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Vocal jazz for classically-trained directors

Thank you to all who responded. I received many requests for a compilation
so here it is:


I'd like to suggest a brand new book out (as of January) called "The
Complete Guide to Teaching Vocal Jazz" by Dr. Stephen Zegree (from Western
Michigan University -- directs "Gold Company"), Heritage Music Press. .

.As far as summer clinics, look into the Phil Mattson Workshop/School for
students and teachers. Also, UCLA might hold some kind of educator
clinic -- Michele Weir would be that contact person (email:

.You might try getting a hold of Frank DeMeiro (he used to hold a quite
famous jazz camp
for teachers and students in Seattle) at frankgde(a) Hope all this


I know of 2 summer jazz workshops:

1. Phil Mattson Vocal Jazz/Choral Workshop
There are 2 locations for the camp: San Marin H.S. in Novato, CA (approx. 1
1/2 hours north of San Francisco), June 16-21. Second Location: Southwestern
Community College, Creston, IA, June 24-28

Cost for California workshop is $435. More info contact Emily Gates, office
(415) 898-2121, home (415) 892-3161, or gatesmusic(a)

Cost for Iowa Workshop is $395. More infor call Phil Mattson, office (641)
782-1319, home, (641) 782-2470, or pmattson(a)

The Phil Mattson Workshop is presented to address the musical and
philosophical needs of high school and college teachers and students. All
participants are placed in classes and seminars appropriate to their level
of musical understanding. The workshop is intensive and experiential.

For further information on the Phil Mattson Vocal Jazz/Choral Workshops,
contact Phil Mattson at mattson(a) or at (515) 782-1319.

2. Butler University Vocal Jazz Institute: Jordan College of Fine Arts,
Indianapolis, IN.
July 29-August 2, Clinicians: Dr. Tim Brimmer and Dr. Stephen Zegree. Cost
is $300 for director (for entire week) and cost goes down for director for
each student they bring. Student cost is $300. For more information Tim
Brimmer (317) 940-9641 or Brimmer(a)


Phil Mattson's video in
particular would be helpful, and we have several instructional books on
scat improvisation as well. See:

Phil Mattson:`01V

Bob Stoloff, "Scat":

Michelle Weir, "Vocal Improvisation":


First, I recommend you become a
member of IAJE. They have wonderful resource people for vocal jazz. And I
would suggest their Teacher Training Institute as the best I've found. They
have one every year in Kansas City at the Jazz Museum. (other locations,
too) Three days of a "vocal jazz track" where you talk only VJ.

There is a workshop at University of North Texas in Denton.

I would also recommend you get Doug Anderson's Jazz & Show Choir book. It's
a great starter for beginners.

NOTE: The IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education) Teacher
Training Institute is held this year in Kansas City June 20-22 and Las Vegas
August 1-3. More info is available through MENC


Check with Ray Salucka at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, IA. He
often sponsers a workshop specifically designed for choral conductors. His
phone number is 319.398.4959.


Hope this helps all who asked for a compilation

Mark Lucas
Kansas Wesleyan University

Thank you to all who responded to my request. Several people asked for a compilation.
Here it is...

Original Post:

I teach public high school and for the first year I have a small auditioned advanced
choir (8-10 members). I would like to venture out of my comfort zone and do at least
one vocal jazz number. I think the students would respond really well. As a total
novice at vocal jazz, I'm looking for resources that may be helpful to me as a
director as well as suggestions for beginning repertoire. Pieces that aren't terribly
challenging but would give them a taste for the genre. Also, any information
regarding amplification and equipment. We don't have any right now. Can we get
started without?

Thanks for any and all info!

Tania Mannion
Choir Director
Luther Burbank High School
Sacramento, CA


Tania, check out Michele Weir's excellent material on Jazz Vocals...she
is also a awesome composer and arranger of jazz vocals as well! Here is
the link:

Go straight to your nearest good music source ( or!) and purchase Steve
Zegree's book, The complete guide to Teaching Vocal Jazz (Including Pop and Other
Show Styles). It is published by Heritage Music Press, distributed by Lorenz
Corporation. He is the best and it is SO helpful, including the part about sound,
etc. His music is also a top choice for teaching. He arranges/writes to teach. Has CD
with examples. And if you can ever do a workshop with him, you'll love him & it!

