April was a good month for Pacific Standard Time, the top vocal jazz ensemble in Cal State Long Beach’s (CSULB) Bob Cole Conservatory of Music.
The CSULB group was named winner of the 2010 DownBeat Award for Best Vocal Jazz Ensemble in the collegiate division as part of DownBeat Magazine’s 34th annual Student Music Awards list. The magazine selects a roster of the very best in student jazz from all over the nation, giving recognition to middle school, high school, college and university programs, along with kudos for individual efforts by arrangers, soloists and composers.
“The vocal jazz program has received awards for five of the last six years,” noted Christine Guter, CSULB’s director of vocal jazz. “Last year, Pacific Standard Time received ‘outstanding performance’ for its submission, but this is the first time our program has been named winner of the collegiate vocal jazz category.”
Jeff Jarvis, head of Jazz Studies at CSULB added: “Since 1934 Downbeat Magazine has been a leading voice for jazz and jazz education. The awards earned by our Cole Conservatory jazz students are major accomplishments. We are extremely proud of these students for honoring themselves and the CSULB Jazz Studies program with this international recognition.”
Earlier in April, the vocal jazz group captured top honors in the College Vocal Ensemble Division at The Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival, and in doing so was awarded a score of 299 out of a possible 300 points from the trio of adjudicators.
For taking first place in their division, Pacific Standard Time has been invited back to perform at the 54th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival, which takes place Sept. 16-18. CSULB also received a $1,000 award for its vocal jazz program.
“I’ve never seen scores like that in my life,” Guter pointed out. “I’m tremendously proud of my students, and the hard work and dedication they have demonstrated to get to such a high level of music making and artistry. The greatest honor is getting to come back and perform at the 54th Annual Monterey Jazz Festival in September. It will be an experience that will greatly impact our young singer’s musical journeys, and one they will never forget.”
At the Next Generation Festival, CSULB’s Concert Jazz Orchestra, under the direction Jarvis, placed third in the College Big Band Division. Both groups were finalists, invited to the competition after being selected as one of the top six entries in their category based on submissions from all over the country.
“It’s a tremendous honor to have been acknowledged with this award, but to me it’s not so much about the win,” Guter said. “Our students got to hear a lot of other wonderful groups and learned from that, and that’s what’s important. It’s a tremendously supportive atmosphere even though it’s a ‘competition’ at Monterey.
“All the different school groups really support and encourage each other, which is one of the reasons why I go,” Guter added. “It’s also a huge honor to be invited back to perform at the 54th annual Monterey Jazz Festival, and our students are very excited about that. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them.”
Though appreciative of getting the nod for the top spot in the category, Guter admits to not being a great believer in competitive festivals.
“You know, music is not a contact sport. I tell my students the only competition is with yourself, and the challenge is to do better than you did in your last performance,” she said. “Because every group is coming from a different background and maybe their director has different musical priorities, and the judges have their own musical priorities. Every musical group has something unique to share.”
Pacific Standard Time is a highly select 12-member ensemble which requires refined musicianship and improvisation skills. The group performs a wide variety of vocal music in the jazz genre. It has performed at the International Association of Jazz Education Convention in Toronto, the American Choral Directors Association Convention in Salt Lake City, the California Music Education Association convention in Sacramento, and have toured California and the Pacific Northwest. Recently, they performed at both the L.A. Jazz Institute Festival, and the Newport Beach and West Coast Jazz Parties.
“This is a pretty new group and they have really exceeded my expectations,” praised Guter. “Seven of the 12 singers have never worked with me before this year. I just express my expectations with them and encourage them to work their hardest and strive for excellence at all times. They have really done a fabulous job, and I couldn’t be prouder of their musical progress.”