Columbia College Chicago

Fine and Performing Arts

Student Ensembles

A wide variety of unique ensembles offer opportunities for Music majors to collaborate, hone their talents and perfect their musical mastery.

Blues Ensemble
Fernando Jones, Director

This beginning/intermediate ensemble consists of a rhythm section, three guitars, three horns and two to three vocalists. Students learn to play the blues as an ensemble in a professional setting. The Blues Ensemble performs traditional, contemporary and original composition. The course also examines the sociological and historical aspects of the blues, and its current and future role in culture. The Blues Ensemble plans several performances and field trips during the semester; previous gigs have included performing on the Front Porch Stage in Grant Park for Chicago’s Blues Fest, and at Blues Heaven on Navy Pier (for which the ensemble was offered a return engagement).

C_LEns (Columbia Laptop Ensemble)
Timothy Edwards, Director

C_LEns is a vehicle for electronic music performed onstage by autonomous performers. Each performer uses a laptop computer running custom-designed software (usually in the Max environment) for each composition. Just as in a chamber ensemble of acoustic instruments, the audience experiences each performer’s sound as emanating directly from him or her. The ensemble’s performance is often enhanced by means of handheld controllers such as smart phones or game controllers.

The repertoire of C_LEns is varied, following traditions embraced by Varèse, Stockhausen, Cage and others, and expanding to sound art, soundscapes, spectral music, structured improvisation and the imaginations of living composers, many of whom workshop their pieces with the ensemble. The ensemble has occasionally performed pieces written by student members. Collaborations include dance, poetry and invented sound controllers. The ensemble usually performs at least twice during a semester, both on and off campus.

Chorus
Bart Bradfield, Director

Students rehearse, discuss and perform a choral repertoire of various genres including classical masterworks, indigenous world music and popular styles. The chorus performs a cappella as well as with piano, hand percussion and other assorted instrumental accompaniment. Students receive instruction in healthy vocal technique and listening critically for quality ensemble attributes: blend, balance, intonation and appropriate tone quality.

Classical Guitar Ensemble
Norman Ruiz, Director

The course provides performing group experience for classical guitarists. Groups prepare classical compositions by Bach, Scarlatti, Albeniz and others. Note reading and classical technique are applied. The class may be taken eight times for credit.

Columbia College Jazz Ensemble

The Columbia College Jazz Ensemble is our premier big band. The repertoire is drawn from classic transcriptions of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman and Jelly Roll Morton, plus faculty and student work.

Fusion Ensemble
Bill Boris, Director

The Fusion Ensemble is an advanced ensemble that performs a wide range of music, from the intricate compositions of Herbie Hancock to the eclectic R&B sounds of the Yellowjackets, as well as original compositions. The ensemble includes trumpet, sax, guitar, piano, bass, drums and a vocalist.

Through the Columbia College Music Department’s artist-in-residence program, the Fusion Ensemble has had the opportunity to perform with jazz legends Bob Mintzer, Christian McBride, Mike Stern, Peter Erskine and Fred Wesley. The ensemble performed at the 2013 Notre Dame Jazz Festival and received perfect scores from most of the adjudicators. Six of the members were given Outstanding Soloist Awards.

Folk Ensemble
Diane Delin, Director

Folk Ensemble explores, arranges and performs acoustic instrumental and vocal music from many traditions, including their more recent developments.

Gospel Choir
Walter Owens, Director

The course requires that entry-level music students learn and perform solo and ensemble gospel literature, including traditional spirituals and anthems. Students will initially learn by ear and then learn to read and notate as well as analyze and describe gospel repertory. Additional emphasis is placed on understanding the relationships between gospel music, the other arts, and the cultural context in which contemporary gospel music functions. The Gospel Choir performs at many Columbia College events, including Manifest.

Gospel Repertory Ensemble
Walter Owens, Director

This is an advanced ensemble that specializes in traditional and contemporary gospel music performed in choral and small group formats. The Gospel Repertory Ensemble performs in various campus specialty events.Enrollment in this ensemble requires concurrent registration in private lessons. Instructor recommendation or audition is required.

