Tonight is a big night for Western Michigan University’s vocal jazz department, as students of the internationally renowned Gold Company program prepare to take the Miller Auditorium stage with legendary Grammy Award-winning ensemble, the New York Voices.
The concert, presented as part of the annual “Jazz Masters at Miller” series, will feature abundant collaboration between the visiting professionals and WMU students. The show is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $28 each, though students can take advantage of the Bronco ID discount that Miller offers.
For Blake Morgan, a Music Education and Vocal Performance major within the School of Music and a four-year member of the Gold Company program, the Jazz Masters series is a musically enriching school-year highlight.
“Performing alongside a jazz master is surreal,” Morgan said. “Last year, Gold Company performed with Paquito D’Rivera (the Grammy Award-winning Cuban saxophonist and clarinetist) and the level of musicality he produced onstage and in rehearsal was mind-blowing. The New York Voices have already run rehearsals and master-classes with the jazz students at WMU, and their level of talent is almost inhuman. There is an extremely high level of musicianship required to be in Gold Company, but these jazz masters set a standard to be achieved for our group.”
According to Morgan, who “grew up” listening to the New York Voices and “emulating their sound,” the collaboration-laden setlist will feature a new double-choir, call-and-response arrangement of a New York Voices classic, composed specifically for the occasion, as well as other NYV arrangements that have never been made available to the general public or performed by other choirs.
In addition, tonight’s show will feature full independent sets by both the Gold Company and the New York Voices.
The New York Voices visit Western’s campus in the middle of a landmark year of transition for both the School of Music and for the Gold Company program as a standalone. Dr. Stephen Zegree, a legendary WMU fixture with an illustrious list of credits in the jazz community, left the school for a post at the University of Indiana this fall, just as the Gold Company program, a program he had founded, entered its 35th year.
The School of Music, in the midst of celebrating its own 100th anniversary, turned inward for someone to take up his mantle, handing the reigns to Professor Duane Davis, a private voice teacher within the department and a veteran with a storied history in the Gold Company program.
But while the departure of Zegree was a sudden and unexpected blow for many students within the jazz department, Morgan sounded as enthusiastic and optimistic as ever about his Gold Company membership—even noting tonight’s concert as one of his definitive experiences within the program.
“It is an absolute honor for the New York Voices to come to WMU this year to be featured with Gold Company,” Morgan said. “They will be performing at Miller for a price that is far more affordable than what you would pay to see a group of their caliber performing at a club in New York City. These are the real pros performing tonight: they’re who we all aspire to be, as people and as musicians, and we’re so excited.”
Interested in learning more about the concert or purchasing tickets? Visit the Miller Auditorium website or call their box office at