Owen Hutchinson, '13

December 3, 2014
A life of musical exploration leads to a career encouraging others to discover a love for jazz

As the development manager for the Vail Jazz Foundation, Owen Hutchinson, ’13, spends much of his day trying to convince people to support the art of jazz.

It’s not a hard sell for him to make.

He can talk about his love of the cultural traditions and lineage of sound, of the development of the American art form and the world music influences, of Indian bhangra and classical music. He can rattle off the names of one jazz artist after another — some legends, others you’ve never heard of.

Music — and jazz especially — is his passion, for sure. One that dates back to his childhood and an uncle “who’s a total music junky and cultural omnivore.” His uncle had him listening to everything from jazz to opera to classical music, an exploration Hutchinson continued through high school and at the University of Richmond.

“I played the saxophone and guitar all through high school,” he says. “Once I got to Richmond, it was an explosion of enthusiasm for music. I was going in every direction — playing in the Balinese gamelan with Andy McGraw and the Brazilian ensemble with Kevin Harding and salsa groups with Mike Davison. It was a total exploration period for me.”

Thanks to that winding exploration of global music, it’s easy for Hutchinson to find common ground with potential supporters of the Vail Jazz Foundation. The foundation is the organization behind the Vail Jazz Festival, an annual summer-long festival in Vail, Colo., featuring some of the biggest names in the jazz landscape. But the organization is also focused on the next generations of jazz musicians — a challenge in a genre largely dominated by older fans — through education programs, master classes, and intensive workshops where high school students learn from a faculty of jazz all-stars.

While Hutchinson is largely working on fundraising efforts, much of his work comes down to engaging people with jazz and the foundation.

“People give to people, not organizations,” he says. “My job is largely about meeting as many people as I can, and forming really great relationships based around music, which is something that definitely started at the University of Richmond. I learned how to speak the language, how to talk professionally about music in the business world and communicate to listeners, ticket-holders, attendees, and donor prospects. I learned about the importance of the performing arts, and arts and culture programs in cities, and what they really do for the community.”

For someone who can talk for days about jazz, it’s not a bad gig.

“It’s a dream come true that I get to work for an organization that produces what I’ve put so much time and love into,” Hutchinson says. “Whether I’m at a coffee shop meeting someone, or at a concert, or at a meeting in town, I’m always talking about jazz. It’s totally just pulled me into this mentality of turning people on to jazz.”