Thursday, August 29, 2013

NJPAC Jazz for Teens - The Students and Their Letters

Tom DiCarlo, John Ianuzzi, Jason Teborek, Roseanna, Makyra, Destiny, Bemigho, Osa, Sheila, Vania, Caleb - Recording

The Concert! Lynn Z., Brittany H., Grace K., Makyra H., Osa O., Destiny T., Roseanna, D'Ana, Bemigho
 Sam B., Brittany H., Lynn Z., Rebecca C., Makyra H. NJPAC

The Letters I will always cherish- Thank you !
Heidi Burgermaster  As a young vocalist, I was dead set on becoming a Broadway star.  This meant that as I entered high school,  I was focused on belting and the dramatic heart wrenching ballads of shows like “Les Miserables and Miss Saigon.”  Since I was a fairly accomplished piano player by that age, I loved to accompany myself but when I wasn't singing, I was learning jazz standards to play.  When the NJPAC Jazz for Teens program was brought to my attention, I was very unsure about making the leap from one vocal genre to another.  But at 15 years old, I just wanted to sing!  And with my limited knowledge of jazz piano, I decided to audition. 

It was the fall of 2001 when I started the jazz program at NJPAC.  I remained in the program semester after semester until I finished high school in 2004. My dedication to these Saturday morning classes came from two things: my unconditional love for music, and our wildly inspirational and musical teacher Roseanna Vitro. Roseanna was always the kind of teacher we  looked forward to seeing bright and early on a Saturday morning. (which is a lot to say for teenagers!)  She approached every class with the same goal in mind- to further support and nurture our knowledge and love of jazz.  Roseanna's extensive musical intelligence and experience in the jazz world made every lesson exciting and helped me begin to have a deep appreciation for jazz. The creativity that she brought out in all of us was uncanny. For me, as a somewhat self- conscious 15 year old, scatting was out of the question. It required far too much on the spot improvisation for someone who was new to this kind of musical expression. Roseanna made it her job to make sure I felt confident enough to get on stage at the year-end recital and scat in front of hundreds of people. She succeeded through her determination, imparting to me her musical intellect and inspiring me to be able to conquer my vocal fear.  I had never felt more proud of my musical ability. I knew then that my Broadway dreams had been far surpassed by my love for jazz.  After graduating high school in 2004, I went on to obtain my Bachelor of the Arts degree from New School University with a concentration in Jazz Vocal Performance.  Since then, I have performed, arranged, composed and practiced to become a better jazz vocalist.  My musical life was completely altered by Roseanna's incredible support and all that she taught me in the three years I spent with her. 

Gabriella Sarmago
I have been singing as long as I have been speaking (more than 22 years), so I have had many voice teachers in my life. Roseanna Vitro is one of those rare teachers that I have had the privilege to learn under. I can't even begin to scratch the surface on how much she taught me in less than two years at Jazz for Teens. Every Saturday, she would have an abundance of sheet music and recordings for us to bring home and work on (and I still work on). Our time with her never seemed long enough. She emphasized the importance of theory, had wonderful ways of training us to achieve complete confidence in different vocal techniques and styles. I was timid, confused and unsure of myself as a singer before meeting Roseanna. But she opened me up, patiently helped me through my struggles, corrected me, defended me, and equipped me with knowledge, professional tact with other musicians, and freedom to try, fail and practice until the music sounded exactly how I wanted. Because of her, I got into my college's jazz group as a freshmen, I sight read better, I walk into every single jazz-based audition with ease, I listen to a whole new world of music, I can scat, I understand theory (even after 8 years of playing the flute and piano, she was the one who made it click), my voice is more flexible, and per her advice to play an instrument alongside other jazz artists, I even picked up playing another instrument (the ukulele). She is a gem of a person, an excellent vocal coach, a passionate teacher, and someone I admire very much.

