Associate of Arts Vocal Track


Associate of Arts Vocal Track

The CJC Jazz Studies Vocal Track offers students an opportunity to earn an Associate of Arts degree in a vocal program unique to the California Jazz Conservatory.

Vocalists participate in an in-depth program of jazz study and performance, a program designed and proven to transform musicians into artists. Vocalists are immersed in a jazz-centric curriculum, from core music courses (see vocal-specific requirements below), to general studies requirements.


Associate of Arts Curriculum Requirements – Vocalists                                                                                                                                                     

The CJC awards the Associate of Arts degree in Jazz Studies to vocal students who satisfactorily complete 68 credits of study divided among: a) core courses (48 credits); b) elective courses (2 credits); and c) general studies courses (18 credits). (See vocal-specific requirements below.)

The vocal jazz faculty comprises the Bay Area’s preeminent teaching artists – those who specialize in a wide range of styles from the standard jazz repertoire of the Great American Songbook to their own original work.

The CJC Vocal Track offers students the unique opportunity to learn from and perform with a professional rhythm section (piano, bass and drums), comprising the Bay Area’s top jazz musicians on a regular basis.

The California Jazz Conservatory is proud to offer these extraordinary opportunities to the aspiring professional jazz vocalist, and invites you to apply now for an Associate of Arts in Jazz Studies degree.

Vocal-specific course requirements and electives within the Vocal Track curriculum include:


Vocal Performance (12 credits)                                                                                                                                                                                      

The backbone of the Vocal Track is Vocal Performance, a four-semester, 12-credit requirement focusing on repertoire-building, essential to the aspiring professional jazz vocalist.

In the first semester, students focus on learning standard jazz repertoire drawn primarily from the Great American Songbook, addressing interpretation of lyrics, improvisation, group protocol and creating arrangements.

In subsequent semesters, repertoire covered in Vocal Performance ranges from the Great American Songbook, to late 20th and 21st century composers, to students’ original compositions, arrangements and lyrics.

Most importantly, Vocal Performance emphasizes the use of the voice instrumentally, within the context of the small jazz ensemble (piano, bass and drums). Students experience the invaluable, hands-on opportunity to sing with the Bay Area’s top jazz musicians each and every week, providing them with the real-time training they need to become professionals.

Vocal Performance also covers stage presence, on-stage “patter” and mic technique – performance skills vital for the professional singer.

Vocal Performance faculty inevitably includes anecdotes in their teaching – compelling stories about jazz musicians, clubs, and tours that are invaluable to the up-and-coming artist. They also share their viewpoints on practice methods and the time investment necessary to develop artistic expertise.

Students in Vocal Performance are required to attend concerts and workshops, many of which are presented at the CJC and feature visiting artists, CJC faculty and students. In addition, students are required to present written and oral reports.

At the end of each semester, students are featured in the rousing CJC Student Performance Series!

Great American Songbook: The Jazz Standard (2 credits)                                                                                                                              

The Great American Songbook serves as an introduction to the iconic collection of songs that originated in Broadway theatre, musical theatre and Hollywood musical film. They have come to comprise the foundation of jazz repertoire for both vocalists and instrumentalists. Composers whose work is included in the Great American Songbook include Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers and Duke Ellington, among others.

Great American Songbook students are given playlists and leadsheets––including both vocal and instrumental renditions of original and contemporary versions of songs––for practice with backing tracks. The Great American Songbook also focuses on the historical origins of the repertoire and highlights its significance within the jazz art form.

The Great American Songbook is far-reaching and has something for everyone – students discover repertoire completely new to them that becomes personally meaningful.


Lyric Writing (2 credits)                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Lyric Writing is a second semester course and correlates with the second semester of Vocal Performance.

Lyric Writing students are required to write original lyrics, which serve as a springboard for new compositions; it also provides students with a deeper understanding of song forms and melodic development.

Most importantly, students can take their newly crafted lyrics directly into Vocal Performance and sing them with the band!

The course includes discussions and analysis of text from the most influential lyricists, including Cole Porter, Joni Mitchell, Dave Frishberg, Bob Dylan, Kendrick Lamar and Billy Strayhorn among others. Lyrics are written to pre-existing instrumental songs, original material, the blues, and to improvised instrumental solos, a technique called “vocalese.”

Taught in the style of a writer’s workshop, Lyric Writing includes weekly in-class writing assignments, the results of which are shared among the group.

Lyric Writing students also experience the writing of a personal journal, which has proven to be an invaluable creative resource.

Vocal Jazz Ensemble (4 credits, elective)                                                                                                                                                                                    

Vocal Jazz Ensemble focuses on part-singing and tight harmony. This performance ensemble is invaluable in developing a student’s aural skills and understanding of the harmonic structures of modern music.

Vocal Jazz Ensemble covers repertoire from the master vocal jazz ensembles, including Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Take Six and beyond.

Single Line Soloing for Vocalists (6 credits, elective)                                                                                                                                                          

Single Line Soloing for Vocalists is a 3-credit course requirement for vocalists (or an elective for instrumentalists who wish to participate as vocalists), focusing on developing single line soloing techniques idiomatic to the bebop and post-bop traditions, critical to students’ ability to scat sing. This course includes analysis and performance of key transcriptions of bebop and post-bop masters as well as in-class application of the fundamental devices employed in modern jazz.

Advanced Vocal Performance (3 credits, elective by consent of instructor)                                                                                                                                                             

Advanced Vocal Performance is an upper division course incorporating personalized lesson plans for students.  In this extension of Vocal Performance, students are assisted by their professor in creating a personalized repertoire that reflects the particular artistic direction in which a student is moving.

Your choice of repertoire will be open-ended; you may focus, for example, on original compositions, with or without lyrics, creating arrangements of songs from one specific composer. Your repertoire can include various genres from singer/songwriter, rock, R&B, Latin or Americana.

Advanced Vocal Performance strengthens a student’s ability to interact with a rhythm section, developing band-leading skills fundamental to professional-level performance, including on the spot conducting and the ability to communicate specific rhythmic, harmonic and melodic preferences.

Class assignments may include conducting interviews with musicians the student admires, creating a business plan for curating a music series, or writing liner notes for an in-class project.

You must complete four semesters of Vocal Performance before you can enroll in Advanced Vocal Performance as an elective (exceptions may be made for students already at a professional level).


Artist-in-Residence and Vocal Intensive (2 credits, elective, by consent of instructor)                                                                                                                                               

World-renowned vocal master Theo Bleckmann serves as the CJC vocal program’s current Artist-In-Residence.

Mr. Bleckmann is a specialist in contemporary vocal music and is sought after by modern composers who want to use a non-operatic voice as a primary instrument in a symphonic setting, big band, small jazz group or duo.

He also performs as a solo vocal artist, utilizing electronic elements in his performances.

Theo Bleckmann is on the CJC campus one week per semester, and meets with every vocal student for a private lesson, focusing primarily on vocal technique.

Theo will also provide a written report documenting each student’s progress, as well as tracking their development throughout their entire tenure in the program.

Mr. Bleckmann’s expertise is especially helpful to the students’ private instruction teachers, who are invited to sit in on his lessons with their students.

Mr. Bleckmann and Ms. Antonioli (Chair of the CJC Vocal Program) join forces each August to lead the program’s weeklong Vocal Intensive.

This unique course appeals to an international audience of vocalists eager to be at the California Jazz Conservatory for an intense and unique summer experience.