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Live Reviews

Young Singers Keep Jazz Alive and Well in Iowa

By Published: October 11, 2004
Following a brief intermission to reset the small stage, the West Sioux (High School) Jazz Choir, accompanied by rhythm section, resumed the entertainment. Two sopranos, four altos, three tenors and two basses (whose names are listed below) comprise the choir. In its first ever competition, by the way, the choir placed second at the University of South Dakota Jazz Festival in Vermillion, receiving superior ratings. (Jessica Shoemaker and one of the tenors, Derek Nolan, each received outstanding soloist awards.) Subsequently, at the Kingsley-Pierson Jazz Choir Festival, Jessica received an Outstanding Soloist Award and was awarded an All-star Jazz Choir Medal; she was one of only 12 people participating in the festival to receive this award.

The jazz choir opened with a bright, up-beat arrangement of Bart Howard's "Fly Me to the Moon." The tricky 5/4 rhythm of Paul Desmond's "Take Five," made famous by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, posed no problem for the youthful singers or rhythm section; it swung admirably. Choir Director Jim Gullikson next spotlighted Jessica and Derek on "Moon River," by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. Justification for the above awards was immediately obvious; the two not only have superlative voices, but they blend beautifully with the rest of the choir. Next, Ben King's pop standard "Stand By Me" highlighted the other soprano, Jenna Van Oort, as soloist. The concert concluded with "Under The Boardwalk," written by Artie Resnick and Kenny Young and popularized by The Drifters. Featured soloists were the two altos, Sarah Schreur and Jenna Noble.

What a delight it was, not just to find jazz being sung by young people in a small town in the Midwest, but being sung so well. My hat is off to Messrs. Shoemaker and Gullikson, and to the teachers of the jazz instrumentalists in the rhythm section. We returned to Los Angeles, buoyed by the experience, and heartened by the knowledge that, at least in some corners of the country, jazz education, and performance by enthusiastic and talented young people, are alive and well!

West Sioux Jazz Choir: Sopranos: Jessica Shoemaker and Jenna Van Oort; Altos: Kelsey Postma, Caitlin Jans, Sarah Schreur, and Jenna Noble; Tenors: Derek Nolan, Luke Weyer, and Nic Engleman; Basses: Noah Gullikson and Preston Nilson

Rhythm Section: Jennifer Nilson (piano), Blaine Eilts (bass), and Patrick White (drums)

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