UMD Vocal Jazz Ensemble Travels to China
This summer, Lake Effect, one of UMD’s vocal jazz ensemble, had the opportunity to perform at the 29th World Symposium of the International Society of Music Education in Beijing, China.
Vocal Jazz at UMD
UMD has two vocal jazz ensembles: Lake Effect and Chill Factor. The names of the jazz ensembles came from terms on the Weather Channel. Lake Effect is comprised of 18 members, which includes a rhythm section and multiple singers. The members represent multiple majors throughout UMD and all have varying levels of experience in music.
Tina Thielen-Gaffey, assistant professor in the Department of Music, is the director of Lake Effect. She submitted an audition tape for Lake Effect, and they were chosen from hundreds of applicants to perform at the Symposium. They represented one of 22 performance countries at this convention of over 5, 000 worldwide delegates from 65 countries. They were one of 10 American ensembles.
“This was an excellent group to take,” Thielen-Gaffey said. “They are all very talented and upstanding young people.”
Getting to China
Each performance trip the ensembles take costs a lot of money. In order to raise the money for each student to perform at the Symposium, Lake Effect fundraised.
They sold 1,000 copies of their first CD in only four months and received a few grants. They were also paid to sing at multiple places and put the money toward going to China. After the fundraising efforts, each student ended up paying only $600 per person.
Performing in China
Lake Effect performed twice at the Symposium. “They performed incredibly well,” Thielen-Gaffey said. “The audience loved it, and we put our name on the map.”
Adam Petroski, Lake Effect member and vocal music education major, most enjoyed performing for 2,000 people at once. “Most of the audience members were from China, and they loved us,” Petroski said. “We felt like rock stars after our performances because everyone wanted to take pictures with us and talk to us. They are not used to hearing our style of singing, and they were obviously blown away.”
Lake Effect’s genre of music set them apart from other performing ensembles at the Symposium. “A lot of the music performed there by other groups at the symposium was traditional music that you would expect to hear at an event like this,” Petroski said. "So we provided a different take on vocal jazz."
After their performances, many university ensemble directors from other regions became interested in Lake Effect, including Moscow, New Zealand and Northern Europe. “We received two international invitations,” Thielen-Gaffey said. “They want us to come to their country and help implement programs similar to ours in their universities."
The performances Lake Effect gave made an impact on the audience members. “I believe that our music inspired a lot of people," Petroski said. "Our genre is different than what the people on the other side of the world are used to hearing. We showed them how fun and exciting vocal jazz music can be.”
The students learned quite a bit about Chinese culture. They visited the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Beijing Zoo and Tiananmen Square. Their tour guide throughout the trip was a UMD international student in the music department who was home for the summer in Beijing.
"We all really appreciated the Chinese culture," Thielen-Gaffey said. "The group loved it because it was so different from anything they've ever seen before. It was great to experience an interesting culture and see the students be so respectful of the differences."
The group also learned about differences in music. "It was interesting to see other ensembles perform in their native tongue, but still be so different from us," Thielen-Gaffey said. "They had a unique perspective on music, and it was fascinating to see."
The Chinese architecture was another highlight of the trip. "It was amazing. You could be by a 21st century, modern building and then right next to it you would have ancient Asian architecture," Thielen-Gaffey said. "The combination of old and new was incredible."
Lake Effect After China
Now that they are back from China, Thielen-Gaffey says that Lake Effect will "lay low" for a while. "We did so much touring this last year to help fundraise for this trip to China. It's time to take a break."
The next World Symposium for International Society for Music Education is in two years and will take place in Greece. "I hope that Lake Effect can make an appearance in Greece because the experience would be just as valuable for Lake Effect as the China trip," Petroski said. "I never imagined that I would ever visit China, but it was definitely an experience I will never forget."
"If UMD was looking for the best of the best to represent the university, they found it in this group of performers," Thielen-Gaffey said. "It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for these students, and it is fantastic to have the support of the university."
Written by Mandee Kuglin