Keene State has a new student run music ensemble on campus. The Vocal Jazz ensemble consists of 11 music majors under the direction of faculty advisor Dr. Sandra Howard. Sophomore member James Slipp said the ensemble took a great deal of time and planning to bring this idea to the public, as the members had a goal in mind that drove them to not give up.

“It was a SATB [soprano, alto, tenor, bass] quartet, with the intent of being more. If you go from the idea, [it took] two years, if you go from the ground running, [it took] three months of coming up with repertoire and constitution. [Our goal is to] share vocal jazz music with the Keene community,” said Slipp.

Borelli said due to scheduling and other responsibilities, some members were unable to attend every meeting. The group needed to recruit and plan out how to execute activities to keep members interested in the ensemble.

“We’ve had members drop, we’ve had added members, we’ve had rehearsals [where we discussed] how we want to run this ensemble. We grabbed people around and said, ‘Hey, do you like to sing? Do you want to be a part of this?’” said sophomore member Liz Borelli.

Once the group finally had a steady amount of members and a stable idea of execution, they were able to begin their practices. In order to wake up the brain and voice, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble has warmups before taking a look at their repertoire.

“We do some kind of a physical and vocal warm-up. I always try to include improv because improv builds our brain structure a little bit more and gets us prepared for learning the [repertoire]… then we just dig right in,” said music director Kyle Trombley.

Vocal Jazz makes it known that everyone is a part of the ensemble and everyone is on the same playing field where leadership belongs to them all, Trombley said. “I think a big part of jazz is that not one person is leading it. Even the person that’s conducting or leading, does not lead. If you watch a lot of these big prominent jazz ensembles or even the vocal jazz, the director sings with. They don’t stand there and conduct it like it’s a true classical piece. Everybody gets the leadership and everybody gets to learn from each other,” said Trombley.

Additionally, Vocal Jazz recently attended a master class with Broadway actor Jake Odmark. “We just had our first event which was a master class with Jake Odmark. He is an acapella arranger out of New York City. The theater department had him through for residency and he wanted to work with some vocal groups,’’ said Trombley.

The Vocal Jazz ensemble has scheduled their first performance for April 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Redfern Arts Center Alumni Recital Hall.

Borelli said that the ensemble invites everyone to see their performance and that they “want to make it enjoyable and inclusive for everyone. We welcome everyone with open arms to come and join.”

Reilly Sanborn can be contacted


“Everybody gets the leadership
and everybody gets to
learn from each other.”

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