Freedom Jazz Choir

‘A shared performance opportunity…’

Over the past 19 years Healdsburg Jazz has emerged as one of Sonoma County’s leading performing arts and music education organizations by developing effective outreach strategies to forge mutually beneficial relationships with the region’s diverse communities.  From its inception Healdsburg Jazz has provided engaging and accessible performance and music education programs to grow its audience and further instill jazz’s core values of respect, civility and cooperation in Sonoma County.  Healdsburg Jazz will build on those connections to maximize the number of people in the Sonoma County region attending and participating in “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

The nation’s deepening polarization makes it more important than ever that Americans embrace their shared values in order to reach across the cultural divide and work together to address our most pressing social problems.  Music is a unique art form that brings community members together in a shared performance opportunity.

With this program of uplifting freedom songs and spirituals, Lift Every Voice and Sing will celebrate the strength of unity and diversity while advancing Healdsburg Jazz’s mission to have music serve as a unifying force in our diverse region. Read more and sign up to join the Freedom Jazz Choir.

Marcus Shelby (r) and Faye Carol by Curtis ThomsonBay Area bassist-composer-historian Marcus Shelby is an-in demand performer and educator, and has received acclaim for blending original and traditional compositions with a variety of other media to create full-scale jazz oratorios and accessible school workshops that provide for audiences a spirited and engaging examination of music’s vital role in bringing people together. Shelby will fully utilize that background in selecting the compositions for Lift Every Voice and Sing.  He will also direct the 20 professional musicians in his orchestra and collaborate with guest artists composer/flautist James Newton and vocalist Ruth Naomi Floyd. Vocalist and assistant choir director Tiffany Austin will assist Shelby in rehearsals of the Freedom Jazz Choir.

Shelby and Austin will meet with the ensemble for four, three-hour Saturday afternoon rehearsals to prepare for the choir for this special concert to be presented on June 10 as part of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival 20th Anniversary Celebration.  These sessions will include in-depth socio-musicology studies of American history and diversity; mastering the program of freedom songs and spirituals that comprises “Lift Every Voice and Sing”; and learning essential performance skills.  Through this process The Freedom Jazz Choir will uplift and empower participants as they explore the social themes underlying the selected music.

Established in 2013, the Freedom Jazz Choir has emerged as one of Healdsburg Jazz’s most successful music programs.  Open to everyone free of charge and regardless of age, background and musical ability, the 100-voice ensemble provides to members ranging in age from 5 to 85 the opportunity to collaborate with acclaimed, professional musicians in rehearsing and performing educational and interactive music programs that explore American history, celebrate diversity’s impact on the national identity and empowers artists and audiences to consider their role in society’s ongoing effort to achieve full equality.

The choir was supported in its first two years by a James Irvine Foundation grant.  The program proved so successful that Healdsburg Jazz budgeted education funds to sustain it for the next two years. The organization suspended the choir in 2017 to devote its resources to launching the countywide Student Jazz Combo Competition.  With that program established, Healdsburg Jazz will revive the choir for a performance at the milestone 20th anniversary festival that will provide to both Freedom Jazz Choir and audience members the opportunity to experience a fulfilling cultural experience that celebrates music’s power to bring people of different backgrounds in together in the most positive and constructive ways.

Lift Every Voice and will promote engagement in the arts among Sonoma County’s ethnically diverse and low-income population by presenting a free educational and culturally relevant program of music.  Freedom Jazz Choir members will have the opportunity to experience large-scale collaboration, group goal setting, personal development, deep cultural inquiry and a uniquely enriching experience with professional musicians.  Lift Every Voice and Sing will provide to its performers and audience the opportunity to rehearse, perform and listen to music that brings communities together and fosters greater compassion and understanding.