The Vail Series

Here are just a few notable artists from past years: 
  • Itzhak Perlman
  • Yo-Yo Ma
  • Renée Fleming
  • Wynton Marsalis
  • Jessye Norman
  • Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer
About the Series 

Sure, it’s a new season of highly diverse concerts, performed by world-class musicians. But the Vail Series is so much more.

It’s seeing Béla Fleck or Yo-Yo Ma on a small stage, six feet away from your front row seat, knowing he’ll be spending enough time here to interact with students and answer a question if you have one. The Vail Series joins in bringing the contemporary classical quartet ETHEL to campus four weeks a year as Denison’s ensemble-in-residence. ETHEL takes the arts from the performance stage to classrooms. They play in a variety of surprising locations across campus, and often just grab lunch and chat with students in the student union. In other words, it’s personal. Even the Vail Series’ venue — Swasey Chapel — is known for its intimacy. There’s no need to hang around stage doors to meet performers when they come to Denison; they’re right there, up close and totally accessible.

And the arts are such an essential element of a liberal arts education at Denison that Vail Series tickets are free for students, faculty and staff.

The Vail Series was endowed by a generous gift from the late Mary and Foster McGaw in honor of Jeanne Vail, class of 1946. Just as it was intended to do, the Series enriches the artistic experience of the entire Denison community. Programmed creatively with the mindful pursuit of learning across traditional academic boundaries, the Vail Series was directed by Lorraine Wales from its inception in 1979 through her retirement in June of 2013. Michael Morris is currently the Director of the Vail Series.

Since 1979, more than 100 individual artists have found their way to Swasey Chapel’s stage, but that doesn’t include the dozens of ensembles or full symphony orchestras that have played here over the years. And some stay for a while. Last time he was here, Bobby McFerrin presented two concerts, performing with ten students groups over the two night engagement. Yo-Yo Ma and Yuja Wang have each been to Denison five times. They’re kind of like family.


Arts MidwestThe Vail Series gratefully acknowledges:

This presentation is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from the Ohio Arts Council, Crane Group and General Mills Foundation.

Sights & Sounds

Ethel Perfomance detail 1
Ethel Perfomance detail 2
Ethel Perfomance detail 3
Ethel Perfomance detail 4
Dafrakura Performance detail 1
Dafrakura Performance detail 2
Dafrakura Performance detail 3
Dafrakura Performance detail 4
Dafrakura Performance detail 5
Dafrakura Performance detail 6
Regina Carter Performance 1
Regina Carter with students 1
Regina Carter Performance 2
Regina Carter with students 2
Regina Carter in the classroom
Regina Carter Performance 3

Series Archives


Gabriel Alegría and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet (67820)
October 6, 2016
The Vail Series presents Gabriel Alegría and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet.
The Vail Series: ETHEL’s ‘Documerica’ (64683)
April 16, 2016
Denison’s ensemble-in-residence, ETHEL,, presents "Documerica," a multimedia concert.
ETHEL's Documerica
April 16, 2016
Poet Laureate Robert Hass (55997)
March 10, 2016
The Beck Writers Series in partnership with the Vail Series welcomes Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate Robert Hass.
An interview with poet Laureate Robert Hass (55988)
March 10, 2016
The Beck Writers Series welcomes Pulitzer Prize winner and Poet Laureate Robert Hass.
The Vail Series presents Cyrille Aimée (64684)
March 3, 2016
The Vail Series presents Cyrille Aimée.