Tatev Yeghiazaryan
Being a student at Jazz for Teens Program at NJPAC was a great experience. Our vocal lessons were embellished with Roseanna Vitro's vibrant character and ability to engage all the students in her lesson plans. We had a fantastic trio with us and Roseanna taught and always encouraged us to create unique arrangements for our pieces and lead with grace and knowledge. I have learned many useful vocal exercises, phrasing secrets and jazz standards from Roseanna and will always cherish the memories of our fun lessons! *Tatev is currently making a film, titled: “Off the Wall”.

Ms. Makyra Kantrese Harden
My name is Makyra Harden and I am currently a student at NJPAC’s  Jazz For Teens Program and I have been for the past four years. I would’ve liked to thank you, the administrative staff, for the wise selection of my Vocal Instructor/ Mentor, Ms. Roseanna Vitro. She has been a true assett to my development as a jazz vocalist. She is committed to her craft and believes in her students. It is her faith in me that has shaped me into the character I am today. There were many days I felt like giving up, and questioned if this discipline was right for me, but whenever I felt doubtful, it was Ms. Roseanna who taught me that “anything worth having is worth working for.” So I give it my all both on and off stage, which has ultimately brought forth success. Not only has she helped me grow as a vocalist, but as a performer as well. She taught me the importance of stage presence, learning music theory, and effectively communicating with instrumentalists. Ms. Roseanna also stresses the importance of active listening, which is key to the development of good vocal technique and improvisation. It was here at NJPAC that I came to the realization that music is my passion, and I cannot picture myself doing anything else. Therefore it is essential for me to thank those who have taken an active role in the enhancement of God’s gift to me.  It was the patience of Mrs. Roseanna Vitro and NJPAC for believing in my craft and giving me the opportunity to share my talent with the world.

Destiny Tucker
Mrs. Vitro has taught me to be more open to other music. Pop isn't completely bad, but more people really should get into jazz in my generation. It's the root of all music and is completely beautiful. Mrs.Vitro has kept me excited for class with her lively personality and I've learned so much. From improv to theory, she's helped me grow. One 'bada ba ba' at a time. She is a fantastic teacher, always ready to help and makes everyone smile!  She helped jazz up my life! Go Roseanna! Destiny Tucker

Michaelina (Micki) Dupnik (2010 grad)
Roseanne Vitro was a wonderful teacher of mine. I graduated from NJPAC’s Jazz for Teens in 2010, participating for two years. The amount of knowledge I received in those two years about jazz vocals was extraordinary, and I cannot thank Roseanna enough.

I remember my Jazz for Teens audition quite well. I was extremely nervous, but Roseanna made me feel immediately comfortable. I don’t know if it was her elegance or that fiery red hair we have in common, but all my fears and concerns went out the window. I was thrilled when I was accepted into the program, and was excited to start.

I will never forget my two hour commute up to Newark, NJ to sing in Roseanna’s class. It was well worth every minute. Coming to Jazz for Teens, I had very little jazz vocal experience. I received lessons a year before, but Roseanna made my performance skyrocket, whether it be learning to control my belt (I would tend to let it loose too often), or working on my then-nonexistent stage presence. She would help to expand our song repertoire with weekly CDs, which we had to have mostly memorized by the next week. She cared for all of her students and always helped push us past our limits. Scatting was a huge hurdle for me to overcome during my time with Roseanna. Being a piano player, I can see all the notes laid out in key form when I solo and know exactly what I will play. The voice is completely different! I felt embarrassed singing wrong notes, and felt I would never progress. I am happy to say, I am a scatting machine now preferring it over piano soloing, all thanks to Roseanna, the scat master! I will still remember the absolutely strange syllables she would sing, that somehow formed beautiful musical lines. I am so honored to have been a student of hers because I can honestly say, I would never be the musician, vocal and piano, I am today without her.

Even though I am starting my senior year studying Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering at Boston University, jazz has been and will always be a huge part of my life. My jazz combo at BU is what keeps me sane in all the craziness of the school year, and I know I will continue even after I graduate. Roseanna Vitro was and still is an amazing teacher of mine. I will never forget what she has taught me and she will always be not only the musician, but the strong, confident woman I will strive to be.

