Jazz Ensembles at CWU
Jazz at CWU provides many opportunities for students interested in any aspect of jazz music, With two vocal jazz ensembles and three jazz big bands, there are many opportunities to explore the jazz literature available. We also have numerous fully coach jazz combos.
Jazz Band I
The premiere jazz band 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, Darcy James Argue, Don Sebesky, Bob Florence, Oliver Nelson, Maria Schneider, Jim McNeely, Bob Mintzer, Sammy Nestico, and many others. Performance standards are high, and as a consequence, auditions to enter the band are very competitive. There are frequently a few graduate students and many upper class persons throughout the group. This group often performs off-campus throughout the year which includes professional venues, jazz festivals and tours. Band I won the 2015 Next Generation Festival, which led to a performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Creativity, interpretation and intense musical experience are the hallmarks of this fine ensemble.
Under the direction on Professor Harbaugh, the second jazz band has developed into to an excellent ensemble. The ensemble is designed to prepare students to succeed in becoming excellent jazz educators as well as prepare them to play in Jazz Band 1. A recent student, who is now attending CWU, had auditioned and sat in with the first jazz bands at other regional institutions and stated “ The second band here [at CWU] is better than the first bands at all the other schools I have visited”
The ensemble has consistently performed transcribed recordings of big band literature from bands such as Buddy Rich, Kenny Clarke/ Francy Boland, Woody Herman, and the University of North Texas. 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. The group performs each quarter on campus and has played at regional jazz festivals and high schools.
This band is usually directed by a graduate student along with Dr. Karns Band III offers an environment for students less experienced 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, high quality performance standards are the norm.
Vocal Jazz I 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 performed at the 2013 JEN Conference in Atlanta and will appear at the 2017 ACDA Regional Conference in Portland, OR.
Vocal Jazz II 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.
Combos are auditioned each quarter and are usually quintets or sextets of typical instrumentation. The combos meet together once per week in a masterclass/forum format for critique and feedback from coaches and peers, with two rehearsals per week, one with a CWU combo coach. Fundamentals are stressed as well as creativity, arranging, transcription, and improvisation. Combo concerts are featured each quarter, sometimes with guest artists, as well as clinics and guest concerts throughout the year. Occasional performances off-campus are arranged for the top combos, which in the recent past have included the 2013 JEN Conference in Atlanta, KNKX live-on-air performance, and Boxley’s in North Bend.