Jazz Choir performs at New York Voices Festival


Nell Jaskowiak

Sarah Pennell, Kennedy Brown, Sophie Ellis and Skyla Faber, along with the rest of Jazz Choir, rehearse a song for the New York Voices Festival. Among their set are arrangements of ‘California Dreamin’,’ ‘We Found Love,’ ‘Shiny Stockings’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ along with a piece titled ‘The Awakening.’ “I’m excited to perform ‘California Dreamin’.’ There are a lot of cool rubs and half step movements that sound really awesome when we have them together,” senior and jazz choir member Mitchell Vierling said.

Out of dozens of submissions from top vocal jazz ensembles in the nation, the Jazz Choir was selected to perform at the New York Voices Jazz Festival at St. Charles North High School in St. Charles, IL on March 17.

“I’m super excited because there’s only six high schools and six college groups going. I’m really excited to go and perform and hear what the other groups are going to do; we’re going to learn a lot,” senior and jazz choir member Mitchell Vierling said.

The hosts of the festival, the New York Voices, will adjudicate and gives clinics to the groups that perform.

“There are four singers that make up the professional group, the New York Voices, and they are among the most important definers of the vocal jazz genre: these are the people that made vocal jazz what it is today,” jazz choir director Brian Parrish. “They’re just incredible musicians and they work very well with students, so they clinic the different groups that perform at this festival all day long, and you get to learn a ton from them.”

The selectivity of the festival motivated the choir to improve their performance abilities.

It allows us to get out of our St. Louis bubble and see how people do things in other places, and that can always be a really great experience, especially when you’re young.”

— Brian Parrish

“With our songs, some days are a lot better than others where we’ll have a really good run through. Or we’ll go over one measure for twenty minutes, and that gets really boring really quickly,” junior and jazz choir member Meghan Stanfield said. “But through it all, Mr. Parrish has been motivating us and keeping us from going insane.”

In the eyes of the singers, the intensity of the work is worthwhile.

“It’s really exhausting. It’s a lot of hard work fixing tiny details that are hard to hear, but once they’re fixed, we sound a ton better. So it’s a lot of fatigue because we’re doing a lot of the same thing over and over again, but it all comes out nicely,” Vierling said.

The choir will be accompanied at the festival by juniors Ryan Crowley, Justin Cupps and Kendall Henderson and sophomore Dawson Ren from Jazz Band.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, so it was a big step up. It’s like going from the freshman team to all of a sudden being on varsity,” sophomore and accompanist Dawson Ren said. “But I think it’s an interesting opportunity because I’ve never gotten to accompany such a talented group, and it’s really cool to see that I’m surrounded by other people who love music just as much as I do.”

Parrish emphasizes the importance of the trip not being the performance, but the experience the students have.

“I want them to see lots of great music and listen to lots of great music, and see how other people do it. I want them to put on the best possible performance that they can and move some members of the audience while they do it,” Parrish said. “At the same time, it allows us to get out of our St. Louis bubble and see how people do things in other places, and that can always be a really great experience, especially when you’re young.”