Celebration, BC’s vocal jazz ensemble

Auditions for Bellevue College’s vocal jazz ensemble, Celebration, are being held until June 15. The group, which has existed since 1972,  consists of passionate musicians who participate not only for the joy of performing, but also for the opportunity to learn and grow as musicians. Celebration is internationally acclaimed and travels yearly. This past January, Celebration participated in the Jazz Education Network conference in Dallas, Texas and has also traveled to New Orleans and San Diego in the past, as well as internationally. Information for those interested in auditioning is provided on the music department’s website.
Celebration is led by Tom Almli, chairman of Bellevue College’s music department. Almli has been directing Celebration for the past 12 years, ever since he became the director of choral music activities in 2002. Almli also teaches several music classes including Music Theory, the History of Jazz and the History of Rock and Roll, as well as directing the concert chorale and working as a private piano and voice instructor. Almli believes that the “ensemble has served to give many students the opportunity to participate in something of very high quality, opening doors and providing tools for students to realize their dreams.”
Celebration’s assistant director, Jhauvon Harrison, has been a part of Celebration for the past four years. He explained, “There’s a lot of learning that goes along with participating. It is also, to a degree, a self-sufficient group. It’s not just a lot of being told what to do. […] You’re really stretched, in that you have to take it upon yourself to get better as musicians.” Participating in Celebration is a daily commitment, with group practice between 1:00 and 2:30 every day and sessions with a professional rhythm section every Tuesday and Thursday.
Almli explained that in his potential pupils he looks for “a good ear, skill with reading music, quality of voice or instrument technique, commitment to hard work, strong character and an affinity for teamwork.” When auditioning, students will have an informal interview with Almli and perform the pieces “Autumn Leaves” and “Doxy,” the sheet music for which is provided in the audition packet. They may also be expected to sight read and to solo “scat” over “Autumn Leaves.”
Harrison praised Celebration, saying, “It’s a fun, energetic group that brings a new flavor to jazz and is not afraid to stand out and be heard. We don’t just sing; we learn about music and the theory behind it.” Celebration also publishes their music and is presently recording a CD which, Harrison stated, may be released in the beginning of fall quarter.
Almli is an experienced instructor and worked at Pierce College in Tacoma for five years prior to being hired at BC. “[My] goal is to change students’ lives for the better,” he said, “[and] to make a meaningful difference in their lives. There are so many daily life lessons that my students and I are blessed to share together. Ultimately, it is an experience of great music making, excellent performances and a journey that builds a great work ethic, communication skills, leadership, friendship and ‘Celebration’ of life.” Those who wish to be a part of Celebration for the 2014-2015 school year must audition before June 15, and the group’s final concert of the quarter is June 19 in Carlson Theater.