If you were not in Alfred Newman Recital Hall this past Saturday, December 13th, then you missed out on a night of magical music performed by the JazzReach Choirs, the Foshay Jazz Combo, and the prestigious Los Angeles Youth Jazz Ensemble (LAYJE)! The rainy evening certainly did not put a damper on the spectacular event packed with hundreds of talented student performers, mentors, family members, and Thornton Outreach staff all coming together from all across the city to experience the result of months of rehearsals and hard work.
Before the musicians took the stage and the audience filled the seats, a wonderful reception of refreshments was prepared in the Webb Room of Newman Hall. Students and parents had the opportunity to mingle and dine on pizza, catered Italian selections, and more before enjoying the concert.
The performance program began with the Murchison St. JazzReach Choir. The initial reactions of the crowd when the choir of adorable elementary school singers came on stage in their matching blue t-shirts and started singing were unanimous sounds of support and excitement. Lights from camera phones immediately illuminated the seats with gleaming parents wanting to capture memories of this rewarding musical moment. Outreach mentors Tommy Dougherty, Chelsea Sharpe, and David Hobbs selected a diverse and fitting repertoire to educate and entertain.
The next group to go on were the 32nd St. JazzReach Choir. They showed off their voices by performing the jazz standard Blue Skies by Irving Berlin, Feliz Navidad for our Spanish speaking audience members, and arguably the most popular song of the year, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. The choreography to this number was icing on the cake on just how fun the choir looked like they were having. Director, Geetha Somayajula and pianist, Keeny Regan gave energetic leadership and direction that led to the choir’s successful performance.
The top 40 pop hits seemed to do so well and get such an optimistic reaction, that the Science Center JazzReach Choir that came on stage next followed the trend and sang Count On Me by Bruno Mars and Rachel Platten’s radio hit Fight Song. These pieces put such a smile in the crowd that you could notice the room almost transform into a sing-a-long.
After all of the JazzReach choirs performed it was time to bring on the instrumental ensembles. First we were treated to some tunes by the Thornton Outreach mentors. Their playing left a remarkable impression on the parents and students all throughout the hall. Following that performance, the Foshay Jazz Combo took the stage. They are directed by Vince Womack and led by mentors Jeffrey Frantom and Cameron Holt. The Foshay Jazz Combo’s rendition of Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay and Thelonious Monk’s Blue Monk had the audience moving and grooving along to the music. The instrumental solos of trumpet and saxophone in this set showcased some real budding individual talent within the program.
The closing act of the night featured the Los Angeles Youth Jazz Ensemble directed by mentor Ben Scholz and Kevin Van Den Elzen. This highly selective group of students thrilled the audience with music of Gerald Marks, Neal Hefti, and Duke Ellington. The last piece even featured a vocal soloist which included scatting and improvisation from the instrumental musicians that ended the night on a glorious high note.
As the concert came to a close and people started to trickle out of the building. The Thornton Outreach staff conversed with proud parents and enlightened students all around and reflected on the semester and the unforgettably rewarding music experience that they experienced.
If you missed out on this fabulous opportunity to hear the JazzReach choirs, the Foshay Jazz Combo, and LAYJE performing, have no fear! There will be a Spring Concert taking place at Newman Recital Hall on Sunday, April 17th, 2016!
To get involved with JazzReach, contact USC Thornton Outreach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gibran Mahmud is a photographer/videographer and social media specialist with the USC Thornton Outreach Program, and a Master of Music in Vocal Studies student.