Vocal Jazz at ACDA 2017

The biannual ACDA 2017 National Conference starts tonight in Minneapolis. Although I won’t be attending this year, I have many colleagues who are and want to share some previews.

I’ve prepared a cheat sheet of conference offerings that appeal to my particular interests: vocal jazz, TTBB Choirs, and composing/arranging. I’ll offer separate posts with each area, as well as a general sit of don’t-miss sessions.

In this post: Vocal Jazz

Although vocal jazz is a relatively marginal area at an ACDA Conference, there are many excellent sessions and performances to enjoy over the four full days in Minneapolis. I’m including here some sessions under the Contemporary/Commercial track: it’s sometimes hard to parse where one starts and the other ends.

Wednesday, 10:00 AM Behind the Mic Exhibitor ShowcaseBehind The Mic has been doing a wonderful job of interviewing leaders in vocal harmony group singing and providing those interviews, for free. I don’t know precisely what they have planned for this showcase, but rest assured it will be of interest to vocal jazz lovers.

Wednesday, 1:00 PM Vocal Jazz Reading Session. The best way to know what’s at the cutting edge of vocal jazz is to attend the reading session. It will likely include great new and classic arrangements published by leading independent publishers like UNC Jazz Press and SMP Jazz, as well as mainstream publishers like Hal Leonard and Alfred.

Wednesday, 2:00 PM Vocal Jazz Forum. Immediately after the reading session, stick around for a forum devoted to issues of particular interest to vocal jazz educators.

Thursday, 10:00 AM Collegiate Vocal Jazz: Learning From Our Legacy (Interest Session) Tim Brent (Rider University) is organizing this session that features an outstanding panel of vocal jazz educators from across the country – Greg Jasperse (Western Michigan University), Christine Helferich Guter (Cal State Long Beach), and Kate Reid (University of Miami). Not coincidentally, all were students of Steve Zegree at Western Michigan University and Larry Lapin at the University of Miami. (As was I!) Somebody video this session!

UPDATE: I just heard that my friend Jamie Shew, a wonderful jazz singer and faculty member at Fullerton College (and also a WMU alum), will be filling in for Christine on the panel. She’ll be a wonderful addition!

Friday, 8:15 AM Contemporary/Commercial Choirs Reading Session. This reading session will be more focused on show choir and pop a cappella music, but may still include some music of interest to vocal jazz ensembles. Anyone want to bet on whether there will be a Pentatonix selection in the packet?

Friday, 9:15 AM Contemporary/Commercial Choirs Forum. Again, after the reading session, stick around for a discussion of topics of interest to these types of choirs.

Friday, 10:00 AM/11:10 AM Jazz Choral Music for Kids (Interest Session). Joy Hirokawa, music ed professor at Moravian College in Pennsylvania, will present about techniques and repertoire suitable for introducing younger choirs to vocal jazz.

Friday, 10:00 AM/11:10 AM So You Want to Start a Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Tim Buchholz, another fellow WMU/Miami alum, is an outstanding vocal jazz educator teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County. His session is intended to offer a basic overview of everything a choral musician would need to know to begin a vocal jazz choir.

Friday, 6:30 PM Contemporary/Commercial Showcase. This session will include a number of ensembles, including the US Navy Band Sea Chanters Chorus and Kettering Fairmont High School Eleventh Hour (Brody McDonald). The repertoire represented over this 2 1/2-hour concert includes folk, pop, vocal jazz, musical theatre, and more.

Friday, 10:00 PM Jazz Night. Three outstanding vocal jazz ensembles will perform: Thomas Almli’s Celebration from Bellevue College (WA), John Stafford’s The Standard from Kansas City Kansas Community College, and Kelly Kunz’s Last Call. This will be an excellent concert. I only wish I could convince the convention organizers that vocal jazz conductors don’t have more stamina than any other conductor attendees, and that vocal jazz doesn’t need to only be represented after 10:00 PM!

Saturday, 3:00 PM Contemporary/Commercial Showcase. Repeat from Friday 6:30 PM.

Not so bad, right? If you’re a vocal jazz person, there’s plenty to keep you busy during ACDA 2017. Just be sure you pace yourself on Friday so you can make it till the end of the concert session at midnight! And be sure to drag a non-jazzer friend along to that session at least!

Of course, there’s plenty more to take in, from TTBB to composer-centric sessions, as well as a wide array of other worthwhile experiences!