New York, New York


Cindy Macias

On April 17-21, Downey Jazz Choir took a trip to New York for an opportunity to learn from professional instructors. “Everyone there taught us something,” Jose Padilla, 12, said. “We learned different techniques on how to sing, swing, and work with other groups.”

Mia Dixon-Slaughter, Co-Editor-in-Cheif

Jazz Choir was privileged to be invited to New York and be taught by a professional jazz conductor, Steve Zegree, from April 17 to 21, along with other ensembles from across the United State, where they perform at the Lincoln Center.

Cory Olariu, the jazz director at Downey High, is a good friend of the conductor, and so jazz choir was invited to the Manhattan productions program without having to audition.

The trip included practices and a performance at the Lincoln Center, a large venue that overlooks all of Central Park.

In the two days that Jazz Choir practiced, they were taught the conductor’s music with the other ensembles. Zegree’s practices were different than what the choir was used to because of the way the other singers were taught. Unlike the Downey students, they were not musically educated in music theory, the reading and writing of music.

Jazz Choir is used to being taught in theory speech, the musical language used to read and write notes, while Zegree focused less on theory speech and more on sound.

Sam Reising, 12, explained that the conductor’s teaching was not the norm to the choir.

“You could tell that some groups were on totally different levels and didn’t understand the theory of music,” Reising said, “which is something we focus on a lot in our own practices.”

The practices proved to be educational in more ways than one to the choir. While in New York they learned the skills on singing, swing, pitches, and confidence. The choir was taught not only vocal skills but also auditioning skills. Zegree wasn’t the only one teaching either, the choir simultaneously learned from the singers they worked with.

Josh Padilla, 12, learned helpful vocal and social skills from the conductor and other singers.

“We learned different techniques on how to sing, swing, and work with other groups,” Padilla said, “Everyone there taught us something.”

The performance was on the third day of the trip where the choir sang alongside the rest of the ensembles in front of one of the biggest crowds they have ever performed for. Although the singers are used to performing on stages in front of crowds, the large and extravagant venue made the performance more intense than they were accustomed to.

“The venue was so big and the audience was full of musically educated people,” Reising said. “It definitely made this performance seem more important than any of our other performances.”

After singing their hearts out, jazz choir felt accomplished and were sure the audience enjoyed it just as much as they did.

“I left the stage feeling like I made our teachers proud,” Padilla said. “It was very beautiful and I really felt that people were into our performance.”

Mr. Olariu said that interacting with a variety of ensembles and Zegree was a life lesson for all the singers.

“They had to learn the masters of vocal jazz,” Olariu said. “It’s more work and more difficult.”

Jazz Choir handled their workload and ended their exertion the day of the performance and spent the rest of the trip relishing in the bright lights of the Big City with their fellow singers and jazz director.

Jazz Choir benefited from the trip and demonstrated the quality of future musicians. They tested and improved their knowledge, all the while acquiring new skills of familiar and unfamiliar teachers.