For over 60 years, Mike Vax has been performing as a trumpet player, delighting audiences around the globe. Born in 1942, during World War II, Mike grew up with the ethic of that era: hard work, discipline - in the process putting forth every last ounce of effort to achieve his goals and aspirations. After attending and graduating from University of the Pacific as a classical performance major, Mike headed for the United States Navy, where he honed his craft with the Navy's top big band: The Navy Show Band. From there, he moved on to the Stan Kenton Orchestra, where he served as lead trumpet, soloist and road manager. In the latter role, Mike literally saved the Stan Kenton Orchestra, when Stan took seriously ill and he led the band for several months. He led the famed Dukes of Dixieland, who in their illustrious time have featured the greats, like Louis Armstrong. He toured Europe with the legendary Clark Terry, in the process being forced to turn down Count Basie. At age 78, Mike shows no signs of slowing down. He has hosted and run the popular Prescott Jazz Summit for the past 19 years and counting, bringing many great musicians to Prescott, Arizona. He has led over 2,500 clinics and impacted countless young musicians' lives, including my own. Finally. he has appeared on over 75 recordings, including over 20 as a leader- the last being the GRAMMY-nominated "Collaboration" CD with his longtime friend and fellow trumpeting legend, Ronald Romm (Founder of the Canadian Brass).
As a jazz artist, Mike Vax has enjoyed an illustrious career. Not content to sit on his laurels, though, Mike has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the development of aspiring, young musicians here in Arizona through the Prescott Jazz Summit and Friends of Big Band Jazz. He regularly visits area high schools, conducting clinics and workshops, even featuring some of these up and coming performers with his bands. Mike is fiercely determined to keep the sounds of the big bands alive and rarely turns down a big band gig, even when the paycheck is hardly worth the trip down to Phoenix from his home in Prescott. As noted, he is always eager to promote the big bands on radio and other media outlets. He regularly goes into schools, not only to perform and conduct clinics, but sometimes just to talk to music students, encouraging them to pursue careers in the arts, with the caveat to not only learn about craft, but also to understand the business side of music. When traveling around the globe, from China to Finland, he never fails to put in a plug for the jazz and arts scene here in Arizona. It is no small wonder that he chose to move from his native Northern California to Prescott, where he now calls home and continues to perform and teach.
Over the years, Mike has performed from Prescott and Flagstaff, to Phoenix and Tucson, throughout the United States and around the Globe - delighting delighted audiences from two to 102 . He has performed with a virtual Who's Who in the music world including Clark Terry, Al Hirt, Art Pepper, Gene Krupa, Cab Calloway, Al Grey, Freddy Hubbard, Louie Bellson, Joe Williams, Anita O'Day, June Christy, Ron Romm, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Harry James, and Jimmy Dorsey Orchestras, The Navy Commodores, The Army Blues, He has led many jazz ensembles including the Dukes of Dixieland, the Great American Jazz Band, the Mike Vax Jazz Orchestra and his highly acclaimed Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra. Every year, Mike hosts the Prescott Jazz Summit, employing local, national and even international musicians from all over. Mike was one of the first to put Dennis Rowland back to work, after his stroke. He has featured local favorites like Ralna English, Renee Grant Patrick, Judy Roberts, Jesse McGuire, Cleve Huff, Ken French, Tony Vacca, Selwyn Reams - the list is virtually endless.