Gianna Marchese and the Hillcats will be singin’ and swingin’ their way through the 2016 – 2017 school year in preparation for the release of their newest album next fall.
The Hillcats, the college’s faculty jazz band, will record their spin on a collection of American standards, featuring Marchese, a senior, as their jazz vocalist.
“Our arrangements are fantastic,” Marchese said. “When it all comes together, it’s going to be a really great work of art and soul.”
Marchese said she has learned even more about jazz throughout the album-making process as the Hillcats rehearse, perform, and record.
“Working with Chris [McCourry] and getting to be a part of the process of creating new arrangements of old songs has been a really educational and cool experience,” Marchese said. “Not to mention my voice teacher, Sunny Wilkinson, who continues to inspire my jazz voice every time we get together to sing.”
Chris McCourry, the director of jazz ensembles, said he recognizes Marchese’s talent and dedication to the jazz department.
“I’m so happy to be able to do this CD,” McCourry said. “I hope that someday her grandchildren will be able to hear her.”
This album is not the only evidence of a vibrant jazz program: students can audition for a number of ensembles and take private lessons.
“Everyone is invited to participate and learn about this great art form,” jazz pianist Arlene McDaniel said. “Jazz is a chance for musicians to create what is in their heart and soul without the restrictions of traditional music that is all notated and must be played the same way each time.”
Junior pianist Giannina Imperial, said she enjoys the freedom jazz gives her to create something new and personal out of something old and standard.
“Jazz gives us so much freedom and license to make any bit of music completely new and totally our own,” Imperial said. “The partnership between the classical and ‘jazzical’ creates this really vibrant and fun music scene on campus.”
The Hillcats’ most recent release was “Honeysuckle Rose” in 2012. The album included popular jazz standards such as “Peel Me a Grape,” “Thou Swell,” and “Little Sunflower.”
“Jazz isn’t just a music genre for ‘old people’ — everyone can enjoy it,” Marchese said. “It’s a force that can bring together many generations of music lovers.”