There area lots of other good sources; there is a book about Jazz and Show choirs
that I can't remember the complete title but it's by Doug Anderson, that is older and
very good. But I'd start with Steve's and then Doug's book. (I'm sure someone will
respond with Doug's title!)

I just got into jazz about 8-9 years ago. It's great. Have a great time and don't
stop with just one piece!! Best wishes!


Look into taking a summer workshop with Steve Zegree at Western Michigan University
in Kalamazoo, MI.

Wow. Worth the flight out.

There's a great handbook by Steve Zegree all about vocal jazz. Worth Having!

The Complete Guide to Teaching Vocal Jazz
Heritage Music Press, Lorenz Pub (29.95)

We are in the process of making Learning CDs for our a cappella jazz
songbook, "Jazz Standards":

"If I Loved You" would be a good possibility.

Another, probably easier tune would be Kirby Shaw's transcription of the
Manhattan Transfer/Inkspots arrangement of "Java Jive":

This is very basic and a real crowd pleaser.

Sound equipment is very expensive -- only buy it if you're really

Happily, you can definitely start without. Most arrangements can just
be accompanied by piano, and so they'll just be able to sing the same
way they do with any other accompanied music. Look into Hal Leonard's
catalog at some big-name arrangers like Ed Lojeski, Kirby Shaw, or
Mark Hayes; they're pretty straightforward and non-intimidating for

Also, look at these ChoralNet resources: > Repertoire > by Style > Vocal Jazz favorites > Rehearsal > Specialized > Vocal jazz for classically-
trained directors

My focus was always on entertainment rather than vocal
jazz per se, so I can't advise you on repertoire. One of the best
sources is at, I belive, at Northern Colorado University, if you can
track it down. Regarding sound equipment, however, the answer to
your question is "maybe"!

It depends entirely on your accompaniment. Will you use piano, some
other keyboard, rhythm sections 15-piece big band????? Mics came
into use in the first place to equalize the volume difference between
the non-operatic human voice and the typical big-band jazz

So the real question is, when you do non-jazz repertoire with this
ensemble, can they be heard effectively with whatever accompaniment
you are using? If they are, and if you don't make the accompaniment
louder, you should be able to get started without audio equipment.
(If you're going to sing a cappella that removes the balance factor,
of course.)

Now if you decide that you need a bit of sound reinforcement for
these singers, you can get away with using a single mic, an amp, and
a couple of speakers, as long as the mic is specifically designed for
the way you will use it. Several companies like Electro-Voice and
Peavey make small setups that work very well. In this case you train
your singers to self-mix, letting soloists step forward to be closer
to the mic, then stepping back, etc. In other words, there's no
reason for every singer to have a separate mic, and it's much easier
if they don't. My quartet, during the 1960s, worked just fine around
a single mic doing everything from barbershop to jazz, although we
eventually carried with us a Y-frame that allowed us to mount two
mics on a single mic stand so we could open to the audience a little
better. And solos don't always have to be done with a hand-held mic.

I have a feeling, though, that if you aren't familiar with sound
equipment and how to use it properly (no, "American Idol" is NOT an
example of good mic technique!!), you're better off trying to
function without it.

Best of luck in making this baby step outside your comfort zone. You
may find it quite rewarding!

Try Route 66 by Kirby Shaw (at least, I think it's Kirby Shaw... I'll look.) I have a
10 voice ensemble, and we're working on it... the kids LOVE it, and it's pretty
accessible. There are some tight jazz chords, but they aren't too difficult. We're
starting our jazz ensemble this year too. It's been really fun.

Contact Kirk Marcy at and he can help you with
beginning charts. You will find a great source at Sound Music
Publications that includes a music catalog with CD
demo. (425.771.0824). Furthermore, a fine jazz camp is available the
first full week in August for students. There is a separate
component at the camp just for educators as well that includes vocal
jazz techniques, warm-up ideas and sources, performance of
arrangements as an educator choir, and clinics in sound
reinforcement, rhythm section development, and choral works geared to
the jazz choir.

First, let me suggest..."as a total novice"...that you spend time listening
to a lot of great vocal jazz recordings in order to get a 'feel' for the
expressive side of jazz. Manhattan Transfer's "Trilogy" would make a great
primer. Go to for the best resource available.


