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Sac State jazz singers score DownBeat award


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Gaw Vang, far right, leads some of Sac State’s jazz vocalists in rehearsal. (Sacramento State/Craig Koscho)

DownBeat magazine – jazz music’s “bible” – recognized Sacramento State’s vocal jazz performers as one of the nation’s best collegiate jazz vocal groups in its June issue. The group was honored for Undergraduate College Outstanding Performance.

This is the eighth time in 11 years the group has been recognized by DownBeat. It’s the first award for the group under the leadership of Gaw Vang, who is completing her first academic year as director of vocal jazz. She succeeded longtime director Kerry Marsh, who moved to Northern Colorado in 2012. Vang was one of the singers during Marsh’s tenure and was appointed director following his departure.

“This award was really unexpected, especially because it’s my first year and I’m still a graduate student,” Vang says. “The group members are hardworking. We had a difficult repertoire, and they’ve come to every rehearsal with a willingness to learn. I feel fortunate to work with such talented singers.”

The group recorded a short program in November with Music Department technician Lamar Veasey for submission to DownBeat. The program consisted of “Three Blind Mice” – a fast swing chart version arranged by Marsh; “Both Sides Now,” Joni Mitchell’s ballad arranged by Gene Puerling; and “I’ve Got Life,” an a cappella chart by Take 6.

The jazz vocalists’ talent will be on public display in concert at 7 p.m. Friday, May 9, at the University’s Music Recital Hall. The program includes “Sunday Kind of Love,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” Give Me the Simple Life” and “Hearts Full of Spring.”

“The DownBeat award acknowledges our Music Department for its talented students and faculty, and recognizes the great jazz education we are providing our students,” Vang says.

Concert tickets are $10 general, $7 seniors and $5 students, available at the University Ticket Office, (916) 278-4323 or For more information on Sacramento State’s Jazz Program, visit or call (916) 278-5191. For media assistance, call the University’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156. – Craig Koscho