Weber State University public relations major and music minor Shaundra Rushton, along with several of her fellow students, determined to receive more variety in the music curriculum. Together, Rushton and her colleagues cultivated interest in a vocal jazz course that will be taught next semester at WSU for the first time in the college of music’s history.

Rushton said her background in public relations was instrumental in gaining student feedback and spearheading this project. She recognized interest and
sought change.

She approached Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Daniel Jonas and vocalist Dr. Jennifer Erickson, who agreed to collaboratively teach the course. Jonas will address general musicianship, jazz style and nuance. Erickson will work with the singers’ vocal techniques.

19° International Jazz Festival of Punta del Este |
(Wikimedia)

Jonas is excited to work with students and to push the limits of style by implementing more modern music.

Jonas directs the Jazz Ensemble and the Wildcat Pep Band. He teaches music theory, jazz history, rock history and trumpet. As a lead trumpet player and soloist, he has toured the world and shared the stage with many notable jazz artists.

Erickson is an actress who teaches private voice lessons from her home studio. She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), a nonprofit association of vocal teachers that promotes the highest of standards.

“Vocal jazz and a cappella music have been experiencing a sort of cultural renaissance lately, and this is a class that has been created specifically because of student demand,” Jonas said.

The course will be accompanied by its own rhythm section. The piano, bass and drum will provide an authentic background in all the classes and performances.

Jonas thinks a renewed interest in a cappella is partly due to groups like Pentatonix. Shows like “Glee” and movies like “Pitch Perfect” have adapted the style to fit popular music, reaching new and varying audiences.

As it stands, nearly a dozen students are signed up for next semester. They hope to see more enrollment as word gets out.

“One voice really does make a difference,” WSU student Ryan Thompson said.

This course is also designed for students who are not music majors and minors. Students will learn an arrangement of songs and perform at WSU jazz concerts and within the community.

“It is a no-pressure, fun class,” Rushton said. “If you like to sing in the shower, take our class.”

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