Leyden's Vocal Jazz Ensemble featured in Downbeat Magazine
Leyden's Vocal Jazz Ensemble from the 2019-20 school year was recently recognized by Downbeat magazine as a 2020 Downbeat Student Music Award winner in the Small Vocal Jazz Group category. Ensemble member Katie Dermody also was named Outstanding Soloist for her solo part in "New Day."
The ensemble was featured in the June 2020 issue of Downbeat Magazine, a Chicago-based publication that covers the jazz and blues scene as well as recognizing outstanding student musicians throughout the United States. This is the third consecutive year the ensemble has been recognized by Downbeat.
The group received outstanding performance recognition in the high school blues/pop/rock category. Groups are recognized by age group, including junior high, high school, and undergraduate levels. Categories also include other vocal styles and instrument-only ensembles.
A part of the music department's co-curriculum choir offerings, the ensemble performs under the guidance of choral director Stacy Cunningham.
"This is a huge honor and I'm so proud of our kids and the music they make," says Cunningham, referring to the ensemble. "The musicians in this ensemble are dedicated, inspired and passionate about music and vocal jazz. They earned this recognition by accepting the challenge and working hard. As a group they learned, grew a lot and shared their music."
Cunningham says soloist Katie Dermody deserves "a special shout out for earning an Outstanding Soloist award for her solo in the song 'New Day.' I'm very proud of her."
Started in 2006, the small, audition-only ensemble performs at events like the holiday, spring and pops concerts, as well as a variety of festivals.
A member of the music department for 18 years, Cunningham works with five curricular choral ensembles and a few independent study students each year. She created the GraceNotes and three levels of Vocal Jazz at Leyden: Jazz Choir, Vocal Jazz Ensemble and the Women of Jazz.
She also is responsible for the Chamber Singers and the district's musicals. Under her direction, the Leyden choral students have toured and competed in Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Florida and New York.