The University of Wisconsin Green Bay has a performing arts program that is looking to expand its audience.
Universities such as UW- Madison are known for having a high-level marching band. This band receives a lot of publicity due to the vast number of fans of the Wisconsin Badgers Football Team. Sadly, there are many other talented performing arts programs that don’t often receive the same level of attention. The Vocal Jazz Ensemble at UWGB is one of these performing arts programs.
The vocal Jazz Ensemble is similar to any other jazz music ensemble, except with an emphasis on vocal performance. These performances include a lot of scat improvisation, solos, and harmony within the pieces.
Vocal Jazz Ensemble is a small group consisting of around 7 performers depending on the availability of performers. Each member of the ensemble takes the opportunity to practice soloing in the ensemble. Vocal Jazz Ensemble soloist, Marcus Moss, talks about his experience, “Usually, I try to practice every day I am on campus after I am done with classes for the day. So, that’s usually 3 to 5 times a week.”
Vocal Jazz Ensemble finished their final performance of the semester this last Wednesday in the Phoenix Club, where each member attempted to perform one solo piece. Elizabeth Novotny, a student at UW-Green Bay, talks about her time performing on stage and inside the Phoenix Club, “This was my first time in the Phoenix Club, and it was really fun, and I had a good time.” She also talked about her warm-up routine, “I went through my typical warm-ups I usually do for choir, including a couple of minutes warming up in the car but other than that, I just came out here and had fun.”
The vocal Jazz Ensemble performs many times throughout the year. “This year, we did one with a guest, Staci Griesbach, over at the Weidner Center. She was singing some Jazz Versions of Patsy Cline. She asked us to perform before her. We did so twice this semester and only had one performance last semester. I used to direct this group in the 90s and 2000s, and we used to do our own concert of solo singing and ensemble songs and not be with the Jazz Band behind us. So at least two a semester, if not more, things come up,” says the Vocal Jazz director, Christine Salerno.
Vocal Jazz is always looking for new members, and Salerno is always happy to invite new members, “Requirements are to just come in and audition. You don’t have to be a music major. If a student can read music, it’s very helpful. We can get around it a little bit if they don’t, but it’s preferable for someone to read music.”
Soloist Moss spoke of his experience joining the Vocal Jazz Ensemble, “One of the Jazz Teachers actually asked me to join the group, and from then on, I liked the group, so I just decided to stick with them.”
Groups like the Vocal Jazz Ensemble have an important place on campus. Students are able to find their own unique niches and gain a sense of belongingness. Vocal Jazz Ensemble hopes to continue to increase its talent and awareness on campus.