22nd Jazz in the Valley - Solberg

Don and Joy Solberg's footsteps can be traced back to the very first Jazz in the Valley. Now the festival has become one of the biggest and best in the Pacific Northwest.

Ellensburg is and will always be a rodeo town.

It’s had its share of people go on to bigger and better things like native John Clymer, who as an illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post became known for his detailed and vivid renderings of the beauty of Northwestern America.

Drew Bledsoe (Patriots, Bills, Cowboys) was the No. 1 overall selection in the 1993 NFL Draft and Dallas Cowboys coach Jon Kitna (Seahawks, Bengals, Lions) played at the highest levels. There’s also been actors like Brian Thompson and Brian Haley; musicians Mark Lanegan and Mark Pickerel.

But when it comes to music and all that jazz, there is one name that has been around for all 22 years of the Pacific Northwest’s premiere festival. He doesn’t do all the work by any stretch of the imagination, but Jazz in the Valley is his baby and retired CMO of Kittitas Valley Healthcare and a longtime family practitioner Dr. Don Solberg help deliver.

“Like I always say, ‘It’s my party and you’re welcome to join me ,’” he said with a laugh, on the verge of the 22nd anniversary of Jazz in the Valley.

“In some ways it’s been a surprise that’s grown the way it has. But on the flip side, as a community event it really sparked interest. It’s one of those up-close-and-personal events that features some of the best music in the business.”

Jazz in the Valley has been a work in progress, a work of art, an expansion of the soul and theater of the mind, and Don Solberg has been there every step of the way. The JIV board consists of 25 volunteers ranging from Central Washington University Director of Jazz Activities Chris Bruya, committee chairman Norm Wallen, who is perhaps the most prolific and diverse composer/arranger in the Northwest, as well as others that have made the three-day festival like a note frolicking down the Yakima River.

“We started with the idea that it would be a showcase of musical entertainment, but as it grew we wanted to do it downtown to bring people in during the summer,” Solberg said. “We have such a prominent music department at CWU that in many ways it’s a reunion for students to come back and play.

“We have the Ellensburg Big Band, Sunday is always gospel. Over time we involved a number of different styles of music. This year we have 28 performances featuring eight genres of music. We have anything from Grammy nominated acts to the Sidewalk Stompers, who have been here every year. They go around the streets playing Dixieland.”

The festival is quite the undertaking and requires the coordinated effort of some 200 volunteers to make it go off. The committee has done a nice job rotating musical acts to showcase regional and national talent in different venues all over town. Everybody wants to play the JIV and they’ve kept it fresh with well established to up-and-coming stars.

“We’ve always wanted to show people that Ellensburg is more than just a rodeo town,” Joy Solberg said. “We wanted this to not only be a great music festival, but an economic engine to contribute to the livelihood of our downtown district. It’s been really supported the music is what makes it fun.”


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