Groove Band

Groove Band is an eclectic pop/rock ensemble for instrumentalists of almost all skill levels. Although the repertoire frequently changes with each semester and group, the Groove Band covers songs from Muddy Waters to Motown, Stevie Ray Vaughan to Sly and the Family Stone, among many others. Each semester culminates in a performance in the Music Center Recital Hall.

Jazz Combos
Scott Hall, Director

The Jazz Combos is a performing group experience for instrumentalists and singers in which high professional standards of small group performance are explained and achieved. Performances include music written especially for the group and works by Louis Armstrong, John Kirby, Duke Ellington, Art Blakey, Benny Goodman, Dave Brubeck, Jimmy Giuffre, Chick Corea and Gerry Mulligan.

Jazz Guitar Ensemble
Anthony Bracco and Christ Forte, Directors

Designed for intermediate and advanced guitarists, the course emphasizes ensemble playing for the electric jazz guitar. Through rehearsal of appropriate multiple-part arrangements and the practice of composing and improvisation, the group prepares a series of performances. Students increase repertoire and develop musicianship skills.

Jazz/Pop Choir
Martez L. Rucker, Director

The course advances the understanding and mastery of jazz and pop through rehearsal and performance of group repertoire in a variety of styles. Traditional choral skills of blend, balance, unison and harmonic intonation, and articulation in swing, pop and Latin genres, will be studied through rehearsal and performance using microphones and sound reinforcement. Students will learn to sing with a rhythm section, a cappella, as soloists, and in men’s, women’s, and mixed small groups. Students participate in an end-of-semester performance as well as additional performances on and off campus. Occasional workshops may be substituted for rehearsals. Independent practice and memorization is required, as are weekly sectional rehearsals.

Jazz/Pop Strings
Diane Delin, Director

Jazz/Pop Strings is Columbia College’s alternative string section. It augments Pop Orchestra, performs with Contemporary, Urban and Popular Music (CUP) residency artists and with jazz band in concert and club settings while learning articulation, stylistic and ensemble approaches to string section work in a variety of music.

Latin Jazz Ensemble
Ruben Alvarez, Director

This intermediate/advanced class consists of four drums, a bass, piano, guitar, three to four horns and vocals. It prepares students for the performance of the musical traditions of Cuba (Bembe, rhumba, mambo, songo), Brazil (samba, bossa nova) and Puerto Rico (Bomba). The rhythms and performance techniques of various Latin percussion instruments will be taught along with hands-on arranging projects.

New Music Ensemble
Doug Lofstrom, Director

New Music Ensemble is Columbia’s free-form chamber orchestra. Primarily for instrumentalists, it is a performance class that focuses on the development, rehearsal and performance of classical, contemporary classical and world music arrangements. 

This ensemble provides an opportunity for students to perform challenging music with their peers under the guidance of a faculty member. The group presents a concert at the end of each semester. Expanding students’ knowledge of various genres of music, the New Music Ensemble challenges students to read and learn music in unusual contexts, and to further improve their music literacy and ensemble performance skills.

Men’s Chorus
Donald Neale, Director

This course will provide an opportunity for intermediate and advanced male singers to improve vocal skills in a wide variety of musical settings. Traditional choral skills of blend, balance, intonation and phrasing will be learned through rehearsal and performance of choral music for male voices. Either a cappella or accompanied by piano, organ or small instrumental groups, the ensemble may also perform solos, trios or quartets as repertoire suggests.

Regular performances will be scheduled on campus and, subject to member availability, occasionally off campus. Periodic master classes, workshops, additional rehearsals or performances may be substituted for scheduled in-class rehearsals. Independent practice and memorization is required, as are weekly sectional rehearsals.

Prerequisites or audition is required. Enrollment in this ensemble requires concurrent registration in private lessons.

