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Choral Caffeine: Vocal Jazz 101

The hardest part of starting something is just Getting Started.  “How do I begin?” is a question we’ve all asked one time or another.  Thus it may be for the conductor of a community choir trying to approach vocal jazz.
 
Though one has no data to support this, anecdotally it seems reasonable to assert that while we all took basic training in choral pedagogy, few of us received instruction specific to how to rehearse vocal jazz with our choirs.  Of course, good rehearsal technique is good rehearsal technique across most of the choral spectrum; but the vocal jazz genre requires a few things that we might not have gleaned from studying Palestrina or Brahms.
 
To the rescue rides Stephanie Austin Leston with her article “Sing, Sing, Sing with a Swing.”  In addition to providing a good introduction to the genre with solid practical advice, Stephanie discusses the value to the choir’s overall musical work and audience building:
 
Vocal jazz ensemble literature can reinforce ensemble, blend, balance, and intonation skills in choral ensembles.  Rehearsing vocal jazz ensemble literature strengthens individual and choir musicianship skills in rhythm, intonation, control, accuracy, and ensemble.
 
Programming this repertoire attract diverse audiences. This music features grooving feels and accessible lyrics. Many of the songs are familiar to audience members both young and old. Audience appeal is an important factor for the continuing health and success of community choirs. However, an additional contribution of this literature is its membership recruitment and gratification potential.
 
 
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