Voice students perform jazz and classical repertoire

Whitworth’s vocal arts were in full swing this week as the music program hosted a classical voice area recital on Monday, April 27. The jazz department put on a vocal jazz concert on Thursday, April 30. Both events were held in the Music Building Recital Hall. The classical voice area recital featured students from all classes of the voice studio performing solos while accompanied by piano. Selections ranged from Renaissance music to 20th century poems set to music. Even included was a re-imagined show tune mocking the exotic tendencies of contemporary classical composers. The hour-long performance showcased a large variety of vocal talents from the music department.

Senior voice major Lise Hafso found the recital to be an enjoyable departure from typical solo recitals.

“It’s cool because you get to hear so many voices,” she said. “People are coming from different studios and are doing such a wide range of style. It’s really cool to see what all of your peers have been working on.”

Hafso is drawn to voice performance because of how easily she feels she can express herself, she says.

“It’s just the best way that I can express myself, through singing and performing,” she said. “It’s just a powerful experience for me.”

The concert was the culmination of director of jazz studies Dan Keberle’s vocal jazz class, which featured classical singers and musicians who chose to expand their schema. The singers were accompanied by an all-star combo of jazz faculty and professional musicians from the Spokane area. All of the music performed came from standard jazz repertoire. In several songs, the singers were joined by faculty trumpeter Keberle and saxophone professor Chris Parkin for improvised call and response.

The class is all about “teaching people who have a good voice and an interest in jazz how to sing in a jazz style,” Keberle said. “With talented students like we have at Whitworth, they all improve.”

Keberle said that the vocal jazz concert has a special energy.

“I like all the enthusiasm,” he said. “I love having the professional rhythm section there. I love having the enthusiasm that is always there.”

Senior voice major Sarah Nadreau said she enjoyed the unique experience of learning and singing the jazz style, which varies from her classical background.

“I liked it a lot,” she said. “I think the hardest part was not thinking so much about technique because in classical singing it’s all about how you take your breath and how you release it and in jazz it’s more about the feeling.”

Nadreau elaborated on communications between musicians, a hallmark of jazz that is less prevalent in classical voice performance.

“I tried to make eye contact [with pianist Brent Edstrom] and we interacted a lot more,” she said. “In classical singing your pianist is behind you so you can’t typically interact that way, but that kind of interaction is a priority in jazz.”

Freshman Travis Widmer, who attended both events, expressed excitement about the future of Whitworth’s vocal program.

“I thought they were both fantastic,” he said. “We have some really fantastic singers at Whitworth. It’s very cool to think that a lot of them are underclassmen. It’s going to be fun to see what they do in the next few years at Whitworth.”

Denin Koch

Staff Writer

Visiting trombonist shares jazz expertise

Trombonist Ryan Keberle’s career has taken him to places far and wide, but on Wednesday, April 8, it brought him home to Spokane for a clinic in the Whitworth Music Building and a concert at the Bing Crosby Theater on Friday, April 10. Keberle and his five-piece band, Catharsis, performed selections from their newest album, “Into the Zone,” in the band room on Wednesday for a gathering of jazz students and music lovers. Between tunes, the musicians also answered questions from audience members and spoke about their experiences in the music industry.

On Friday night, Keberle and Catharsis performed a selection of jazz standards, original music and covers for a full house in downtown Spokane. The concert was opened by the local Brent Edstrom Trio, which features three Whitworth jazz faculty.

The son of Dan Keberle, Whitworth’s Director of Jazz Studies, Ryan Keberle is a Spokane native and graduate of Mead High School. He attended Whitworth for a year before transferring to the Manhattan School of Music in New York to finish his undergraduate degree. So far in his career, he has collaborated with artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake. This was only his second business trip back home, the first being a guest feature with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra two years ago.

Keberle was enthusiastic about performing for his hometown crowd.

“Very exciting, obviously,” he said when asked about playing in Spokane. “Maybe I can change Spokane’s lack of appreciation for jazz music. Jazz for some people is a scary word. It’s a word that means you aren’t going to understand what’s going to happen. The term ‘jazz’ for so many people scares them away, but I’m looking to make music that everyone can enjoy.”

Students who attended the clinic and concert were inspired and motivated by Keberle’s performance. Sophomore trombonist Jonathan Bumpus was particularly excited to work with Keberle.

