• About Mt. Hood Jazz Festival

  • The Mt. Hood Jazz Festival is a three-day immersion into the jazz culture. It includes multiple performances by world-renowned artists, as well as an educational student competition for high school and middle school jazz ensembles. Attendees experience the music, vendors, food and culture of the area while seeing the entire musical journey from middle school to professional.

    The Mt. Hood Jazz Festival also welcomes secondary school jazz ensembles to compete in the educational component of the festival on the Mt. Hood Community College campus. Students grow as young musicians by performing, attending masterclasses and seeing performances by regional and international jazz heroes.

    MHCC Jazz Students Get Festival Experience

    Students in the MHCC jazz program are integrated into the fabric of the festival. They assist with festival operations and gain experience in festival management. They have full access to the artists and events, and many perform as part of the festival lineup.

    History of Mt. Hood Jazz Festival

    In 1982 MHCC launched the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival, in partnership with the City of Gresham and the Mt. Hood Jazz Association. At its height the festival drew crowds of 30,000 attendees who came to listen to top jazz performers, including Sonny Rollins, Dave Brubeck, Tito Puente, Arturo Sandoval and B.B. King. The festival was the last place Rosemary Clooney performed live.

    In 2019 the MHCC music department acquired the rights to the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival name and began to plan a relaunch. In 2021 with support from a Gresham Arts and Cultural grant, and generous contributions from the community, the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival returned as a livestreaming virtual event. It engaged more than 2,000 viewers, including residents from all over Oregon and as far away as Spain.

    The 2022 Jazz Festival returns to the original vision of an in-person immersion in jazz culture with world renown headliners.

    Mt. Hood Community College Jazz Program

    Mt. Hood Community College has one of the most legendary jazz programs in the Portland area. Under the direction of Dan Davey, the jazz program has grown to provide students with a comprehensive jazz education, including large jazz ensemble, jazz combos, jazz improvisation courses, jazz history, group jazz piano courses, and private study with top musicians in the Pacific Northwest.

    Students in the jazz program frequently perform around the greater Portland area. They’ve performed at the Portland Jazz Festival, Montavilla Jazz Festival and the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival.

    The MHCC music curriculum offers a vibrant, creative and rigorous environment that prepares students to be better musicians. The faculty provides students with a highly personalized education, including courses in classical and contemporary music studies, instrumental and vocal labs, performance studies and masterclasses with world-renowned visiting artists.

    Students can earn an Associate of General Studies degree in Music in two years. Most students transfer to four-year universities to continue their studies. Many returning adult students enroll in the program to develop new jazz techniques and skills.

    DownBeat, the music magazine devoted to "jazz, blues and beyond," recommended the MHCC music program in their list of "Where to Study Jazz 2022."

    History of Jazz at Mt. Hood Community College

    In 1966 Larry McVey and Hal Malcom started the MHCC music program as a well-rounded program with a focus on jazz education. It was one of the first educational institutions in the country to include vocal jazz.

    As the program quickly developed, it became a regular recruiting stop for leaders of notable big bands looking for new personnel, including Stan Kenton, Mel Torme and Buddy Rich.

    In collaboration with the Mt. Hood Jazz Festival and KMHD Jazz Radio, Portland’s 24-hour jazz radio station that broadcast from the MHCC campus, students in the jazz program had exposure and access to the top jazz artists in the world.

    Alumni continued in their education at the Manhattan School of Music, the Berklee College of Music, University of Southern California, and at universities across Oregon and Washington.

    They have become internationally known soloists and hold faculty positions at well-renowned conservatories. Many have established successful careers touring and performing with Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Buddy Rich, Mel Torme, Harry Connick Jr., Stan Kenton and Woody Herman, just to name a few.

    Notable alumni from the MHCC music program include Chris Botti, Phil Baker, Dave Barduhn, Steve Christofferson, Tom DeLibero, Peter Dyer, Essiet Essiet, Gary Hobbs, Keller Koker, Patrick Lamb, Terry Layne, Martin Mueller, Donny Osborne, Dick Sarpola, Susie Jones, Jeff Uusitalo, Alan Yankee and Ben Wolfe.