By James Grob, email@example.com
Some Charles City High School musicians and singers went mobile last weekend.
While high school orchestra director Bethany Rhine took a handful of students to the Honor Orchestra Festival at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, high school vocal music director Derek Sturtevant took 30 students to Southwestern Community College in Creston.
“Oddly enough, that place is like a Mecca of vocal jazz,” Sturtevant said of Creston. “All the big names of vocal jazz are there. Great arrangers, great clinicians.”
Sturtevant and members of the two Charles City jazz ensembles known as “2JazzedUp” and “Rhymes With Orange” were at SWCC in Creston for an educational vocal jazz festival which takes place there each spring.
“This festival is non-competitive,” said Sturtevant. “You get to have a clinic with a member of The Real Group and with a member of the staff at the college.”
The Real Group, which performed live, is an internationally-known vocal jazz ensemble. A world-renowned vocal group from Sweden, the group uses their voices as their only instruments. The five members have toured since the mid-eighties and released around 20 albums. There were flight-style ensemble clinics throughout the day.
“We got some really great feedback,” said Sturtevant. “It’s important that we go to these festivals, because the kids don’t truly know what vocal jazz is. We don’t get exposed to that — the kids don’t get a chance to see it performed, let alone performed really well.”
Other vocal jazz royalty in Creston included Dr. Jeremy Fox, Ryan Howe, Lucas Mattson, John Knutson and Tommy Boynton.
“You see all different levels of groups,” Sturtevant said. “The kids were just blown away. For the kids to see that and experience that is a big deal.”
The orchestra festival in Minneapolis included rehearsals, lunch, sectional coaching, and late afternoon concert at Hoversten Chapel, directed by Akiko Fujimoto, the new assistant director of the Minnesota orchestra.
“She’s a wonderful lady who comes with so much experience throughout the country,” said Rhine.
Fujimoto has performed with the Houston Symphony, Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra, Round Rock Symphony Orchestra and Fort Wayne Philharmonic. Additionally, she has conducted Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra as a participant in the Young Conductors Program and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the St. Magnus Festival. Prior to arriving in Texas, Fujimoto served as the conducting associate for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
Charles City students Thea Montemayor, Kiki Connell, Libbie McKeag, Kaitlyn Kruger, Rosie Baldus, Colton Baldus and Anastasia Baldus attended the event at Augsburg, which was coordinated by Rafeal Rodriguez, in his first year as a conductor at Augsburg. Rodriguez is highly regarded as a conductor and educator on three continents. His professional work has taken him to Romania, Bulgaria, France, Peru, the Amazon regions of Colombia and Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Honduras, and to Costa Rica where he lived and worked for many years before returning to the United States.
“He works so hard, and was very accommodating and very welcoming to our students,” Rhine said. “He led the first group of rehearsals in the morning.”
Fujimoto has extensive experiences working with young musicians, starting at Harvard University, where she directed the Mozart Society Orchestra.
“The opportunity that our kids had, to work with that level of director was really awesome, they really enjoyed the day,” said Rhine. “It was a really good experience for them to be there.”