The Vail Series presents: Regina Carter's "Southern Comfort" concert (47440)
November 14, 2015
The Vail Series welcomes genre-spanning violinist Regina Carter.The Vail Series welcomes genre-spanning violinist Regina Carter for her Southern Comfort Concert.
Vail Series presents: The Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars (47412)
October 8, 2015
Vail Series presents the Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars Concert, featuring the next generation of leading men and women at the renowned "Met."
Vail Series presents: Dafra Kura Band (47411)
September 18, 2015
The Vail Series welcomes the Dafra Kura Band, hailing from Burkina Faso and performing world music, traditional and contemporary sounds from Africa.
Sweet Honey in the Rock (38340)
April 10, 2015
The Vail Series presents "Sweet Honey In The Rock."
ETHEL and Native American flutist, Robert Mirabel (40383)
March 12, 2015
ETHEL and Robert Mirabal, a Native American flutist and vocalist, present an open rehearsal for a work in progress.
Turtle Island Quartet
February 13, 2015

Winner of the 2006 and 2008 GRAMMYA® Awards for Best Classical Crossover category, Turtle Island Quartet fuses the classical quartet esthetic with contemporary American musical styles, and by devising a performance practice that honors both, the state of the art has inevitably been redefined. For their Vail Series performance, Turtle Island Quartet presents their arrangement of Miles Davis's seminal recording "Birth of the Cool".

January 29, 2015
The Vail Series presents Poet Laureate Billy Collins.
January 1, 2015
The Vail Series presents "Turtle Island Quartet."


The Ahn Trio (38067)
November 7, 2014
The Vail Series presents "The Ahn Trio."
Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer in concert (37993)
October 2, 2014
The Vail Series presents Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer.
Bobby McFerrin Concert (38863)
March 28, 2014
The Vail Series presents the multi-talented Bobby McFerrin.
Bobby McFerrin (38861)
March 27, 2014
The Vail Series presents the multi-talented Bobby McFerrin.
Julian Lage Trio (38650)
February 8, 2014
The Vail Series presents a concert by the Julian Lage Trio.


November 5, 2013
The Vail Series presents 'Sphinx Virtuosi.'
Stunning strings (38469)
September 27, 2013
The Vail Series presents string quartet 'Ethel'
Ethel at the Met Museum
September 27, 2013

The New York Times describes ETHEL as an amplified new-music string quartet and they are acclaimed as one of the most exciting quartets around by Strad Magazine. Their Denison concert features Grace. In every sense of the word, "Grace" provides effortless beauty and charm, goodwill, a favor, and a reprieve. This program is a journey to redemption through music.

Jessye Norman, Soprano
April 7, 2013

Volcanic power, inspired performance, irresistible magnetism... According to the New York Times, Jessye Norman is one of those once-in-a-generation singers who are not simply following in the footsteps of others, but staking out her own niche in the history of singing. This is an amazing voice, a catalogue of all that is virtuous in singing. No matter what the style or repertoire”from classical music to new”the sound of Jessye Norman™s voice resonating in Swasey Chapel might just cause the supporting beams to tremble.

Keith Lockhart & The Bbc Concert Orchestra
February 1, 2013

Famous for their legendary versatility, the BBC Concert Orchestra players can turn their hands to classical jazz, film music and crossover. This allows for an appetite of music in any forum or venue, with the talent to back it up. Keith Lockhart took up the baton to become the BBC Concert Orchestra™s seventh principal conductor in August 2010. He joins the BBC team while continuing his successful work with the Boston Pops, where he has been conductor since 1995.


Chucho Valdez Quintet
October 26, 2012

The New York Times calls Cuban pianist Chucho ValdA©s™ concerts such a controlled detonation of music that it kicks down your defenses. They refer to him as a pianist of imperial command. In fact, most critics seem to be surprised that after a lifelong career, he still surprises them. Hailed as one of the world™s great virtuosic pianists by the Times, eight-time Grammy Award winner ValdA©s has recorded more than 80 CDs, performing with countless jazz masters, including Herbie Hancock, Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, and Chick Corea. Last here in 2002, this will be ValdA©s™ second Vail appearance.

A Far Cry with Matt Haimovitz, Cellist
September 14, 2012

A Far Cry stands at the forefront of an exciting new generation in classical music. According to the New York Times, the self-conducted orchestra brims with personality or, better, personalities many & varied. On this occasion, the Criers share the stage with a renowned musical pioneer who, according to The New Yorker, electrifies listeners from a few feet away in an intimate club, to the last rows of a concert hall...An expressive maximalist, Matt Haimovitz calls forth a dazzling spectrum of sounds from the depths of his instrument.