Rebecca Nicole Chubay
My name is Rebecca Nicole Chubay, and I am a third year Vocal Performance major at Berklee College of Music.  While still in high school, I had the pleasure and the privilege of studying jazz vocals with Roseanna Vitro at NJPAC’s Wachovia/Wells Fargo Jazz for Teens program. During those two years, I would spend every school week looking forward to my time with Roseanna on Saturdays!

Roseanna is an amazing artist, an awesome teacher, and a very lovely person who has always greeted me with a smile. She possesses a great knowledge of jazz, which she generously shares with all of her students. She taught me everything from standard repertoire of the great composers, to differentiating between tone qualities and stylistic elements used by various singers, to learning how to scat sing and honing any natural abilities in that area, to working effectively with jazz combos. Her expertise and enthusiasm inspired me to continue pursuing the study of jazz, and definitely prepared me for Berklee. At my Berklee audition, I felt totally comfortable, and they said to me, “Boy, you’re ready to go!” Since then, I have received scholarships and high rating scores, even a “perfect” 8 in improvisation.  Roseanna Vitro is a true gem, and a wonderful asset to any jazz program! Sincerely,  Rebecca Nicole Chubay

Vania Walker (new voice student NJPAC Jazz for Teens)
Roseanna Vitro is a wonderful teacher, one of my favorites actually. You helped me so much as a singer! I've learned a lot of things from your class like discipline and mostly confidence. Before I started working with you nobody knew I liked singing. Now I'm more open and have more confidence thanks to you.

Michael J. Rodriguez - (Berklee School of Music scholarship recipient and Broadway performer -“Rent” 2012)  - 
 Mrs. Vitro is a wonderful teacher.  If it weren't for her I would not know any of my jazz theory, or how to conduct myself in a jazz setting, nor would I have ever experienced what it was like to professionally record a jazz standard. She is an amazing teacher and not only for jazz, but for learning the industry and how it works.

Steve Lovell (formerly Stephen McClean when I attended NJPAC Jazz for Teens)
Roseanna Vitro is just more than a great vocalist, but also a great teacher! I have learned so much from her. I attended Jazz for Teens as a shy sophomore in high school. Roseanna took me out of my comfort zone. She taught me stage presence and how to improvise lyrically as well as melodically.
 I have had the opportunity to open a presentation for Ms. Maya Angelo, as well as being a part of the NBC program, “The Voice”, plus I performed for the L.A. Lakers Game and recently     I was signed as a “B.E.T. Music Matters Artist.”
I truly believe ALL of Roseanna's teachings are a huge reason why I was able to accomplish these things! She is such a wonderful, loving, and fun person as well as a great teacher. I can’t thank her enough for all of her help and her support with my career.

Michele Freed
I studied at NJPAC’s Wachovia Jazz for Teens for two years, from the fall of 2007 through the spring of 2008.  In the spring of 2007, I won the Groningen Award.  Today, I am a recent graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree in jazz composition, as a vocal principle.  I can say with great gratitude that I learned so much about singing, working in the industry, building and maintaining a career, professionalism, and the history and current state of jazz from Roseanna Vitro.

Roseanna’s classes each Saturday were far more than vocal training; they are what spawned a passion for jazz that led to my chosen degree program and career.  Not only is she a talented performer with an ascending career, she is a wise and gifted teacher.  She works with each student individually to help advance him or her in whatever way she can.

I have always held a special place in my heart for NJPAC, in part because of all my wonderful teachers -- no one more so than Roseanna.  I have studied with at least fifteen vocal teachers in my long journey studying music and many more composition and theory teachers.  However, I learned the most about my voice, improvisation, and the great American Songbook from Roseanna Vitro.  Most of my charts, my warm ups, and even my backing tracks are from my time spent studying with her.
In addition to being a great teacher, Roseanna has continued to be my mentor.  Although it has been five years since I studied with Roseanna at NJPAC, I have been fortunate to maintain a professional relationship.  She keeps up to date with her students in a way that is both generous and thoughtful.  Roseanna is one of the few professors I know I can contact for advice, guidance, and wisdom.  Her “lessons” have not ended at the doors to NJPAC, and for that I am eternally grateful.  I hope this helps convey what Jazz for Teens means for us students. 

