by Scott Gotschall
The IU Jazz Studies Department and Jacobs School of Music welcomed Dr. Jeremy Fox this fall as a Visiting Assistant Professor in Vocal Jazz. Jeremy brings a depth and understanding of vocal jazz ensemble performance and arranging that is highly regarded. We were able to “sit down” with him and further explore his initial thoughts, expectations, and experiences on campus and in Bloomington.
Grammy-nominated Dr. Jeremy Fox is a highly in-demand clinician, and has presented clinics and served as guest conductor of All-State and Honor choral and instrumental ensembles throughout the U.S. and Canada. He earned his B.M. degree in Piano-Jazz Studies from Western Michigan University, and his M.M. and D.M.A. in Jazz Composition from the University of Miami.
Jeremy has received 10 awards from Downbeat magazine, including Best Written Song, Best Arrangement, Studio Engineering, and for his small vocal ensemble. Jeremy’s arrangements are published with Sound Music Publications, UNC Jazz Press, Alfred Music, as well as on his website. He has written for such artists as John Secada, Theo Bleckmann, Cadence, m-pact, Terence Blanchard, and Metropolitan Opera singers Eric Owens and Denyce Graves.
Jeremy’s inaugural album “With Love” (Jazzbill Records) was released on iTunes and Amazon in April 2014 to rave reviews (All About Jazz , Jazz Times). It features his big band and orchestral arrangements for a phenomenal line-up of singers, including Rose Max and Ramatis Moraes, Kevin Mahogany, Kate Reid, Kate McGarry, Lauren Kinhan and Peter Eldridge (from the New York Voices), Anders Edenroth, Derek Fawcett, Wendy Pedersen, and Sunny Wilkinson.
I understand the two vocal jazz ensembles you lead in the Jacobs School of Music just performed their first concert, which featured Sunny Wilkinson, on November 3rd. How do you feel things are going with the groups?
JF: Both Vocal Jazz Ensemble 1 and IUnison hit their peak in our Fall Concert with Sunny Wilkinson, who was a huge inspiration to the singers. All semester, I have thrown a steady stream of challenging literature in front of each ensemble, and I couldn’t be prouder of their individual and collective growth so far. It aided the ensembles to have had a couple of informal performances earlier in the semester, such as singing for the Boys & Girls Club in Ellettsville. Now that their Fall Concert has passed, the rest of the semester is being spent in the studio to professionally record some of their repertoire. This serves as a powerful educational tool for the students, allowing them to re-create their music in a manner other than traditional performance.
What have you been doing professionally prior to joining the IU Jacobs School of Music faculty (performing/recording/writing/teaching)?
JF: For eight years, I co-led the collegiate music program at The School for Music Vocations in Creston, Iowa. There I directed and wrote for choral, vocal jazz, and instrumental ensembles – and taught classes in jazz literature, recording studio production, Baroque and 20th-century music theory, instrumental and vocal arranging, and jazz piano. I then returned to the University of Miami to earn a doctorate in Jazz Composition, with a concentration in vocal jazz. During this time, I also released my debut album project called “With Love” of my arrangements for jazz singers – which was lucky to be awarded a nomination in “Best Arrangement for Instruments and Vocals” at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. The past few years, I have been busy writing commissions for professional and scholastic ensembles, serving as a clinician at international festivals, and conducting All-State and Honor ensembles. Also, since 2008, I have co-directed a summer Jazz Harmony Retreat for high school and college music directors – and for 14 years, have directed a series of vocal jazz summer camps around the United States and Canada.
What are your first impressions of teaching at the Jacobs School of Music? How are you enjoying working with the vocal jazz ensembles?
JF: I am enjoying every single day here. The faculty (both in and outside of the jazz department) have been so cordial to me. And the jazz voice students at the Jacobs School of Music are uniquely passionate, hard-working, and extremely talented. They seem to realize that being here is both an honor and a responsibility – a view that I share with them. More importantly, the students seem to be acting on that realization every day. I look forward to helping these students move forward in their education, and help them pave the way for their future successes. For the vocal jazz ensembles, I hope to honor the past by setting the bar continually higher each day. It is important to me that I do everything possible to enable this art form to flourish at Indiana University. Though the IU vocal jazz ensembles as they stand are only in their fifth year, there is no reason why Jacobs should not be on par quality-wise with the most successful and longstanding collegiate vocal jazz ensembles around the country.
Do you plan to write for the vocal jazz ensembles? How has Bloomington been advantageous for your composition work?
JF: Yes, some of my newest arrangements are among the pieces the vocal jazz ensembles are singing. And now that the craziness from the start of the school year has begun to subside, I plan to keep writing new pieces for each ensemble. I also enjoy writing choral and orchestral pieces, and hope to find outlets for that as well while I am here, perhaps collaborating with other faculty members or ensembles. It is great fun to stretch the boundaries of music-making through these types of collaborations!
How are you enjoying Bloomington?
JF: My fiancée Kathryn and I enjoy it – we love the overall warmth of everyone here. We also enjoy the cultural offerings on and off campus, and the fantastic coffeeshops and restaurants. My childhood was spent in Fort Wayne, though admittedly it has been over 20 years since I last lived in this state. It may sound cliché, but it really is nice to be back home again in Indiana!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JF: If people would like to keep track of vocal jazz at the Jacobs School of Music, they should feel free to follow us on social media through our “Vocal Jazz at IU Jacobs School of Music” Facebook page.