The Vail Series

Upcoming Events

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

We simply can’t wait to welcome you back to the Vail Series in 2021/2022! 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 artists who are “household names,” and equally as exciting, Vail Series patrons have discovered rising stars – many of whom 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 a mix of musical styles and origins the Vail Series is refreshing and enduring and personal.

Our 2020/2021 series went virtual and had its impact in that format, but there is nothing like having a live, in person, common shared experience with other members of the Denison community. Artists we met virtually last year will hopefully be on campus this fall, ready to visit classes, provide master classes, offer their perspective on the creative process, and in general share their artistry with us. Yes, it was wonderful having Aoife O’Donovan record a concert – just her and her guitar in her backyard - specifically for Denison. But having her in Swasey Chapel will be amazing.

And the Vail Series really is much more than a series of concerts by world-class artists. It’s seeing Béla Fleck or Yo-Yo Ma or Ladysmith Black Mambazo or the Czech National Symphony Orchestra featuring Isabel Leonard of the New York Metropolitan Opera. You’ll see them on a small stage, six feet away from your front-row seat, knowing they’ll be spending enough time here to interact with students personally and answer a question if you have one. The Vail Series joins in bringing the contemporary classical quartet ETHEL, who have been awarded honorary degrees for their impact at Denison, and Grammy-winning Third Coast Percussion to campus, each for two full weeks a year as Denison’s ensembles-in-residence. They take 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’ primary 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 and by Michael Morris from 2013-2019. Ching-chu Hu is currently the Director of the Vail Series.

Since 1979, more than 100 individual Vail Series artists have found their way to Denison’s classrooms and stages, 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 student groups over the two-night engagement. Many artists arrive on campus days ahead of their concert to visit classes and student groups.

Like we said earlier…it’s personal.

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Series Archives

2021 - 2022

Roomful of Teeth

The Vail Series welcomes multi-Grammy Award-winning vocal octet Roomful of Teeth.

Red Sky

Denison University’s Dance Department, Laura C. Harris Series and Vail Series presents Red Sky Performance.

Fifth House Ensemble

The Department of Music presents the TUTTI Festival Concert X: "We Are Good" presented by the Vail Series.

American Spiritual Ensemble

The Vail Series presents American Spiritual Ensemble.

BLACKBIRD

"BLACKBIRD, FLY" A Concert for Voice, Body and Strings: Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Spoken Word. Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), Violin, Piano.

Aoife O'Donovan

The Vail Series welcomes Grammy Award-winning artist Aoife O’Donovan.

2020 - 2021

Third Coast Percussion

The Vail Series is partnering with Music Institute of Chicago to bring you a Livestream performance with Third Coast Percussion.

JLCO piper ferguson

The Vail Series presents a co-sponsored livestream event, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

American Spiritual Ensemble

The Vail Series welcomes the American Spiritual Ensemble.

Aoife O’Donovan

The Vail Series welcomes Aoife O’Donovan presenting a virtual concert.

2019 - 2020

Roomful of Teeth

The Vail Series welcomes Grammy award winners Roomful of Teeth.

SYBARITE5

The Vail Series and TUTTI 2020 partner to present SYBARITE5 in a grand finale concert.

Brasil Guitar Duo with JIJI

The Vail Series welcomes Brasil Guitar Duo with JIJI presenting an evening of classical guitar music.

Brasil Guitar Duo with JIJI

The Vail Series welcomes Brasil Guitar Duo with JIJI presenting an evening of classical guitar music.

Matt Haimovitz

The Vail Series welcomes acclaimed cellist Matt Haimovitz and his brilliant musical variation on the concept of "A Moveable Feast."

Matt Haimovitz

Bring your lunch and enjoy Cellist Matt Haimovitz and his brilliant musical variation on the concept of ”A Moveable Feast."

Matt Haimovitz

Cellist Matt Haimovitz presents his brilliant musical variation on the concept of ”A Moveable Feast" during a pop up concert.

Matt Haimovitz

Bring your lunch to the library and listen to Cellist Matt Haimovitz perform his brilliant musical variation on the concept of ”A Moveable Feast."

Matt Haimovitz

Cellist Matt Haimovitz presents his brilliant musical variation on the concept of ”A Moveable Feast" during a morning coffee break.

Tarpaga Dance

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

Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer with Rakesh Chaurasia

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

2018 - 2019

ETHEL

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

Burke Recital Hall

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

Isabel Leonard

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

Dee Dee Bridgewater

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

Pablo Ziegler

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

2017 - 2018

Photo of contemporary classical ensemble Eighth Blackbird in concert

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

Photo of South African a cappella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo

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

Photo of Catherine Russell

The Vail Series presents Catherine Russell in concert.

Photo of the Grammy nominated chamber music ensemble Eroica Trio

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

2016 - 2017

Photo of Sam Bush

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

Photo of NOW Ensemble

The Department of Music welcomes NOW Ensemble in concert.

Photo of Wynton Marsalis and vocalist Catherine Russell

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

Image of Gabriel Alegría and the Afro-Peruvian Sextet

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

2015 - 2016

Denison’s ensemble-in-residence, ETHEL

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

Image of Cyrille Aimée

The Vail Series presents Cyrille Aimée.

Portrait of Regina Carter

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

The Metropolitan Opera Rising Stars

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

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

2014 - 2015

Photo of the quartet "Sweet Honey In The Rock."

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

Turtle Island Quartet

The Vail Series presents "Turtle Island Quartet."

Billy Collins

The Vail Series presents Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

Photo of "The Ahn Trio"

The Vail Series presents "The Ahn Trio."

Photo of Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer

The Vail Series presents Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer.

2013 - 2014

Photo of Bobby McFerrin

The Vail Series presents the multi-talented Bobby McFerrin.

Photo of Bobby McFerrin

The Vail Series presents the multi-talented Bobby McFerrin.

Photo of Julian Lage with percussionist Tupac Mantilla and bass player Jorge Roeder

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

Sphinx Virtuosi

The Vail Series presents 'Sphinx Virtuosi.'

Ethel in studio

The Vail Series presents string quartet 'Ethel'

2012 - 2013

Jessye Norman, Soprano
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.