The Knox Center recreated the scene of a music lounge with multicolored lights, a packed house and harmonious voices during the Jazz Vocal Night on Monday.
The event, held at the La Strada Ristorante in San Pablo in previous years, made its debut at Contra Costa College showcasing the talent of students and faculty in the music department to the community.
"The energy was pretty up there," bass jazz singer Thomas Marshall said. "I didn't feel nervous, especially while performing up there with the group. It was all spread out evenly."
Family members, friends and college employees attended to applaud and congratulate students for the effort they put in to perform since the semester began.
"It feels good to know people in your school have so much talent," biology major Suzana Monzon said.
Graphic design major Danny delo Santos said he came because he understands stage fright and wanted to support his friends performing in the event.
Jazz-ology, made up of four female students who play professional gigs, opened the concert. The group was applauded loudly after each of its four songs about love and relationships.
Jazzanova blurred out the sound of its musicians playing behind the group as it focused more on scat singing, the art of improvising without words. Its opening song was "The Artist" composed by Miles Davis with the head soprano Lucia Perez as the trumpet and others representing the big band.
The concert also displayed the talent of soloists Jamie Robinson and Gayle Willhelm from music professor Roger Letson's Jazz Solo Voice course and Jazz Singers, a group of students from music department chairperson Stephanie Austin's Vocal Chamber Music class. Bassist Adam Gay, drummer Greg German and pianists Walter Bankovitch and Steve Scholz backed up each group during the entire show, occasionally playing a solo.
Dr. Austin, who directed the concert, occasionally came onto stage to assist the singers.
"I helped in places where (the performers) weren't sure about themselves. You can see the hesitancy in their faces," she said. "But overall, they were terrific. They were excited to bring the craft to the stage."
Students part of the Jazz Singers are required to join the chamber choir course to gain experience in a variety of genres rather than just focusing on classic voice.
Marshall said being part of both groups was not his plan but he is glad to have expanded his talent.
"I never thought about (jazz,) but it's fun singing it," he said.
Selenne Ruiz, Jazzanova’s second soprano, said the groups have prepared for Jazz Vocal Night since January with only a self-rating competition held in February as preparation for Monday night’s event.
"It prepared us for the performance tonight because it taught us what to expect while performing in front of an audience with all the excitement and nerve," she said.
Lisa Feldman, alto singer of Jazz-ology, has taken classic solo and ensemble classes from Letson and Austin.
Feldman said she came to CCC to study with Letson because “anyone who sings knows him.” He has won national awards for singing and teaching.
There are three vocal ensembles, each at different levels, she said. In order to join one of the more experienced ensembles, the student must audition and be selected.
"(Austin) invited me to audition in the summer last year," Feldman said.
She is fond of the music department’s support, especially Austin’s.
"Her quality of instruction is absolutely excellent. It's university level."