Jazz group gets prestigious invite

Ensemble set to perform at annual conference


Gabriel Quiroz / The Advocate

Jazzology tenor Joseph Saeteurn (left), alto Laura Karst (middle left), baritone Jesse Chao (middle), lead soprano Natasha Singer (middle right), and baritone Ninoangelo Lastimosa (right) sing during the San Pablo tree lighting on Friday.

By Jackson Stephens, Staff Writer

The jazz vocal ensemble at Contra Costa College has been invited to perform at the prestigious Jazz Education Network Conference in January.
For the first time, JAZZ-ology and its six-member ensemble will be attending the 10th annual 2019 JEN conference in Reno, Nevada.
The six members are Natasha Singer (lead soprano), Laura Karst (second soprano/alto), Joseph Saeteurn (alto/tenor one), Ninoangelo Lastimosa (tenor two/baritone), Matthew Chamberlain (tenor two/baritone) and Jesse Chao (bass).
“JAZZ-ology was chosen as one of six finalists out of 500 applicants from high schools, colleges and conservatories to perform,” program manager Stephanie Austin said.
The group is scheduled to perform the morning of Jan. 12 at the Reno Grand Sierra Resort Crystal Ballroom.
The JEN conference draws the most renowned names in the profession, industry and education.
Dr. Austin said, “JAZZ-ology will be representing the genre” at the highest standard for education in the field and will be seen as a leader for other programs.
Being invited means the CCC music department will be considered a peer with larger and better-known conservatories.
She said the conference is a good experience for JAZZ-ology members to learn what they should aspire to after observing educational panels and performances. Some big-name performers who will be attending JEN are Harry Connick Jr., Airmen of Note and Diana Krall.
After applying for six years, being chosen to perform is considered a big honor, music department Chairperson Austin said. Invitations to the convention are based on live recordings. This means, that no doctoring or editing can be done.
The session is live for evaluators from JEN judges.
The pieces they performed were “In the Wine Light,” “The World Will Keep You Waiting” and “Get Out of Town.”
Karst, a second soprano/alto, said JAZZ-ology members need to have a versatile vocal range.
“This includes being adaptable so that Dr. Austin can choose where members best fit.”
Karst changes positions between alto and bass depending on the musical piece.
Preparing for JEN has been a long-term cumulative process of working on pieces over the past year.
JAZZ-ology rehearses twice a week for three hours per session.
Chao, who sings bass, the lowest voice in the group, said there is more to practicing for performances than just the two weekly class sessions.
Practice at home on his own is needed as well as personal-time meetings with other members.
Karst said the pieces for the conference require extra time spent outside of normal rehearsals where several, or all, members meet to work on blending their voices. There will be two rehearsals over winter break before Reno including one with the instrumental ensemble in order to ensure they are in sync.
“Being a part of JEN is already a big deal, but hopefully performing there will open more doors for us toward bigger and better opportunities,” Chao said.
He personally hopes to learn new techniques for vocals and to improve his stage presence.
Karst said the invitation to JEN is gratifying and shows their hard work has paid off.
It will also serve as a “reality check” to see how JAZZ-ology compares to other programs.
She said the group knew they were ready for JEN based on how well they did at the Cuesta College Vocal Jazz Festival in early November.
Karst said it was a “top-notch” performance that received high praise from the judges.
Austin formed JAZZ-ology in 2011 with the intention of creating an ensemble collaboration of vocalists and instrumentalists. The group currently has six members who are selected based on auditions.
JAZZ-ology won DownBeat magazine student music awards for outstanding performance for the years of 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Three times the group has been a top-six national performer at the Monterey Jazz Festival Next Generation.
The group has produced and released three CDs. The first, entitled “Starting Here, Starting Now” in 2013 was followed by “On a Clear Day” in 2015.
More information on JAZZ-ology, including bookings and their events calendar, can be found at www.jazz-ologymusic.com.