All that jazz (is gone)
Yet another lost arts program at MRU
With the news still weighing heavy over the loss of various arts programs, it can be easy to simply chalk up the loss of yet another program to the recent budget cuts. But for Mount Royal’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble, that wasn’t the case.
The ensemble, which was beginning its fourth year, and formerly led by director Jason Erhardt, was part of an extracurricular program put on by Mount Royal University. They met once a week for two hours to rehearse, and had performances as opportunities arose.
“It’s completely not for credit,” said Erin Boukall, a member of the ensemble since its inception. “It’s just a way for people who love music to stay involved with music – it’s hard to do in this city.”
For those in the group, being a part of the ensemble offered a chance to stay involved in something they loved.
“A lot of us were involved with vocal jazz ensembles when we were in high school,” Boukall said. “After graduating high school [and being in university], it’s pretty hard to be involved in music unless it’s your major.”
However, approximately an hour before their second meeting of the 2013-year, the members of the Vocal Jazz Ensemble received a phone call informing them of the program’s cancellation. The reason for the cancellation was not lack of funding, as with the majority of the recent arts program losses, but rather due to a lack of members to fill the quota after two members dropped out at the last minute.
“We needed to make a certain headcount of people in the course,” explained Boukall. “And every year, although we do have returning members, a lot of people move [out of Calgary] or go away to school — so we’re constantly fluctuating with a member base. This year, it looks like we were one or two people short, so Mount Royal decided it wasn’t worth it.”
“I can’t even [say] how devastated I was,” she said. “We had already gotten it going for the first class [and] it was such a feat trying to pull everyone together. I Facebooked everyone I knew who I’d ever sang with and I [said], ‘Please, we have to make this work.’”
Apart from the $300-per-semester fee, one of the main reasons why the group has struggled to find members is that unless you are already involved in the ensemble or know someone who is, the Vocal Jazz Ensemble is relatively unknown.
“Mount Royal does some advertising, but I think only on the website and maybe a couple posters,” noted Boukall. “[Finding new members] was really up to everyone.”
According to Boukall, however, Mount Royal is supportive of the program — despite this setback.
“I know there are a lot of people rooting for us,” said Boukall. “Mount Royal has been there. They have supplied us with sound equipment, people to run the sound equipment, and rooms to practice in.”
“When it comes down to it, [Mount Royal] has to think of continuing the conservatory moving ahead as a whole. They can’t just focus exclusively on getting this group running every year.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the Vocal Jazz Ensemble though: according to Boukall, they are planning to once again recruit as many new members as possible and regroup in January.
I want to provide a status update on the vocal jazz ensemble. For the time being we’ve decided to run this ensemble independent of MRU. We still meet on the same schedule but our plan is to self-conduct for most of the season and hire a vocal clinician to help us out from time to time. This saves our members from the $300 per semester fee which helps for recruitment.
The main disadvantage to this is that we don’t have a proper rehearsal space (other than my living room) and we don’t have the sound equipment that was provided by Mount Royal.
Thanks for the article!