SOLON– Bringing the American tradition of jazz to the center stage of the Solon high school, Kerry Marsh sat in for a couple sessions with vocal groups at Solon High on Friday, Jan. 11.
Marsh was in Iowa for several dates, including at Waukee and Pleasant Valley (North Scott) high schools.
Talking music history and driving out cool sounds from his own voice box instrument, Marsh played piano and led the clinic with his own jazz improvisation, singing “scat” style (think Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway or Mel Torme).
Vocal music director Joel Foreman called Marsh’s visit an exceptionally unique opportunity for Solon. Marsh has been nationally recognized for his compositions and arrangements for vocal jazz ensembles.
Along with his wife and musical collaborator Julia Dollison, Kerry released a critically acclaimed debut album, “Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider,” in March 2010. Since 2003, he has directed the vocal jazz ensembles at Sacramento State, and in that time, his ensembles and individual students have earned 11 Down Beat Magazine Student Music Awards, distinguishing it as one of the premiere programs in the country.
Marsh is busy year-round as an adjudicator and clinician for jazz festivals and workshops and he serves as a traveling clinician and high school honor vocal jazz ensemble director for the Monterey Jazz Festival.
During the workshop, Foreman put together a student rhythm section and keyboards to accompany small groups of students trying their own bebop scatting. He threw together some amps and microphones then ran the sound board for the workshop. Later, Foreman stepped in to give a quick refresher on the 12-bar blues format that Marsh was asking students to sing over.
On break between the morning and afternoon sessions, Marsh said he was impressed by Solon’s amazing and strong jazz program.
Solon has four jazz vocal groups: Premier, 5th Street Jazz, Mainstream, and Blame It on the Youth. All the groups have rhythm and instrumental sections for accompaniment and 5th Street Jazz also has a horn section.
Marsh’s clinic was paid for through funds from jazz activity funds and Spotlight, a mostly parents’ group supporting performing arts in Solon schools. More about Spotlight can be found at: www.solonspotlight.org .