Category Archives: Vocal Jazz

What is MSMISP? -or- Who Wants $1000 of Free Sheet Music?

We had the good fortune to speak with TMEA about the MSMISP grant program more in depth. They were very helpful in providing answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. We thought we would share what they had to say.

 The Middle School Music Instructional Support Program (MSMISP) is a grant program from TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) for 6-8th grade Choir, Orchestra and Band directors in Texas. It will provide $1,000 (yes, a full grand!) for sheet music to programs who are selected in the 2014 – 2015 school year. If you end up going over the grand TMEA will give you then your district will be billed for the difference. Penders is offering free shipping so you can make full use of your thousand without worry.

In order to qualify the director must have current membership with TMEA and teach at a Texas middle school. Applications may be submitted from September 15, 2014 to October 15, 2014. There is a total of $500,000 that will be allocated based on current funding and size of the program. So, if you want a snapshot of your program’s chances of getting this money, simply divide your budget by the number of students you have. If your dollar-per-student is lower than the state average you will have a great shot at getting a grant.

TMEA has told us that as of September 24, 2014there are only 230 applications filed, that means that even if you have a million dollars in the your budget you should still apply. There are currently 2,800 qualified campuses in Texas so odds are most of you haven’t even heard of this program. Even if you teach programs at multiple schools you can apply, the grant money is program specific not director specific. Even private school programs can get this money so you really have no reason not to apply.

Let’s get one thing straight, though, this music may only be used for sheet music designed for a full ensemble so you won’t be able to fund your next few years of solo and ensemble with this money. It also can’t be used for pop pieces such as show tunes or accompaniment CD’s. A limited number of sight-reading pieces will be acceptable in TMEA’s view. Finally, choral applications with less than 10 individual sheets per piece will be asked to bring that number up to an amount that can serve a choir rather than can be used for perusal. TMEA’s explicit goal is to place challenging music in front of every middle school choir, orchestra and band student in Texas.

Your application will need to be submitted with a quote from a qualified vendor that includes shipping (again, Penders has free shipping on all MSMISP quotes). TMEA will review each piece and let you know if something doesn’t work for the use of the money. If you get the grant the quote will then be sent back to the vendor who will fill your order will be paid directly from TMEA. They are considering allowing refunds and exchanges in extreme scenarios only but will be subject to an approval process at TMEA before they can be completed.

On their site TMEA has outlined some criteria to help you select music appropriate for this program.

Quickly they are:

  • Works that offer insight into significant composers.
  • Works that have cultural, historical relevance as defined by the TEKS.
  • Works that extend the technical demands and musical limitations normally associated with middle school repertoire.
  • Works that can be related to other artistic genre such as dance, visual arts and literature

If you were confused by some of these points don’t worry, so were we.

First, we asked what their definition of a significant composer was. They told us it is going to be anyone of historical or musical significance to include contemporary composers (think Tichelli, Whitacre and the like) and those doing Hollywood music (John Williams, Danny Elfman, Howard Shore and others). But again, NO POP.

In regards to the last point about relating to other genres, they said a piece would qualify under this condition if it could be related to another academic subject and specifically quoted ‘Of Sailors and Whales’ by Francis McBeth to relate to literature, ‘Solitary Dancer’ by Warren Benson to relate to dance and any piece with multiple time signatures or difficult rhythms to relate to math. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list so be creative when applying this one.

While these may seem restricting, TMEA has told us that anything on the UIL list that is appropriate for the average 6 – 8th grade ensemble will be fair game but they stressed that pieces grade 3 and above are their preference. This list is primarily meant to guide your selection of music outside the UIL list.

TMEA wants to work with you to provide your students with the best music education available. They will be reviewing each application personally and will do line by line acceptance of pieces rather than whole application rejection or acceptance. If something you selected is outside their expectations they will contact you. But feel free to contact TMEA or Penders with any questions or concerns you may have.

 TMEA wants to give you $1000 in music and my barber always told me to never reject money more than once.

 Get your application in now! Penders can help you do it. If you have any more questions then please email or call us (our information is below). You can also send us your list of music and we will return your proposal within one business day so you can get your application in quickly.

 Pender’s Music Co

 band@penders.com choir@penders.com orchestra@penders.com

1 (800) 772-5918

Vocal Jazz Ensemble, anyone?

It’s Choral Cache Thursday @ Pender’s Music Co.! As we begin 2011, we also begin a new initiative — The Pender’s Buzz — an added way in bringing content, resources, teaching tidbits & strategies, social media and more to our loyal customers. And since our home base is in Texas, early 2011 is filled with preparations in getting ready for TMEA. So it’s quite fitting that one of our inaugural posts begins with just that! So, here we go…

Don’t miss all of the Alfred choral sessions at TMEA February 9-11! School choral reading sessions will feature incredibly popular clinician Sally K. Albrecht presenting new choral arrangements of pop titles that can be performed by both large and small choral ensembles! When you get a chance, check out Alfred’s clinic schedule!