The Knights
April 11, 2012

Vail™s 32nd season ends with a chamber orchestra sure to take the audience on an oxygen-fueled romp painted in vivid hues(The New York Times). The Knights chamber orchestra brings energy and a joy of musical exploration to the Swasey stage as they perform classics and new music in a gutsy, exhilarating style. WeA do it all, they say---Beethoven, pop, classical, rock. Pretty much anything anyone feels strongly about musically, the group will take seriously and give it aA shot.

Dada Masilo
February 3, 2012

You must not miss this brash and breathtaking young artist in her premiere American performance. South African dancer and choreographer Dada Masilo is still in her 20s but has already established herself as one of the world's most stunningly innovative, exquisitely unconventional thinkers and interpreters of dance. Known for her "astonishingly quick and often jarring fusion of African dance and classical ballet" (CNN World), Masilo opens our eyes to the places where western and African traditions meet, collide, and create beauty.


Munich Symphony Orchestra & Gloriae Dei Cantores
October 27, 2011

The acclaimed Munich Symphony Orchestra and world-class concert choir Gloriae Dei Cantores will fill Swasey chapel with Schoenberg's beautiful "Verklarte Nacht" and Mozart's exquisite "Requiem" in late October. Join us, and Denison's own Chamber Singers, for this evening of voice and instrument under the baton of conductor Philippe Entremont.

Yuja Wang
October 7, 2011

Our 2011 Vail season opens with the incomparable pianist Yuja Wang, who must be heard live to be believed. Don't miss a rare opportunity to see this renowned performer, who the New York Times says "seems to have everything: speed, flexibility, pianistic thunder and interpretive nuance." Her program will include works by Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, Debussy, Ravel, AlbA©niz and Scriabin. We know you'll agree with the Detroit News, who calls Yuja Wang "simply the most important new pianist to appear in recent years, period."

Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer & Zakir Hussain
March 26, 2011

Vail's transcendent season-ender will stretch your assumptions about the banjo, drum, and bass to the breaking point. BA©la Fleck, Zakir Hussain, and Edgar Meyer are masterful musicians who synthesize elements of Indian classical, Americana and baroque, creating a powerful expression of beauty--and a Swasey Chapel performance for the ages.

New Century Chamber Orchestra
February 3, 2011

Join us for this magnificent event as one of the world's preeminent violinists performs with her own audacious chamber orchestra. Heralded as "unexcelled in the concert hall today," Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the New Century Chamber Orchestra bring irresistible, "undeniable virtuosity" (Chicago Sun-Times) as they storm the Swasey stage with classical music in a fresh, fearless style.


Pacifica Quartet with Menahem Pressler
November 14, 2010

Get ready for edge-of-your-seat chamber music. The Sunday Times (London) called the Pacifica Quartet "stupendous, breathtaking virtuosity...intellectual fire." And joining Pacifica for this Vail Series performance is Menahem Pressler, offering a rare opportunity to hear "a living legend" (Boston Globe). This will be an unforgettable evening of chamber music crafted in a fresh, bold style, with both "vigor, and delicacy" (The New York Times).

Mark O'Connor & Dailey & Vincent
September 29, 2010

Vail™s 31st season kicks off with a virtuoso jam. The New York Times called Mark O™Connor the only musician today who can reach so deeply first into the refined, then the vernacular, giving his listeners complex, sophisticated¦ classical music¦ and the brown-dirt whine of a Texas Fiddle. Together with the superlative and authentic Dailey and Vincent bluegrass band, this is American music at its finest, with strings, harmonies, and the flat-out joy of making music.

Yuja Wang with Russian National Orchestra
February 28, 2010

In demand throughout the music world ever since its 1990 premiere, the RNO, conducted by Patrick Summers, shares the stage with the marvelously gifted Yuja Wang, known for her blazing technique and rare instinct for poetry. This performance marks Yuja™s fifth appearance at Denison University since 2004.

