Music majors vocalists celebrate jazz

Susie Chavez, Staff Reporter

CWU music major vocalists are preparing for a Vocal Jazz Celebration on March 4. The Vocal Jazz concert will feature Vocal Jazz II and Vocal Jazz I, who will be singing and swinging. Vocal Jazz I will also be previewing the set that will be performed the following week at the American Choral Directors Association Regional Conference that will be taking place in Portland, Oregon.

Vocal Jazz I is the premiere jazz vocal ensemble at CWU and consists of 13 to 16 singers, a rhythm section and a sound technician. Students are selected through a rigorous audition process judged on their technical skills, musicality, sight reading, stylistic diversity, jazz sophistication, performance abilities and their ability to improvise.

“Vocal Jazz I has a strong tradition of exceptional performances and emphasis on music education and many of the alums of Vocal Jazz I hold top teaching positions in the region,” Victoria Busby, a graduate student at CWU, said.

In the past, Vocal Jazz I has performed at prestigious conventions of International Association of Jazz Educators 2002 Long Beach, California and in 2007 in New York City. In 2013, Vocal Jazz I performed at Jazz Education Network national conference in Atlanta, Georgia, American Choral Directors Association in Boise, Idaho in 2004 and the 2011 National American Choral Directors Association conference in Chicago, Illinois.

In 2003, Vocal Jazz I performed at Music Educators National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee as well as in Bellevue, Washington in 2005, the  Northwest conference in Spokane, Washington in 2009. Vocal Jazz I continues to gain accolades as one of the finest jazz vocal ensembles in the country. Recent performances have included sharing the stage with guest artists Nancy King, Bobby McFerrin, Gary Hobbs, Carol Welsman, Don Shelton, and Dave Pietro.

“I believe that this is why CWU is known for their reputable music program,” Henry Sparks said, who is a senior studying music education. “Not only because of the students that have come out of the music department but also because of the experiences.”  

Vocal Jazz II is typically directed by a graduate teaching assistant and focuses on building musicianship and repertoire through improvisation, ensemble skills, stylistically authentic performance practices, and jazz concepts. Repertoire focuses on custom arrangements by students, alumni and other northwest jazz luminaries. Students often gain experience and skills in Vocal Jazz II necessary to compete for spots in Vocal Jazz I, creating a program for the premiere ensemble.

“Jazz concerts are much different than a lot of our other music concert,” Busby said. “It is a great experience to see students performing a different style of music, one-on-a-mic, and we have some wonderful soloists.”


This Vocal Jazz Celebration happens every quarter, and according to Busby, it is the quarterly jazz concert for the vocal groups. Most quarters, there are two concerts in the same day and mixed bands and vocal groups but because of scheduling this quarter, the vocal and band groups are on different concerts.


“It is going to be a great show therefore you don’t want to miss it,” Spencer Manning, a junior studying music, said.