This small jazz ensemble for intermediate instrumentalists and vocalists in grades 7 through 12 with an interest in jazz plays a wide variety of music by composers including Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone. The small ensemble setting of this group is particularly designed for students looking to build their improvisational skills. While all students are encouraged (although not required) to improvise, class time is devoted to foundational skills for the improviser, including building a vocabulary of scales and melodic patterns.
The ensemble is designed for students with around two years of experience on an instrument (or the equivalent in accelerated private study or self-instruction). Students will need some familiarity with reading music notation. Guitarists should have some familiarity with reading chord symbols, including basic seventh chords.
For players new to the ensemble, the first rehearsal is an opportunity for the director and the player to get a sense of whether the overall ability level of the group is a good match for the ability level of the player. New members are encouraged to demonstrate their skill level by playing a short piece and/or a selection of scales either during rehearsal, after rehearsal or on video.
The goal of the ensemble is to be inclusively excellent and to help members find approaches to the group's repertoire that are appropriately challenging for their ability level.
Tom Cleary studied jazz performance at Hampshire College, where his teachers included Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp, and music education and classical piano performance the University of Vermont, where his teachers included Sylvia Parker and Elizabeth Metcalfe. As a pianist and keyboardist he has had extended collaborations with artists including Phish bassist Mike Gordon (with whom he did a number of tours between 2008 and 2014), James Harvey, Ray Vega, Patricia Julien, and Jamie Masefield. With vocalist Amber deLaurentis he co-leads the quartet Birdcode, which released You Are Here in 2019; his work as an arranger and player can be heard on deLaurentis' solo albums Innocent Road and Hey Sadie and Paul Asbell's Burmese Panther. He has accompanied artists including Clark Terry, Lester Bowie, Fontella Bass, Ernie Watts, Judi Silvano, Joe Lovano, Joan Rivers and Steve Earle. As a composer, his work has been commissioned and recorded by groups including Social Band, Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble; the musical Mill Girls, on which he collaborated with director/playwright Peter Harrigan, is being revived in an online production this year at Saint Michael's College. He teaches in the jazz studies program of the UVM Music Department, the Flynn jazz program, and his home studio. Check out his music with Birdcode and his UVM blog.