Definitely you can start w/o sound equipment. I would suggest Kirbye Shaws' arr. of
Blue Skies and also a piece called "Alright, OK, You win (I'm in love with you)"

I recommend "The Complete Guide to Teaching Vocal Jazz" by Steve
Zegree. I reviewed it for the Choral Journal a couple of years ago and it's
first rate and chock-full of info for all levels.

Easier charts are usually those by Zegree, many by Kirby Shaw, and many by
Paris Rutherford. You can get started without a sound system but in that
case I would recommend singing some a cappella stuff--don't try to compete
with a combo acoustically, the singers won't win!

I am a strong advocate of VJ and know firsthand that your kids will love it
once the initial confusion about new harmonies and styles wears off. It's
really addictive. Please let me know if you have more questions. Thrilled
to hear that you're giving it a try!

As a quick means of introduction, I am Frank DeMiero. I have been involved in Vocal
Jazz for many years. I started a publishing company, Sound Music Publications, and I
would be more than glad to help you with your introduction to Vocal Jazz.
We publish all styles of choral music but specialize in Vocal Jazz. I can send you
recordings and can recommend several selections for your group.
Check out our Web site: WWW.SMPJAZZ.COM
Please, give me a call at 425-771-0824. I will be more than glad to help you with
this great adventure.
By the way, I have presented a number of clinics and have been an adjudicator at Sac
City College, but it has been some time since I have been to your area.
I look forward to hearing from you.


We've never met but I am close by in Sacramento. I taught at Elk Grove
High School and Folsom Lake College and I teach privately as well. I
often play for honor choirs in the region and sometimes for choirs at
Sac State. I absolutely do not consider myself a 'vocal jazz' guru but
just a good musician who has worked in this style.

To answer your questions:
You do not need to burden yourself with any equipment to give your
students a good vocal jazz experience. The most important thing is to
get them to sing well in this new style, not to adopt some other
completely different kind of singing. There are some nice a cappella
SATB arrangements of standards and Beatles songs that are not *too*
difficult technically but that contain a generous quantity of
chromaticism and tight chords. These will challenge the choir to sing
with very clean intonation and expressive style. Performing without the
piano also requires them to listen very hard and not hide behind an
accompaniment. I did a number of these pieces at Elk Grove High School
and the students were very enthusiastic about them. Be sure to cultivate
absolute accuracy of pitch and rhythm, warmth in their sound, and an
emotional connection to the text. This will make for the best artistic
experience for everyone.

Some titles you can investigate:
Here There and Everywhere
arr Mac Huff, SATB acap (Hal Leonard)
Embraceable You
arr Kirby Shaw, SATB acap (couldn't lay hands on my copy for
publisher information)
Love is Here To Stay
arr. Kirby Shaw, SATB acap (Hal Leonard)
Love Walked In
arr. Steve Zegree, SATB acap (Hal Leonard)
More Than You Know
arr. Steve Zegree, SATB acap (Hal Leonard) -- Difficult; hold on to
this one and look for easier pieces by this arranger

Another arranger to check:
Teena Chinn

Again, look for good a capella arrangements to get the biggest musical
bang for your buck.

Four years ago, I did the same thing. My group of 24 does Classical/traditional in
the fall and Jazz in the spring. Since then, I have learned a lot, but I still feel
like I am just getting started. Here are some pointers:

VJ does NOT have to always include scat singing, improvisation, or solos. Improv
does not happen overnight and it needs to be practiced regularly. Otherwise, it is
meaningless jabber. Likewise, it is possible to find charts without big solos in them.

A sound system is not required, but it does expand your performance options. It will
help your singers be heard over the rhythm section or Jazz band, and for those a
cappella numbers, the basses will be able to get a deep bass sound when you adjust
the EQ.

All that Classical training still applies to VJ. The vowels need to be unified and
formed correctly, and the breathing /phrasing are still the same. I cringe when I
hear the "top group" of a school sing Jazz and do it with bad technique and poor
sound, because I know they are better than that when they do the Classical stuff.

