RHINELANDER, Wis. (WFRV) – The Northwoods of Wisconsin are known for many things, but being a hotbed for jazz is not generally among them. 

In the first of a four-part series, you’ll see only on Local 5 our own Connie Fellman reveals a hidden secret in our backyard. 

Once a year, the serenity of Wisconsin’s Northwoods gets upstaged; as screaming sax solos and skyrocketing trumpet riffs soar above the whispering pines.  

Welcome to the Northwoods Jazz Camp. 

“The jazz tradition here at Holiday Acres, which is in a very rural part of the world, is deep,” said Kimberly Ford, co-director of the Northwoods Jazz Camp. “It goes very deep.”  

This is not just any music camp.  For starters, this camp is for adults. 

“They’re doctors, lawyers or merchants of some kind, investors, and typically, they played trumpet, sax, etc… in their early days, high school or college,” said Northwoods Jazz Camp artistic director Kim Richmond. “Then they retired and said, ‘I want to return to the music I used to play just to have fun. So they’re here to play again.”  

Specifically adult musicians with a passion for jazz. 

“I just love jazz music,” echoed camp student Gail Irwin from Oconto Falls. 

Secondly, these aren’t just any music instructors. They’re the best of the best. They hail from the heart of the hottest jazz scenes in New York, Los Angeles. And everywhere in between, these jazz greats travel to our little neck of the Northwoods one week each year to play and teach at the Northwoods Jazz Camp, hosted by Holiday Acres Resort on Lake Thompson near Rhinelander. 

But they’re not the first big-name jazz cats to get this joint a jumpin’. 

“He’d have big bands coming in; Woody Herman, the Count Basie Band, I saw both of those. Buddy Rich also played here.” 

So, the big question is, how did all this sophisticated jazz action become so deeply rooted in our Northwoods?  Well, much of it revolves around one man. 

“Kim Richmond. He’s world-class,” said Ford. “He draws fabulous people. People want to work with Kim.” 

Renowned composer, director, recording artist, and more, saxophonist Kim Richmond makes his home in Hollywood these days. 

“Near the Hollywood sign,” Richmond explained. 

But perhaps “more than a few” years ago, Richmond took a break from his job playing studio gigs in L.A… 

“I came in 1984,” Richmond recalled. “That was the first summer I took away from work in L.A.” 

…to spend a peaceful summer at his family cabin in the woods. 

“They have a hiatus from filming movies and TV in the summer,” Richmond explained. 

The timing was perfect, and it just so happened so was the change of scenery. 

“I have a cabin 35 miles north of Holiday Acres in Three Lakes,” Richmond said. 

That’s where Richmond learned of the deep jazz history hidden in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. 

“I said, ‘Somebody has jazz here? Who?'” Richmond chuckled. 

But the story doesn’t end there. In many ways, it was just beginning – with a duet that would last a lifetime.