The annual Jazz Education Network Conference was just last week, so while the genre is fresh on our minds, it’s a great time to evaluate the ins and outs of adding a vocal jazz ensemble to the choral curriculum. Small vocal groups are really popular right now, so take a look at this article, entitled How Do I Start a Vocal Jazz Ensemble by Darmon Meader, Arranger, Saxophonist, Conductor, Singer, and founder of New York Voices:

“The vocal jazz ensemble world has continued to grow and develop over the past few decades. Over the past 50 years, groups such as Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Singers Unlimited, The Manhattan Transfer, and New York Voices have given this idiom significant exposure. Like instrumental jazz before it, vocal jazz has become more and more respected in the public school education system.

However, the vocal jazz ensemble is a bit of a “mutt” or hybrid, which can often confuse and frustrate choral enthusiasts and educators. Though an SATB style of music, the roots of the style are deeply ingrained in instrumental jazz. SATB vocal jazz voicings are often more related to jazz piano voicings or big band saxophone section writing than to traditional choral sensibilities.

Over the years, I have had many choral directors approach me, asking how to start a vocal jazz ensemble. Many of these directors had vast choral experience, but were new to the jazz idiom and found the whole thing a bit daunting. So, what does this mean for the choral instructor who is venturing into this for the first time? First of all, it is important to have a solid understanding of basic jazz harmony. Understanding and being able to recognize (both visually and aurally) common jazz chord progressions, song forms, chord symbols, and upper-structures such as 9, #11, & 13 are important steps to being able to develop a solid vocal jazz choir.


Most SATB vocal jazz writing uses a concept called “four-way close” writing. This means that the harmony is conceived from the melody note down, with all chord notes (including upper-structure notes) in play. What this means is that the vocalists will often be singing much more dense and challenging harmonies than found in their traditional choral repertoire. The Sopranos almost always sing the melody, which is usually the easiest part. The Altos may have some challenging harmony notes, but more often then not they are still singing in a comfortable relationship with the Soprano part. The Tenors and Basses usually have the most challenging parts, so it is safe to say that your vocal jazz ensemble will only be as solid as the men that sing in the ensemble. Your male vocalists will need extra attention to develop their ears for this type of challenging harmony. In addition to traditional warm-ups, give your men some warm-ups that develop their jazz harmony senses: hearing and singing tri-tone 7ths and 3rds between the two parts, singing major and minor 2nds between parts, and singing major and minor 7ths between parts. These are just a few ideas that reflect the types of harmonic relationships found in vocal jazz writing.

Even though the Alto, Tenor, and Bass parts are often less melodic, they are just as important as the Soprano part. So, encourage the lower voices to think of their parts not only as harmonic support, but as melodic entities unto themselves. In New York Voices, we often talk about thinking in two planes at once: the vertical plane involves tuning, matching vowels and tone, and dynamics, while the horizontal plane involves the melodic direction of all four parts.

Vibrato or no vibrato? As I mentioned earlier, vocal jazz is a direct off-shoot of instrumental jazz. Since the Bebop era and beyond, instrumental jazz has used vibrato sparingly, more as a color or device than as a natural part of the sound. This developed both for stylistic and harmonic reasons. By the nature of jazz writing, straight tone often is required to allow the harmonies to resonate properly, whether being played by a big band, or sung by a choir. With that said, there is room for some vibrato at times. Some songs may incorporate a looser style or gospel influences where vibrato is more appropriate. You also may find that longer chords may allow for vibrato to be added once the harmony has been established. Also, the larger your ensemble, the less room there is for vibrato.

A couple of closing thoughts:

• Listen, listen, and then listen some more. The more jazz your students listen to, the more comfortable they will become with the idiom.
• When picking repertoire, be realistic about the reach and abilities of your ensemble. We would all love to sing Gene Puerling arrangements, Take Six repertoire, or the entire New York Voices songbook, but most groups are not ready for that level of harmonic and rhythmic complexity. Explore easier and medium level repertoire to find music that will challenge you and your ensemble, without overwhelming them.
• Lastly, if you have an instrumental jazz program in your school, try to connect with the instrumental jazz faculty and students. Your instrumental jazz instructor might be able to add valuable input, and you also might find a few instrumental students that would like to sing in your ensemble. Who knows, you might have a budding young singer sitting in the sax section of your school’s big band. Come to think of it, that’s how I got my start in all of this vocal jazz craziness!”

Choral Cache Thursdays, the series, will post to www.pendersbuzz.com a couple of times a month, with information from our staff, our publisher partners, guest bloggers and more. Come back to this site, or access it from our main Home Page, to find out the latest buzz!

(Article provided by Alfred Publishing, Co.)