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Student vocalists to be featured with Buffalo Philharmonic
Friday, October 24, 2014

Student vocalists to be featured with Buffalo Philharmonic

Gathering to rehearse in Mason Hall are student performers (from left): Lovely Philema, Gabby Carr, Alex Behrens, Vaughn Faison, Jimmy Hartmann, Nathan Guarnere, Katelyn Dietz and Kate Gratson.

Eight Fredonia student jazz vocalists have been given the rare opportunity to perform at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s “Glorious Gershwin” concert as guests of featured artist and guest conductor Matt Catingub on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 8 p.m., at Kleinhans Music Hall.

“How many students, especially underclassmen, get a chance to be featured with a major philharmonic orchestra? It doesn’t happen very often,” observed Bruce Johnstone, director of Jazz Studies at Fredonia.

The eight students – Katelyn Dietz, a sophomore, of Henrietta; Vaughn Faison, senior, Lyons; Kate Gratson, sophomore, Brooklyn; Lovely Philema, junior, Brooklyn; Gabby Carr, sophomore, Buffalo; Nathan Guarnere, junior, Brockport; Jimmy Hartmann, junior, Irondequoit; and Alex Behrens, freshman, Buffalo – were recruited based on their singing style, ability to master difficult musical arrangements and availability for rehearsals, Johnstone explained.

“They are the absolute cream of the crop; they had to have just the style that I wanted,” Johnstone noted. “These are very unique Gershwin arrangements, and you need to have a particular style of singing that’s difficult to explain in words.”

Students began weekly rehearsals when classes resumed in August, initially singing along with MP3 instrumental recordings that Catingub provided before progressing to a live rhythm section assembled by Johnstone.

Fredonia’s connection to the BPO – and invitation to sing at this concert – was forged by Johnstone, who has frequently played as an orchestra member during the last 10 years. Johnstone and Catingub were both fans of each other’s careers when they met for the first time at a BPO’s “Big Band Salute” concert six months ago. Johnstone was an orchestra member at that performance; Catingub was the conductor. The multi-talented Catingub, who also plays the saxophone and woodwinds, arranges and composes music and also sings, is a candidate for the post of BPO principal pops conductor.

“It turned out that he was a big fan of mine when I was recording with Maynard Ferguson and Woody Herman,” Johnstone recalled, “and I had actually played with his mother, Mavis Rivers, who was a very famous jazz singer in the 1960s, when I was 15 or 16 years old and living in New Zealand. I’ve been very familiar with his music for a long time.”

The Fredonia contingent will sing “There’s a Boat That’s Leavin’ soon for New York,” from “Porgy and Bess;” the perennial favorite, “Fascinating Rhythm,” and the seldom heard, “Soon.” Saxophonist Johnstone will be featured on, “Your Eyes! Your Smile!” and will also perform with the BPO throughout the concert.

Johnstone indicated that the BPO experience and the extensive preparation that leads up to the concert will be particularly valuable to Fredonia singers who aspire to become music educators.

“We’re excited that this opportunity exists, and can promise the audience that they’re in for a really enjoyable musical experience,” Johnstone said.

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