Jazzing it Up

State jazz choir in the Mount Vernon PAC

Michael Briesemeister

Monday night was a busy night for Mount Vernon- caucuses from both Republicans and Democrats, basketball practices, a school board meeting- but the most exciting event of the evening was the State Jazz competition. Mount Vernon’s performing arts center hosted the competition, in which jazz choirs from Solon: Blame it on Our Youth, Racine Avenue, and 5th Street Jazz, from Mount Vernon: Uptown Jazz and Lincoln Highway Jazz, and H-L-V Victor participated.  Songs such as “Old Devil Moon,” “Dream a Little of Me,” “Take Me Away,” and “Moonglow,” were performed.

At state jazz, two judges observe the performance that the jazz groups put on.  The schedule for these groups looks a little something like this: the groups warm-up on stage for around twenty to thirty minutes, the lights dim, and the group performs. The gathered crowd cheers and the choir goes to a clinic in the band room afterward for another fifteen minutes.  On the surface, it may seem like a fairly simple process of events. 

But underneath it all is a flurry of activity. The singers are warming up, smoothing their clothes, and hoping that they don’t miss that one note in that one chord. The choir directors are hoping and praying that the group will stay in tempo, be energetic, and hit that one note in that one chord. And the judges are listening and looking for every little flaw, especially that one note in that one chord. It is a stressful night. 

Despite it all, jazz choir is a generally enjoyable experience for all of its members. “I really like the group atmosphere and it has brought me closer to some people,” said Ava Dimmer, a member of the Mount Vernon uptown jazz choir. “I enjoy getting to spend time with people I wouldn’t normally choose to spend my free time with.” 

Trystin Lashley, a member of Mount Vernon’s other jazz group, Lincoln Highway Jazz, said “just hanging around people and singing” is the most enjoyable part of the choir. Having experiences with the other people there and helping Alice Conroy change a tire for 30 minutes after jazz got out are reportedly some of the best parts of jazz, according to Lashley. 

“The concert went well singing-wise, but most importantly everyone enjoyed themselves,” said Dimmer of Uptown Jazz. One of the features of the competition is receiving feedback from the judges. “The judges wanted us to work on dynamics for one of our songs.” 

Lashley said the judges encouraged the singers to interact more. “They mostly talked about talking or singing to the audience and not (just) ourselves,” reports Lashley. “Honestly, what we need is mostly need to work on is text stress (pronunciation) and dynamics.” The jazz choirs have high hopes to achieve even higher ratings and move on to bigger and better competitions, and to finally hit that one note in that one chord.