JEN Conference Preview: Vocal Performances

Educator resources

JEN Conference Preview: Vocal Performances

by Daniel Gregerman

Why attend the Annual JEN Conference? So many times I have been asked this question and never hesitated to answer. There is so much that happens at the conference that it is hard to put it into words. Let’s start with the amazing performances. From the many student groups at all levels, (from high school to college/university), and pro acts beyond belief, you can see and hear so many different styles and groups. Just sitting and listening to the variety of repertoire alone is an education worth it. Here are a few of the performers to look forward to:


Booker T. Washington HSPVA jazz Singers – Kent Ellingson, director

George Mason University Jazz Vocal Ensemble – Dr. Darden Purcell, director

Northwest College Studio Singers – Brennan Baglio, director

University of Northern Colorado Vocal Lab – Kerry Marsh, director

Cal State Univ. Long Beach Pacific Standard Time – Christine Guter, director

Lauren Kinhan Presents a Sleeping Bee – A Nancy Wilson Sonnet

The John Proulx Trio

Alexis Cole Sings with Strings

The Dee Daniels Ensemble

True North – a contemporary quartet blending many different elements together

Brasuka – a new Brazillian group with dense vocals and lush harmonies


Then when you are finished listening, you can go sit in on one of the many different workshops led by outstanding educators and performers from all over the world. There are clinics covering every topic from performance, education, improvisation, and sound. Here are some of the clinicians leading them:


Roger Emerson – The 7 Deadly Sind of the Vocal Jazz Director

Jeremy Fox – Cultivating The Artistic Soul

Rosana Eckert – Authentic and Adventurous Singing

Justin Binek – The Ella-Ments of Scat Articulation

Holly Ross – Singing When You’re Sick: Should You or Shouldn’t You

Roger Treece – Musical Fluency


And you can’t forget one of everybody’s favorite sessions, the New Vocal Jazz Reading Session led by Paris Rutherford with an all pro group of singers leading the way. All too often vocalists get caught up in the world of vocals and forget how much they can learn from the instrumental side of things also. Here are a few clinics that I feel will serve everyone well. Careers through Music led by David Sears, Copyright Basic for Music Educators and Directors led by Andrew Surmani, and Tricks of the Trade: Understanding the Art of EQ in a Vocal Jazz Setting led by Bryan Farina. There is also an incredible research track presented every year. This year one of the highlights is sure to be the Ella Fitzgerald Centennial presented by Fran Morris-Rosman.


One of the great features of the JEN Conference is something that many people don’t know enough about. What is it you ask? It is our JJF! The JJF is the JENerations Jazz Festival. This festival is designed for vocal groups, combos and big bands. Groups that are excepted to this festival perform for thirty minutes on a JJF Stage and then receive a thirty minute clinic with two well known and respected educator/perofrmers. It is essentially a festival being run within the conference. The big benefit is that all groups attending the JJF have full access to the entire JEN Conference. Here are a few of the vocal groups that will be participating in the JJF this year:


Long Beach City College Lyrical Workers – Andrea Calderwood, director

Kansas City Comm. Coll. Standard Vocal Jazz Ens. – John Stafford II, director

University of North Texas Avenue C – Anna Jalkéus, director

Kirkwood Community College Jazz Transit – Fred Kiser, director

Roosevelt HS Vocal Jazz – Jean-Marie Kent, director

Folsom High School Jazz Choir – Curtis Gaesser, director

Friends University Jazz Vocal Ensemble – Craig Curry, director


There is an abundance of jazz and education for everyone, no matter what your level or ability. Last and most important is the hang. Time to socialize and talk with old friends, new friends and realize that some of the performers, composers and arrangers are eager and ready to talk to you and get to know you. There is an electic feeling about the conference that is difficult to explain until you experience it. Once you are here it is like a great big family re-union. I will never forget one of the first times I ever went to a conference like this, I walked into the hotel lobby to see Tony Bennett standing there. After we talked for a few minutes he suggested we go sit at the bar and continue our conversation. This experience also happened the first time I met Marc Murphy. Moments like are not uncommon as we are all truly one big happy jazz family when we are at the conference.


I hope that you get a little bit of the excitement, energy and education that goes on at the conference after reading this article. I look forward to seeing you and/or meeting you for the first time in Dallas, TX this coming January.

Daniel Gregerman is Director of Choirs and Vocal Jazz at Niles North High School in Skokie, IL. He is a founding member of JEN and also serves as the Chair of the Education Committee and the Scholarship & Awards Committee.