York Jazz Festival – Vocal Workshop Performances

Written by Chevon Gilzene


I feel privileged to be at a post-secondary institution where I can experiment with my talents and receive constructive criticism from experts and peers. In private lessons and large ensembles, the focus is often on our sound or performing collectively, but I have come to realize the significance of courses like Jazz Workshop because of the focus on performing. In a music program that doesn’t stream, it is sometimes easy to forget that if you plan on performing in some capacity as part of your career, you need experience performing in an environment that facilitates improvement.¬†

The vocal workshops are unique in that the instrumentalists are accompaniment instead of being the main show. This allows the vocalists to get experience communicating with instrumentalists, and reflects what is expected of a vocalist in a more professional setting. The fruits of this were evident in the Jazz Festival performances. The vocalists sounded great, but the real performance was in them interacting with the band. Whenever a vocalist isolated herself from the band, the sound of the ensemble changed, and the dynamic onstage with it. Seeing how comfortable each member of the group felt was easy for the audience throughout the performance because of the vulnerability of a small group. The performance was always better when everyone in the group seemed to be enjoying themselves. My biggest criticism is that this didn’t happen often enough. Many times the band felt like a separate entity and so the vocalist reverted to focusing inward, which sometimes took away from the performance. As a musician, I am often guilty of the same thing, and it can be a difficult habit to break because it feels almost natural sometimes to become introverted onstage.

The beauty of it is that with every opportunity to perform, we get more and more comfortable being onstage with other musicians. The longer each vocalist was onstage, the more each one started to open up and take more chances. In my opinion, the worst thing is to allow fear of failure to stop you from experimenting and taking chances. The most important thing that I was reminded of while watching the student performances is that the opportunities at York are what you make of them. It is up to us as musicians to take every opportunity to perform and experiment with our craft. It makes us better as students, musicians, and performers.