Center Summer Jazz Academy, The Brevard Music Institute, and Florida All-State Jazz Band. This summer he will be playing with NYO Jazz at Carnegie Hall followed by a European Tour with DeeDee Bridgewater. In Florida, Preston has played with the Florida All-State Jazz Band, Florida Symphony Youth Jazz Orchestra, the Orlando Jazz Orchestra, and received the Outstanding Trumpeter award at the regional Essentially Ellington Festival. Preston has had the unique opportunity to study with several of his jazz heroes including Michael Dease, Wycliffe Gordon, and Wynton Marsalis who he said was “encouraging and frank,” which he appreciated. During the Vail Jazz Workshop, Preston hopes to learn how to be more artistic in his improvisations and have more depth of communication when playing collaboratively.
Rayah Thomas is a bassist from Raleigh, North Carolina. Having only studied bass for four years, Rayah began with classical bass and has since made the transition to jazz as the main focal point of her musical education. Rayah plays with the Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble directed by Gregg Gelb and has also participated in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Summer Jazz Academy and UNCG High School Honors Jazz Band. Since beginning her jazz studies, Rayah has continued to expand her listening and performing while being inspired by the likes of Ahmad Jamal, Jamil Nasser, Rodney Whitaker, and Paul Chambers. While at the Vail Jazz Workshop, Rayah hopes to incorporate new perspectives and experiences into her playing by learning and listening to her peers, supporting those sounds with her own, and taking this growth into the rest of her career. Rayah has truly found a love for learning and performing jazz and hopes to one day become a proper vessel of this rich art form.
Who can apply?
The Workshop is a residency program for twelve dedicated and gifted young jazz musicians who have demonstrated a commitment to their musical studies and a level of skill to warrant special attention. The standard of playing is extremely high, therefore, only students who can meet this expectation will likely gain admission to the workshop.
- Must be at least 15 years of age and not more than 19 years of age (determined as of August 23, 2024)
- Must be a full-time student enrolled in a high school (grades 9 – 12) or home-schooled in compliance with appropriate local law during the school year completed just prior to the Workshop.
- Applicants who have just graduated from high school may apply but may not have attended a university, college, junior college, or another post-high school educational institution full-time, nor may an applicant have attended the Workshop.
The Workshop is only open to students whose primary instruments are the following: piano, bass, drums, trumpet, saxophone, and trombone. Currently, no other instruments are accepted into the Workshop.
Director of Education, Bass Instructor
Jeff Clayton, In Memoriam
1955 - 2020