Imani Winds with Stefon Harris
January 29, 2010

Best described as a dazzling display of sounds and tones not typical to the classical music lover™s ear,the innovative woodwind quintet successfully marries classical with jazz and world influences. On this occasion, the astonishing young vibraphonist - composer Stefon Harris joins the quintet in performing his new work created especially for the Imani Winds.


"From The Top"
November 7, 2009

Hosted by the acclaimed pianist Christopher O™Riley, the wildly popular NPR program will celebrate its 10th birthday with a special concert at Denison featuring some of the show™s favorite young alumni from past seasons.

October 4, 2009

This Grammy award-winning ensemble will perform more than 100 concerts in 2009-10, with programs ranging from Renaissance to jazz and from gospel to venturesome new music. Chanticleer is known around the world as an orchestra of voices.

Renee Fleming
April 14, 2009

One of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, soprano RenA©e Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry, and compelling stage presence. Known as the people™s diva, she continues to grace the world™s greatest opera stages and concert halls.

Brooklyn Rider
March 28, 2009

The adventurous, genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider is comprised of Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violin; Nicholas Cords, viola; and Eric Jacobsen, cello. They combine an eclectic repertoire with a gripping style that is drawing critical acclaim from classical, world, and rock critics.


Sphinx Chamber Orchestra
October 10, 2008

This unique group envisions a world in which classical music reflects cultural diversity and plays a role in the everyday lives of youth. It earned rave reviews from The New York Times, which said it produced a more beautiful, precise, and carefully shaped sound than some fully professional orchestras.

Capoeira Angola
September 19, 2008

Capoeira Angola, the traditional style of the Brazilian form of dance, is often characterized by playful, ritualized games. The combination of dancing, combat, and music, while stressing interaction between the two players and the musicians and observers is electrifying to audiences.

Yuja Wang & Friends
April 12, 2008

Yuja Wang is widely recognized for playing that combines the spontaneity and fearless imagination of youth with the discipline and precision of a mature artist. In her fourth performance at Denison, the charismatic performer is joined by the Denison University student orchestra. This is Wang™s second appearance at Denison.

Yo-Yo Ma & Friends
March 1, 2008

One of the world's foremost cellists, Yo-Yo Ma has produced a phenomenal body of work, of his 75 albums, 15 have won Grammy awards. His multi-faceted career is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences, and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal. This is his fifth appearance at Denison.


Chicago Children'S Choir
November 10, 2007

The multiracial, multicultural Chicago Children™s Choir was in 1956 during the Civil Rights Movement, at Hyde Park™s First Unitarian Church. Today™s critically acclaimed Choir is fully independent and serves all of Chicago”a choir combining high artistic standards with a social purpose.

Natalie Macmaster
October 9, 2007

Natalie MacMaster is an electrifying performer whose passionate proficiency on the beloved four-string fiddle amplifies the traditional East Coast sound for contemporary times. MacMaster says, Music has given me another layer and dimension of feeling because it really broadens the soul and really broadens the heart.

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet & Luciana Souza
April 1, 2007

The members of the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet continue to set the standard for expression and virtuosity among guitar ensembles. Luciana Souza™s work transcends traditional boundaries and offers an enlightened approach to classical repertoire and new music.

Yuja Wang
February 9, 2007

Chinese pianist Yuja Wang is widely recognized for playing that combines the spontaneity and fearless imagination of youth with the discipline and precision of a mature artist. Wang has been praised for her authority over the complex technical demands of her repertoire and her charismatic stage presence.


Bronfman, Shaham & Harrell
October 7, 2006

Member of the Bronfman/Shaham/Harrell trio are stars in their own right: pianist Yefim Bronfman, violinist Gil Shaham and cellist Lynn Harrell are international soloists at the top of their game. Their delicate and intricate interplay of sounds give new definition to their performance repertoire.

The Five Browns
September 15, 2006

The 5 Browns are the first family of five ever accepted simultaneously to the Julliard School of Music. Playing five Steinway pianos, the siblings reveal a deep connection to their material while bringing a fresh energy and dynamic character to the color and tonal spectrum of their sound.