North Carolina Central University
North Carolina Central University is a historically black college and university (HBCU), a comprehensive liberal arts university founded in 1910 by Dr. James E. Shepard. The university is one of sixteen constituent institutions in the University of North Carolina system. NCCU is located in Durham. North Carolina near the culturally diverse Research Triangle area.
About NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble:
NCCU’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble was founded in 1992, and is comprised of undergraduate and graduate student vocalists with backgrounds from all over the globe. The award-winning ensemble’s sound is steeped in the American jazz tradition, and the group continues to be noted for their diverse repertoire and performance acumen. The North Carolina Central University Vocal Jazz Ensemble debuted their first full-length recording, Arrival, in 2010. Arrival emerged as a culmination of years of performing under the tutelage of then director, Mr. Arnold George, jazz studies department director, Dr. Ira Wiggins, and Lenora Helm Hammonds who joined in 2005. VJE is often accompanied by, and performs arrangements from NCCU jazz faculty pianist/arranger Ed Paolantonio.
Other distinctions for the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble include being chosen as the first vocal ensemble invited to perform at the Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival and performances at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. Additionally, the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble was the recent on-air guest, performing live on RealJazz on Sirius XM Radio in New York City with host Mark Ruffin. Finally, Members of the NCCU Vocal Jazz Ensemble were featured guest artists at the 2015 and 2016 Aruba International Jazz. The 2015/2016 academic year marked the 10-year anniversary of VJE director Lenora Helm Hammonds with North Carolina Central University, and in celebration the ensemble will release a new recording in Spring 2017 entitled Take Note. The new recording includes favorites from the vocal jazz standard repertoires of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Take 6. Produced by Lenora Helm Hammonds and Dr. Ira Wiggins, Take Note will be a recording to celebrate the talented students of the NCCU Jazz Studies program.
NCCU Jazz Studies Program
In 1979, NCCU became the first university in the state to offer the Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies. The program has since evolved to include a comprehensive vocal jazz component and the Master of Music degree in both Jazz Composition and Arranging and Jazz Performance. The Jazz Studies program is under the leadership of Dr. Ira Wiggins and offers curricula leading to Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in jazz.
Alumni of the program include internationally renowned solo performing, recording and touring musicians, band leaders, and instrumentalists who have performed with jazz greats including Gregory Porter, Houston Person, Kim Burrell, Prince, Joey Calderazzo, Branford Marsalis and others. In addition, many NCCU Jazz Studies program alums are teaching as adjunct and full-time professors at colleges and universities, and as K-12 music teachers.
Faculty members include guitarist Baron Tymas, assistant director of the program; trombonist Robert Trowers; trumpeter Albert Strong; Arnold George for piano, saxophone; Lenora Helm Hammonds, voice; Maurice Myers, voice; Ed Paolantonio, piano; Thomas Taylor, percussion; Aaron Hill, saxophone; and Damon Brown, bass. Artists-in-residence Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo are also involved in workshops and private instruction.
NCCU’s jazz groups have performed throughout North America, Europe and the Caribbean. Major performances include the Montreux Jazz Festival, Vienna Jazz Festival, Detroit Jazz Festival, New York City Jazz Festival, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Annual Collegiate Jazz Festival at Notre Dame, the Newport Jazz Festival and the International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) festival in Toronto, and at jazz educators’ conferences. Ensembles have earned recognition at numerous college festivals, such as the Villanova Jazz Festival, where they garnered first-place honors. The NCCU Jazz Ensemble and vocalists were invited to perform at the White House for a reception for the state and congressional aides (Clinton administration) and for a political event to welcome First Lady Michelle Obama.