Bellevue College held its 20th annual Pacific Vocal Jazz festival on Jan. 29. The festival featured 20 high school ensembles and six others from middle and junior high schools, who competed for spots to play in an evening gala concert. Also performing at the festival were Bellevue College’s vocal jazz ensembles under the direction of Thomas Almli. “We have our BC ensembles represent a high level of quality with the goal of inspiring young people and their teachers in the vocal arts,” said Almli, who is also the music department chairman at BC and coordinator of this event. “We want them to feel inspired and energized to reach for higher levels of performance quality,” he said.
During the daytime, performances by the high school and middle school ensembles were held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in front of a panel of judges. Almli said that these ensembles were selected to play during this portion on a first come first serve basis, ensuring that the ensembles who performed would want to “be educated in the area of vocal jazz.” This portion of the festival was free for anyone who wanted to attend. There were also soloists from the middle and high schools performing in separate rooms. After that, the judges decided on the winners, who then performed in the evening concert at 7:30 p.m. with the BC vocal jazz ensembles.
Organizing this event is a year round process according to Almli, “It is very time consuming and has a great deal of challenges,” he said. However, Almli also stated that “it is extremely beneficial to our BC students.” In addition to helping these students learn from each other, Almli said that this festival is “a great recruiting tool and fosters vocal jazz education in our secondary schools.” Almli believes the schools and students are not the only ones who benefit from this festival. He also claimed that people who attend the event can also learn from it. “We want them to walk away with a feeling that Bellevue College is the nexus of musical activities in our region,” he said, “and that we have served them as great ambassadors.” Because of this, Almli encouraged everyone who knew about the festival to attend if they are able, but to also seek out “the many outstanding and exceptional music concerts provided by our music department here at Bellevue College.”