Bemigho Ellu (current NJPAC student)  
Thank you for all you have given me as a teacher at NJPAC. I will be sure to wire some “Positives” your way. I have learned so much about music from you. I am a better singer and you helped me to open my mouth more and taught me how I should not nervous when I am near the microphone.

The Teachers Jazz for Teens

Mike Ledonne,Earl McIntyre, Don Braden, Dion Parson, Andy McKee, Bruce Williams, Ron Jackson, Valery Ponomarev & Ro

1999 - 2013 Vocal Jazz Teacher - Jazz for Teens- NJPAC The Story

  In 1998, Ed Joffe, music director of NJCU, asked if I could create a vocal jazz program at New Jersey City University. I said that I would try. I've been performing in one way or the other my entire life.  I've learned from some of the finest jazz musicians in the world and created twelve albums under my name, but the thought of being a teacher was scary yet intriguing. I fell in love with teaching and working with young singers. I am dedicated to exposing singers, young and old, on to the history of jazz, ear training, repertoire, rhythm, beginner piano, lyric interpretation, lyric improvisation, scat singing, arranging, stage presence and the business (and what a business it is).
  Along in 1999, my good friend, Don Braden asked if I would take Dena DeRose's chair as the voice teacher for the Jazz for Teens class at the NJPAC on Saturday's. I said, yes, especially when I learned that Phillip Thomas, the creator of our program, along with Dorthaan Kirk of WBGO, mandated that all the teachers must be performers and good teachers. The teachers were given great respect, concerts once a year in The Victoria Theater. Each year a different teacher performed along with a famous jazz icon in concert who would talk to the students before or after their concert. We brought in Horace Silver, Cedar Walton, Joe Lovano, Ron Carter and Bennie Golson to name a few. The students were exposed to a myriad of great jazz artists and they heard their teachers perform along side the masters.
   Joanna Gibson was our program coordinator and she worked very hard and ran a tight ship at Jazz for Teens. In corporate companies and performing arts centers, one can always expect changes when a new administration comes in or when a pivotal leader departs. Joanna departed for a new married life and was not replaced for three years. Many wonderful people I enjoyed working with moved on, ie. Jeff Griglak and Sanaz Hojreh and Joris Teepe, our bass teacher for many years.   
   In 2011, NJPAC hired a new CEO, Mr. John Schreiber, a famed jazz producer known for working with George Wein. A gentleman with many accomplishments under his belt and a love for jazz; what could be better than that? Jazz for Teens was in dire need of strong leadership and advertisement.
The teachers were ecstatic to welcome in a real jazz lover as CEO of NJPAC. Fortunately at the same time, great bassist Christian McBride and fine vocalist, Melissa Walker started "Jazz House Kids" in Montclair, NJ. Our jazz community is a family, even when we squabble within the family, jazzers are family around the world, so we welcome another wonderful program for teens to New Jersey.
   I have loved teaching at NJPAC and nothing would make me happier than to see Jazz for Teens thrive in a new season.  I love all the teachers I have worked with; Don Braden, head of our jazz program, Mike Ledonne, Dion Parson, Andy McKee, Ron Jackson, Bruce Williams, Steve Colson, Valery Ponomarev, Earl McIntyre. Thank you all for your great musicianship and inspiration. 
   I'd like to thank all of the students who wrote to me when they heard I was leaving.  All good things must come to an end for new beginnings to start.  Each student wrote beautiful statements about  our NJPAC Jazz for Teens Program and me as their teacher. I've shared these statements and a few photos as a testament and memory to the past 14 years and the knowledge and love that was exchanged. I've given my best to be a good teacher. I'm so proud of what our students have accomplished.  I love, love, love them and wish the program and all the new students, teachers and administrators the best of luck.