Fredonia Commencement Eve Pops event will be jazz extravaganza

Submitted Photo New York Voices, a Grammy Award-winning vocal quartet, will be featured when Rockefeller Arts Center presents “Commencement Eve Pops with New York Voices” on Friday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. in King Concert Hall at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

The Commencement Eve Pops tradition continues at Rockefeller Arts Center — and this year’s edition is truly something to get jazzed up about. “Commencement Eve Pops with New York Voices” will be presented on Friday, May 12 at 7:30 p.m. in King Concert Hall at the State University of New York at Fredonia.

In addition to the Grammy Award-winning New York Voices, the concert features two extremely talented student ensembles — The Fredonia Voices and The Fredonia Jazz Ensemble. The repertoire will include jazz favorites like “Orange Colored Sky,” “In A Mellow Tone,” “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” and “Sing, Sing, Sing.”

The critically acclaimed New York Voices have refined their musical style to a high art. They are known for their close-knit voicings, inspired arrangements and unparalleled vocal blend. With deep interests rooted in jazz, Brazilian, R & B, classical, and pop, their music mixes traditional sensibilities with more than a dash of the unexpected.

Like the great jazz vocal groups that have come before — Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Singers Unlimited, and The Manhattan Transfer — New York Voices are firmly a part of the jazz legacy and are dedicated to passing it on to generations to come. In 1997, New York Voices won a Grammy Award for Best Large Ensemble Performance for the CD “The Count Basie Orchestra with New York Voices.”

Formed by Darmon Meader, Peter Eldridge, Kim Nazarian and Sara Krieger, New York Voices had their first performances in 1988. Darmon, Peter, and Kim attended Ithaca College and were part of an invitational alumni group formed to tour the European Jazz Festival circuit in the summer of 1986. In 1989, they signed their first record deal with GRP Records and release their self-titled debut album, “New York Voices.” The group quickly earned domestic and international recognition in the jazz world.

In 1992, Sara Krieger retired her chair and, after auditioning over 60 vocalists from all over the United States, the group found Lauren Kinhan.

The group has performed with a number of influential jazz artists including Ray Brown, Bobby McFerrin, Nancy Wilson, The Count Basie Orchestra, George Benson, Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, The Manhattan Transfer, the Boston Pops, The Metropole Orchestra, Ivan Lins, Paquito D’Rivera, Bob Dorough and many more.

The two featured Fredonia ensembles also have impressive resumes.

The Fredonia Voices, a talented vocal jazz octet, was formed during the spring of 2014. Bruce Johnstone, then Director of Jazz Studies, approached Katelyn Dietz, a Theater Arts and Applied Voice major, about creating a jazz vocal group to perform with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Dietz reached out to Vaughn Faison, Kate Gratson, Lovely Philema, Gabby Carr, Nate Guarnere, Jimmy Hartmann and Alex Behrens to form the octet.

It proved to be a winning combination as the group was able to combine individual talent with a common vision for its future. To this end, the members are committed to incorporating The Fredonia Voices in their careers beyond the college. The Fredonia Voices were featured in two Rockefeller Arts Center pops events in 2015 — “An Evening of Ella and Ellington with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra” and “White Christmas with M-Pact.”

The Fredonia Jazz Ensemble is a premiere ensemble at Fredonia. Its roots go back to 1934, when it was organized as a dance band at the Fredonia Normal School. The band is comprised of and directed by students. The current director is Jesse Torres.

The ensemble, which has nine recordings to its credit, works to further the understanding and enjoyment of big band music through educational outreach concerts and clinics. Guest artists are frequently invited to work with the ensemble and provide public clinics and performances.

“Commencement Eve Pops with New York Voices” is a DFT Communications Pops Series event sponsored by the Fredonia and Silver Creek Penny Savers as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.

Tickets are available through the Campus Ticket Office in the Williams Center, online at and by phone at 673-3501.