“I went to the concert in 2008 when he was the guest artist with the Whitworth Jazz Band and was just blown away,” Bumpus said. “He’s always just been a big inspiration to me”

Bumpus expressed gratitude and disbelief at the opportunity to learn from one of his heroes.

“It’s kind of surreal. I’ve admired his playing for a really long time, and to hear him and get his feedback on my playing was really crazy. I’m still just processing everything that happened,” Bumpus said.

Keberle offered advice on a variety of topics to those who attended his clinic. While he spoke much about the importance of practicing, his biggest advice had nothing to do with playing.

“Basically, it comes down to listening,” he said. “There’s so much more to music than what you hear at this point in your career. It’s like learning a language and the accent.”

Even now, Keberle said, he is continually surprised by the music he plays every day. “Every so often I say wow, I’ve never heard that before or I’m just starting to notice how this player swings differently from this player.”

Despite its decline in popularity, Keberle remains optimistic about the future of jazz music.

“So many exciting options happening right now where people are fusing different genres with jazz or fusing their own musical culture with jazz,” he said.

Denin Koch

Staff Writer


Whitworth Jazz Program hits a high note in the 2014 season

On Oct. 30, 2014 at 8 p.m. in the recital hall of the Music Building, about 80 people showed up to watch and listen to the Jazz Combos in Concert. Half of the audience were parents, and the other half were students. “There were a few more people than usual,” sophomore Lauren Trittin said.

The first segment was of the band Tricom consisting of the guitar, piano and bass instruments.

The second segment featured the band Cold Mukluk Time, which had alto sax, tenor sax, guitar, bass, vibes and drums instruments. Audience members, including parents, were nodding their heads to the fast and upbeat song “Fall” by Wayne Shorter.

The Jazz Ensemble program focuses on the fundamentals of jazz, while incorporating improvisation and swing style. Throughout performances, each musician was given time to skillfully play one or more solo pieces.

“I’m a psychology and theology double major, but I come to these performances because my friends are in them and I like jazz in general,” Trittin said.

Many of the musicians were freshmen, performing in a small group setting for the first time. The last song played by the Tricom band was called “11 and 3” and was written by freshman Denin Koch, who explained that the song was inspired by how often he believed the number three happened in daily life.

“I was nervous, but it was exciting. I’m usually more comfortable playing in a big band,” freshman Josh Nay, who was on percussion, said.

The musicians’ passions for music were evident in their performance. The jazz ensemble musicians take private lessons independently, then reconvene with each other to practice more and go through what they’ve each learned.

“When you’re passionate about something, it brings balance to your life. With the insanity of school, I look forward to practicing for an hour or getting to beat on a drumset for a rehearsal,” junior Jansen Leggett, who played vibes, said.

There was also a sense of comradery between the musicians. Whenever one musician was performing a solo piece, the others would watch and smile in assurance of their ability to finish the piece flawlessly.

“When people are writing jazz compositions and aren’t sure what to do with the percussion portion, I’ll often help them with it,” Leggett said.

On Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m., Grammy Award winner Arturo Sandoval celebrated his 65th birthday with Whitworth students and middle and high schoolers from the Spokane area for a jazz clinic. Sandoval came from a poor family and did not have any connection to music as a young child. When he was 10 years old, he joined a marching band in his village.

“You can be rich of money but poor of heart,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval mainly learned to play music by ear and had few formal lessons. He explained his belief that to become a good musician, you must first imitate your idols, then emulate their sound, and then create music yourself. During the clinic, he heard a cell phone ring that sounded like a bird, and then played a song based on the sound on the piano that he made up on the spot.

On Nov. 7 at 8 p.m., Whitworth students and people of the Spokane community filled Cowles auditorium to watch the Whitworth Jazz Ensemble play alongside Sandoval. They laughed and cheered to Sandoval’s skilled bebop stylings.

Sandoval also played an improvisational piano piece that made everyone feel as though they were part of an important moment in Whitworth history.

Sandoval was the protege of jazz master Dizzy Gillespie, who was the first musician to bring Latin influences into American jazz. Sandoval has played for many award shows with famous musicians such as Celine Dion, Justin Timberlake and Alicia Keys. Not only is he an incredibly talented jazz trumpeter, but he is also known for his extensive skills as a fluegelhorn player, pianist, composer and overall classical artist. He regularly performs with leadings symphony orchestras around the world.

The next Jazz Combos in Concert performance will be on Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. in the Music Recital Hall in the Music Building.


Rachelle Robley and Courtney Murphy

Staff Writers