The Vail Series

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

The Vail Series is Celebrating its 40th Season!

We are so excited to invite you to the 40th anniversary of Denison University’s highly regarded Vail Series. Over the course of the past four decades, it has been our privilege to bring world-class artists and ensembles to our community. We have enjoyed people who are “household names,” and equally as exciting, Vail Series patrons have met rising stars – many of who have gone on to exceptional careers. Along the way, we have explored a variety of musical genres from all corners of the globe. With a variety of well-known and emerging artists and mix of musical styles and origins, the Vail Series is both refreshing and enduring. We’re 40 years old, and still brand new!

So, 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.

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Series Archives

2019 - 2020

Vail Series presents Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project 'When Birds Refused to Fly' (131154)

The Vail Series presents Baker + Tarpaga Dance Project "When Birds Refused to Fly," winner of a National Dance Project Award.

Vail Series presents Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer with Rakesh Chaurasia (131151)

The Vail Series welcomes Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer with Rakesh Chaurasia.

2018 - 2019

Denison Vail Series Presents The River: ETHEL + Robert Mirabal (125909)

The Vail Series presents ensemble-in-residence ETHEL in concert.

Composition and Improvisation: ‘Philosophers and Musicians in Dialogue' (129806)

The TUTTI festival, Titus-Hepp Lecture Series and Vail Series present Composition and Improvisation.

Vail Series Presents 100 Years of Leonard Bernstein (103754)

100 Years of Leonard Bernstein- The Czech National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of John Mauceri featuring soloist Isabel Leonard

Vail Series presents: Dee Dee Bridgewater (103755)

The Vail Series presents Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater in concert.

Vail Series presents Pablo Ziegler '12 Hours – Argentina Meets Japan' (103756)

The Vail Series welcomes GRAMMY-winning pianist, composer and arranger Pablo Ziegler presenting a U.S. premiere performance titled "12 Hours."

2017 - 2018

The Vail Series presents Eighth Blackbird (97344)

The Vail Series presents contemporary classical ensemble Eighth Blackbird in concert.

Recent Grammy-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo, courtesy of Vail Series (97345)

The Vail Series presents Grammy-winning South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo in concert.

The Vail Series presents Catherine Russell (97331)

The Vail Series presents Catherine Russell in concert.

The Vail Series presents Eroica Trio (97330)

The Vail Series presents the chamber music ensemble Eroica Trio in concert.

2016 - 2017

Bluegrass legend Sam Bush – SOLD OUT (67813)

The Vail Series welcomes Sam Bush performing at the 2017 Bluegrass Concert.

NOW Ensemble in concert (102810)

The Department of Music welcomes NOW Ensemble in concert.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis – SOLD OUT (67817)

The Vail Series welcomes the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis performing "Big Band Holidays."

Gabriel Alegría and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet (67820)

The Vail Series presents Gabriel Alegría and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet.

2015 - 2016

The Vail Series: ETHEL’s ‘Documerica’ (64683)

Denison’s ensemble-in-residence, ETHEL,, presents "Documerica," a multimedia concert.

The Vail Series presents Cyrille Aimée (64684)

The Vail Series presents Cyrille Aimée.

The Vail Series presents: Regina Carter's "Southern Comfort" concert (47440)

The Vail Series welcomes genre-spanning violinist Regina Carter for her Southern Comfort Concert.

Vail Series presents: The Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars (47412)

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)

The Vail Series welcomes the Dafra Kura Band, hailing from Burkina Faso and performing world music, traditional and contemporary sounds from Africa.

2014 - 2015

Sweet Honey in the Rock (38340)

The Vail Series presents "Sweet Honey In The Rock."

"Turtle Island Quartet" (38260)

The Vail Series presents "Turtle Island Quartet."

Poet Laureate Billy Collins (38228)

The Vail Series presents Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

The Ahn Trio (38067)

The Vail Series presents "The Ahn Trio."

Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer in concert (37993)

The Vail Series presents Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer.

2013 - 2014

Bobby McFerrin Concert (38863)

The Vail Series presents the multi-talented Bobby McFerrin.

Bobby McFerrin (38861)

The Vail Series presents the multi-talented Bobby McFerrin.

Julian Lage Trio (38650)

The Vail Series presents a concert by the Julian Lage Trio.

Sphinx Virtuosi (38540)

The Vail Series presents 'Sphinx Virtuosi.'

Stunning strings (38469)

The Vail Series presents string quartet 'Ethel'

2012 - 2013

Jessye Norman, Soprano

Keith Lockhart & The Bbc Concert Orchestra

Chucho Valdez Quintet

A Far Cry with Matt Haimovitz, Cellist

2011 - 2012

The Knights

Dada Masilo

Munich Symphony Orchestra & Gloriae Dei Cantores

Yuja Wang

2010 - 2011

Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer & Zakir Hussain

New Century Chamber Orchestra

Pacifica Quartet with Menahem Pressler

Mark O'Connor & Dailey & Vincent

2009 - 2010

Yuja Wang with Russian National Orchestra

Imani Winds with Stefon Harris

"From The Top"


2008 - 2009

Renee Fleming

Brooklyn Rider

Sphinx Chamber Orchestra

Capoeira Angola