CSULB’s vocal jazz chorus Pacific Standard Time has been invited to perform at the 35th International Association of Jazz Education (IAJE) convention to be held Jan. 9-12, in Toronto, Ontario, under the baton of Music’s Christine Guter.
“This is a great honor,” said Guter, who joined the university in 2002. “I’m really thrilled that our students get this opportunity because it is a life-changing experience. We were one of only six university vocal jazz ensembles from around the world to be invited to perform.”
With more than 10,000 members in 56 countries, IAJE is the leading authority and primary voice for the promotion of jazz through education and outreach. Recognized as the largest gathering of the global jazz community, upwards of 7,000 educators, musicians, record executives, exhibitors, media and enthusiasts are expected to attend the conference.
More than 200 concerts featuring top professionals and student groups from around the world will be offered. Specialized teacher training, industry, technology, performance and composer sessions will be held. There will be research paper presentations, extensive music product expositions and the presentation of the Phil Nimmons Established Composer Award.
“It is the largest jazz convention in the world,” said Guter, who explained that entry is based on a selection from submitted recordings. “It is the top educational venue and a huge honor to be invited to perform.”
A number of things were taken into consideration in their recognition including a review of the performers’ program, the level of their music’s difficulty, the overall sound of the group, their tone quality, intonation and groove as well as the level of soloists and improvisation. “It’s highly competitive,” she said. “It is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time.”
Pacific Standard Times’ nine-song, 45-minute set will include Count Basie's arrangement of “Wind Machine,” “Icarus” arranged by Gary Rosen, “London By Night” arranged by Gene Puerling, a Take Six arrangement of “The Biggest Part of Me,” “The Sultan Fainted” by the New York Voices, the blues tune “Gingerbread Boy,” and “Waters of March” by Antonio Carlos Jobim and arranged by CSULB Music faculty member Gerhard Guter. Also on tap will be swing tunes “Comes Love” and “Rosetta.”
“The students know there will be big ears listening to them,” she said. “They have been working very hard and are ready to give their best.”
The conference will draw together some of the best jazz artists in the world with the most gifted jazz students. “It is a real eye-opener to see we are not the only people doing this,” she laughed. “It is a revelation to see where the other university vocal jazz programs are. Hopefully, this will feed the students’ passion to make the best music they can.”
"My expectations are so high, I think no one can reach them, but the students surprise me year after year,” Guter said. “They keep getting better and better. I’m excited they have a chance to see what’s going on at the other universities. I not only hope they are inspired and motivated by what they see but that they also see they have something special at CSULB.”
Guter believes this kind of recognition validates CSULB as one of the top vocal jazz programs in the nation. “It is very humbling to me as a director to receive this kind of recognition,” she said. “My colleagues have been telling me for the past several years that CSULB has one of the top vocal jazz programs in the world. When they ask their colleagues where we stand, we find ourselves in the top five over and over again. There will be so much hard-core jazz that the students' ears will be full. The musicians they see walking down the hall will be names they can tell their grandchildren about.”
Pacific Standard Time has toured California and the Pacific Northwest several times. They have been invited to perform before the American Choral Directors Association in Salt Lake City and before the California Music Educators Association in Sacramento. The group was featured in Singer magazine and they record every year.
“I remember walking into my first rehearsal here as the new vocal jazz director and seeing only four students sitting in front of me,” she recalled. “But where there was one group, now there are two groups with around 15 members each. There are four graduate jazz voice majors and a graduate assistantship. There are eight undergraduate jazz voice majors. The program has grown tremendously.”Guter sees her biggest challenge now as keeping her students' cool. “I was talking to a former professor about how nervous I was about the invitation,” she said. “The professor told me not to be nervous because the hard work was done; we had the gig. We got the gig because we earned it. I tell our students to be a vessel for the music and not to worry about who is in the audience. They don’t need to prove anything. It’s not about us, it’s about the music. They just need to serve the music, and this art form, and sing from their hearts.”