The premiere jazz ensembles at CWU, this group focuses on performance of literature written for the big band from the 1940's to the present, with emphasis on the great arrangers and writers such as Bill Holman, Frank Foster, John Clayton, Thad Jones, Don Sebesky, Bob Florence, Mike Crotty, Oliver Nelson, Maria Schneider, Jim McNeely, Bob Mintzer, Sammy Nestico, and others. Performance standards are high, and as a consequence, entrance to the band is very competitive. There are frequently a few graduate students and many upper classpersons throughout the group. Creativity, interpretation and intense musical experience are the hallmarks of this fine ensemble.
Typically directed by a graduate assistant, this jazz ensemble features the study of available published literature for big bands, with an emphasis on learning the various styles present in the genre. Music performed by Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Bill Holman, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Bob Mintzer, John Fedchok, and other bands, is explored, as well as the many fine charts intended for the educational market. Many opportunities for improvisation are given, with programming based upon individual group makeup. For students that are music education majors, this is a perfect ensemble to learn rehearsal craft, literature and programming.
This band is usually directed by a music major senior or graduate student, and offers an environment for students less familiar with jazz styles and improvisation a chance to explore. Often students are working on their doubles, sight reading and knowledge of jazz band literature. Many students are music education majors looking ahead to student teaching, and they often are given a chance to direct and coach the ensemble. Chart selection is focused on professional, college and high school level material performable by less experienced players, with emphasis on quality arrangers and writers. Student-written material is welcomed. As with the other ensembles, quality performance standards are the norm.
Combos at CWU are auditioned groups that explore the small group jazz genre. Duos up to septets are possible. Faculty coaching happens once per week which covers rehearsal techniques, choosing of literature, transcription, arranging, compng, improvisation and programming. Weekly Combo Forums are required. Many opportunities for performance existing both in and outside of the music department.
Vocal Jazz 1 is the premiere vocal jazz ensemble at CWU and has been acknowledged as one of the finest collegiate jazz vocal ensembles in the country with invitations to perform at IAJE, ACDA, and MENC national conventions. Vocal Jazz 1 consists of upper level students selected for their technical skills, musicality, stylistic diversity, jazz sophistication, and performance abilities. Repertoire is often composed/arranged specifically for this group and they have premiered numerous works which have become part of the standard repertoire for vocal jazz ensembles nationwide. Special emphasis is placed on solos, improvisation, instrumental concepts, arranging, and ensemble precision. Vocal Jazz 1 has recently been selected and invited to perform at the 2007 IAJE national convention in New York and will share the stage with guest artist Ingrid Jensen at the 2007 John Moawad Invitational Jazz Festival at CWU.
Vocal Jazz 2 is typically directed by a graduate teaching assistant and focuses on building musicianship and repertoire through improvisation, ensemble skills, stylistically authentic performance practices, and jazz concepts. Repertoire focuses on custom arrangements by students, alumni, and other Northwest jazz luminaries. Students often gain experience and skills in Vocal Jazz 2 necessary to compete for spots in Vocal Jazz 1, creating a "feeder program" for the premiere ensemble.
Vocal Jazz 3 was created to provide a vocal jazz lab for music education majors who have not had prior jazz experience. Typically directed by a selected senior Music Education major, Vocal Jazz 3 focuses on building ensemble skills, jazz styles, musicianship, and solo improvisation. Frequently, the students in VJ3 are instrumentalists wanting a vocal jazz experience, music education majors without prior jazz background, or entry level vocalists.