Listen, listen, listen. Get a bunch of CDs, and go to concerts. Do what they do.
Check out for music sources. Go to and

Here are some charts to look at:

South of the Border Sharon Broadley UNC Jazz Press
Someone to Watch Over Me arr. Teena Chinn
Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye arr. Mac Huff
Swingin' With the Saints Mark Hayes
My Funny Valentine arr. Kirby Shaw

It's so great that you are venturing out of your comfort zone. There are
very few kinds of formal places where you can get "good" vocal jazz music.
The best way to find it is to make good contacts with those that already
have a knowledge of the idiom. A good friend of mine, John Hamilton, who
teaches choir at the Alexander Hamilton School for the Performing Arts, in
LA Unified, is a great place to start. I don't have his school address and
number but I'm sure you could find it and give him a call.

Also, check out Sound Publications... They have a number of
uniquely arranged selections and you're able to by the rights to copy the
music. So you never have to worry about purchasing the rights again as long
as you hold on to your originals. They are a new company, so the selection
is smaller but getting bigger all the time as they continually search to
purchase new copyrights.

Also, in Idaho there's a tradition of not using much in the way of
amplification. Forget doing one-on-a -mic. Your students will benefit at
their age from learning to sing jazz acoustically. All you'll need are two
or three area mics and a simple amp with a small mixing board. (I sang for
3 years in Dave Barduhn's group Gensis at Mt. Hood Community College. He
always preferred having us from Idaho because we knew how to sing


My students really liked a piece called "Alright, ok, you win (I'm in Love with you)
" and I did it when our school was brand new and the kids were beginning high school
singers and beginning jazzers. Not at work now, so I cannot think of the arranger. I
can see the color of the octavo in my head, but that will not help you!

Also popular and easy to learn is Zegree's arrangement of Blue Skies.

Sound Music Publications
PO Box 598
Lynnwood, WA 98046

Phone: (425) 771-0824
Fax: (425) 771-7562

"Love Walked In", arr, Steve Zegree (I think)... Also, many Kirby Shaw arrangements
have a decidedly jazz-flavor, if not exactly the real thing. Zegree and Shaw... two
great places to start.

Hello. Good for you for working some vocal jazz into your choir's experience! When
I started vocal jazz (at two different high schools), we also had no amplification -
maybe try to use a piece with a reduced piano line or no piano at all? Eventually
what I bought was three powered speakers (requiring no amp), speaker stands for them,
a mixing board, and mics. Our performance piano on stage is a 9' concert grand which
puts out LOTS of sound, so the mics were necessary!

Some fairly straightforward and not terribly difficult pieces I've used:

Hit that Jive Jack - arr. Kirby Shaw, Hal Leonard
Java Jive - arr. Shaw, Hal Leonard - a cappella
Route 66 - arr. Shaw, Hal Leonard
Don't Get Around Much Anymore - arr. Brymer, Hal Leonard
New York State of Mind - arr. Brymer, Hal Leonard - a cappella
Blue Skies - arr. Zegree, Hal Leonard
But Beautiful - arr. Zegree, Shawnee Press - a cappella
When I Fall in Love - arr. Shaw, Hal Leonard - a cappella
(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay - arr. Huff, Hal Leonard - a cappella
Have you had a look at the Ward Swingle arrangements for vocal ensembles?
They are such a lot of fun to sing!
A fun and easy piece to start with is "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," by
Ellington, arranged by Brymer. Also Java Jive, as performed by Manhattan
Transfer. We do vocal jazz without amplification, as I'm not ready to jump
into that technological field yet - but so far it has worked fine in smaller
venues. Have fun!
You don't need equipment to get started. You don't say what your voicing
is, but if you have men, look at either the SAB or SATB version of Blue
Skies arranged by Roger Emerson. Easy and kids love it.
on April 13, 2010 7:29am
I did a couple of Jazz 4 Choirs workshops in 2009; one for choral teachers in Australia and the other in Germany, and will be presenting this again at ISME in Beijing, August 2010.
You are welcome to download a free 14- page summary booklet at
It includes basics of vocal jazz including: Jazz warm-ups What is swing? Articulation Scat! Other considerations - jazz scales - rhythm & syncopation - harmony - melody - improvisation, rehearsing, listening and resources. This may be useful for students, but more intended for teacher professional development. Please note that this booklet accompanies explanation and singing activities, it's not intended to be fully descriptive in itself. But you still might find it useful. I am happy to provide this for individual prefessional development, but not for commercial use without my permission.
Michael Griffin