Contemporary Music Department Report – April 2024

I present to you a concise overview of the projects undertaken during the first term of 2024, despite unforeseen circumstances. This report outlines the executed projects, cancellations, and provides insights into upcoming endeavors later in the year.

The main event that we managed to pull off was an absolute success. This was the Musica Viva concert with Emma Pask and Bill Risby, joined by NECOM’s Jazz Vocal Project, at the Armidale Town Hall. Two rehearsals were accomplished with the gracious help of my colleagues, and this involved my working on some of the finishing touches and sending through audio helps while in hospital! The final two rehearsals were ALMOST enough to attain the standard I envisaged, and with the group doing plenty of private rehearsal in the background, they rose to the occasion with enthusiasm and style. Emma was thrilled with the collaboration and was also very gracious in working with the choir. The two songs performed were “S’Wonderful” by George and Ira Gershwin, and accompanied by Bill on the piano; and “No More Blues” by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and performed a cappella.

The other planned project for the term was the Instrumental Combo Workshops – a two-part workshop and performance working with a live professional band. This was a follow-on from the Singers Combo Workshops held in the last term of 2023, which were a huge success. The purpose of these workshops is to give less-experienced singers/players a chance to learn how to communicate and rehearse with a standard professional combo of piano, bass and drums. Unfortunately, due to my recovery period and also with no registrations by a certain date, the Workshops were cancelled.

Planned workshops for next term are the Jazz Lab sessions, where I will teach on a number of basic jazz elements taken from the following list:
6 Exercises for Jazz Singers (strategies for scatting)
6 Jazz improvisation basics for all instrumentalists
How the 6 Main Jazz Chords are built
The 6 main Jazz compositional Forms (how most jazz standards are composed)
12 bar blues and other variations.
6 Steps to Writing a Chart for your Jazz Band
6 Steps to Jazz Accompaniment on Piano

Some Musicianship Workshops planned for a later period in 2024 would cover topics for this list:
Quick Guide to Note Reading
Quick Guide to rhythm reading and understanding
Quick Guide to Key & Time Signatures
Quick Guide to changing Keys of Songs to suit your Voice
Quick Guide to Training your Ear
An Introduction to Keyboard Skills
6 Steps to Pop or Rock accompaniment on Piano.

Also the Contemporary Musicianship Course to be taught by myself is in progress and will be discussed and planned in due time. I look forward to having not only secondary school students attending this weekly class, but also encouraging musicians from the community in Armidale.

Sharny Russell
Head of Contemporary
New England Conservatorium