Pop Orchestra
Carey Deadman, Director

This is a contemporary ensemble for intermediate-to-advanced students. The Pop Orchestra specializes in music from the classic rock/contemporary era. The Ensemble uses the standard guitar, bass and drums, and also employs trumpet, alto and tenor sax, trombone, and three to four vocalists.

Pop Rock Showcase Ensemble
Bill Boris, Director

The Pop Rock Showcase Ensemble is an advanced Contemporary, Urban and Popular Music (CUP) ensemble performing various styles of the pop/rock genre from the ‘60s to the present. This group usually includes two guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and four vocalists. The ensemble replicates all the parts from the original recordings of the songs it performs.

Columbia College’s artist-in-residence program has provided the opportunity for the group to perform with pop/rock musicians Todd Rundgren, Joan Osborne, Shawn Mullins, Ivan Neville and Charlie Sexton. The ensemble performs on campus and at Reggies Chicago. This high-level ensemble has often been chosen to play at Columbia’s commencement ceremonies.

R&B Ensemble
Chuck Webb, Director

An advanced performance ensemble drawing its repertoire from classic and contemporary R&B artists such as Earth Wind & Fire, James Brown, the Gap Band, Chaka Khan, Parliament and others, this course prepares students to perform with confidence and professionalism in a contemporary rhythm & blues context. Students learn how to front a band and interact with fellow band members to create an exciting live performance.

Ensemble members research and present material to the rest of the group for inclusion in ensemble repertoire. Students learn the keys to playing tight R&B grooves while perfecting a live show to be performed at various venues on and off campus. The course includes the recording of a live demo in a professional studio environment.

SPECTRA (Advanced Chorus)
Bart Bradfield, Director

Advanced students rehearse, discuss and perform choral repertoire of various genres. SPECTRA performs a cappella and with assorted instrumental accompaniment.

An audition is required. Enrollment in this ensemble requires concurrent registration in private lessons.

Vocal Performance Lab
Bart Bradfield, Director

Advanced vocal students rehearse, analyze and perform a vocal ensemble repertoire of various genres, including classical masterworks, indigenous world music and popular styles. Class projects include arranging a melody for class performance, observing a professional ensemble rehearsal and incorporating movement into a choral work. Students augment their vocal technique through daily pedagogy. Emphasis is placed on quality ensemble attributes: blend, balance, intonation and appropriate tone quality.

An audition is required. Enrollment in this ensemble requires concurrent registration in private lessons.

Vocal Jazz Ensemble
Martez L. Rucker, Director

Also known as Chicago Vox, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble is a select group consisting of 12 to 16 vocalists and a rhythm section; instrumentation is added as needed. The Ensemble performs an a cappella and accompanied repertoire of jazz and pop with global musical influences; all music is memorized, but improvisation is encouraged. All members and prospective members of the Vocal Jazz Ensemble must audition for their parts each year during the first week of class.

Vocal Jazz Ensemble rehearses three times a week, with additional sectional meetings led by student section leaders, and offers opportunities for singers and instrumentalists to be featured as soloists and in small groups.

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble performs with the Columbia College Jazz Ensemble for events such as Manifest and Commencement, and for special engagements. The Ensemble begins its fall term with a three-day retreat to Camp Algonquin, and goes on to represent Columbia College Chicago on and off campus throughout the year.

An audition is required. Enrollment in this ensemble requires concurrent registration in private lessons.

Women’s Ensemble
Typhanie Coller, Director

Intermediate and advanced women singers learn and perform music popularized by women groups from all contemporary styles. The repertoire will span the eras and styles dedicated to groups such as the Andrews Sisters, the Judds, the Supremes and Destiny’s Child. The ensemble uses a self-contained band that ideally is made up of female instrumentalists.

Regular performances will be scheduled on campus and, subject to member availability, occasionally off campus. Periodic master classes, workshops, additional rehearsals or performances may be substituted for scheduled in-class rehearsals. Independent practice and memorization are required, as are weekly sectional rehearsals. Performances will be scheduled.

Enrollment in this ensemble requires concurrent registration in private lessons.


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