Vocal Jazz at ACDA 2015

The ACDA 2015 National Conference starts in just three days in Salt Lake City. While I won’t be attending this year’s conference, I have many colleagues who are and want to share some previews.

Today: Vocal Jazz at the Conference

Vocal jazz has a spotted history at both choral and jazz conferences: it tends to be marginalized, either due to equipment needs or bias of organizers. That said, there is plenty on offer for the interested conductor, both in performers and presenters.

Wednesday, 8:30am Start your conference with a bang at the vocal jazz reading session, followed immediately by:

Wednesday, 9:45am Vocal Jazz Roundtable; Is There A New “American Songbook” in Jazz. Whether this particular topic is of personal interest, there is often time to bring your own questions at roundtables, and it is the perfect time to discover people in the vocal jazz sphere who can become resources.

Wednesday, 11am Circle-Singing: Incorporating Group Improvisation in Your Own Rehearsals (Jeremy Fox, Presenter). Jeremy is a friend and a fabulous musician – he was up for a grammy this year for Best Arrangement. Jeremy is very well known in the vocal jazz world but I think this topic will be of interest to any conductor.

Wednesday 6:45pm (Gold)/8:45pm (Blue) Evening Concert Session. The King’s Singers open this concert with a set that covers the gamut from Renaissance to jazz/pop arrangements. And following them will be The Real Group, performing their distinctive style of music that in the end covers much of the same ground. Both are unparalleled singing ensembles. DO NOT LEAVE after The King’s Singers, I don’t care how tired you are.

Thursday, 11am Meet The Real Group (Ryan Holder, presider). The Real Group got where they are by meticulous rehearsal and study – in an advanced degree program as an ensemble. It’s a remarkable story and one we can all benefit from. NOTE THIS TIME CHANGE IN THE CONFERENCE SCHEDULE ERRATA.

Update: I should also mention there is also a vocal percussion presentation at 11am on Thursday, but I expect that all vocal jazzers will all be at The Real Group session.

Thursday, 8pm Jazz Night (Both Tracks). Including Milwaukee School of the Arts Vocal Jazz Ensemble (Raymond Roberts) Kettering HS Eleventh Hour (Brody McDonald) and Voces8, the U.K. octet that sings across stylistic boundaries but will focus on pop and jazz tonight.

Thursday, 10pm-midnight Jazz Jam with Phil Mattson. A chance to sing and connect under the leadership of one of the great minds of vocal jazz.

Friday, 9:45am Vocal Jazz Rehearsal Techniques: How Do They Differ From Traditional Concepts? (Steve Zegree) I’ve seen similar presentations from Steve over the years and I’m certain it will be excellent. Steve is a master rehearsal technician, regardless of musical genre.

Friday, 4pm Making The Most of Your Vocal Jazz Ensemble Rehearsals (Jennifer Barnes, Presenter) Jennifer is the director at University of North Texas of one of the most outstanding collegiate vocal jazz ensembles anywhere. This is a lecture/demonstration with her ensemble.

Friday, 8pm Jazz Night (Both Tracks) Four outstanding collegiate vocal jazz ensembles will give you a good idea of the state of the art: Central Washington University (Vijay Singh), Cal State U.-Long Beach (Christine Helferich Guter), American River College (Arthur Lapieree), and University of North Texas (Jennifer Barnes).

I did not find any vocal jazz-area presentations or performances on Saturday. However, in the closely-related a cappella pop area, you will get:

Saturday, 9:45am A Cappella Pop: A Complete Guide to Contemporary A Cappella Singing (Brody McDonald). Brody’s group is singing Thursday night and he literally wrote the book on a cappella pop in the school setting.

I urge all choral musicians to expose yourself to at least one vocal jazz session this year; the time has come to recognize vocal jazz as an important part of the comprehensive choral experience.