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FOCUS ON: Vocal Jazz Ensemble

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Introduction: Two Sacramento State music groups, Jazz Singers and C-Sus, won Down Beat magazine’s Outstanding Performance Award for collegiate groups in 2005. The following year the prestigious publication declared that the groups were the Best Collegiate Vocal Jazz Groups in America and Canada. Professor Kerry Marsh, director of the vocal jazz program, oversees the two ensembles along with another, Vox2. He’s already sent a CD of the groups’ music to Down Beat for consideration again this year.


(Narrator:) This is “Focus” from the campus of Sacramento State.

(Kerry Marsh, vocal jazz professor, Sacramento State:) “That old Cha Choo..dah daht.”

(Background sound:) “That old black magic has me in its spell.”

(Jim Finnerty reporting:) Sacramento State music professor Kerry Marsh has definite thoughts about vocal jazz.

(Marsh:) “It’s a very high skill level to be in vocal jazz ensembles. They have to hold tight harmonies against other people that seem to be butting right up against their notes.”

(Finnerty:) Under Marsh’s direction, the University’s vocal jazz ensembles have won a number of national awards, setting a high standard for students here.

(Marsh:) “In order to pull off this kind of music that has its own special idiomatic sound, people really have to have that sort of special skill set.”

(Jessie Clemens, vocal jazz student, Sacramento State:) “If the group members don’t mesh well, you’re not going to have the best sound that you could possibly have”

(Finnerty:) Students Jessie Clemens and Ian Brekke plan careers in music. Brekke chose Sacramento State because of the vocal jazz curriculum.

(Ian Brekke, vocal jazz student, Sacramento State:) “You really want to do it well the first time. We strive for that every day. It’s not always there, I mean some days are better than others, but when it locks in there’s nothing quite like it.”

(Marsh:) “You have to remember that vocal jazz is hard. It’s hard work. It’s not supposed to be easy.”

(Finnerty:) Marsh says the capital region has a wealth of vocal jazz offerings and University concerts let the community share in this talent.

(Marsh:) “We’re providing performances of the kind of music that you just don’t hear professionally very often. When I get to share that with other people—that’s extremely gratifying.”

(Finnerty:) This is Jim Finnerty Reporting.

(Narrator:) For more information on this and other news from Sacramento State, visit our website.

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