The campus jazz vocal ensemble volunteered to be critiqued by The Four Freshmen when the famed singing group conducted a master class on campus before their concert Nov. 13.
The Four Freshmen is comprised of Curtis Calderon on trumpet, Vince Johnson on bass, Bob Ferreira singing bass as well as serving as percussionist, and last but not least, Brian Eichenberger singing the melody, playing his guitar, and serving as the chief vocal arranger.
The professionals expressed surprise when finding out that the jazz group has had only 11 rehearsals, and only meets once a week for two-hour-long rehearsals.
Ferreira gave the first critique.
“Sing without vibrato, and bring out the melody,” he suggested.
Calderon chimed in.
“Push through everything and give each note its full value,” he said.
After the Jazz Vocals, as they are called, worked on the improvements, the group performed another song. Ferreira noted they had made progress.
“It all comes down to just listening to each other,” he said.
Student Stefanie Cox, one of the jazz singers, said her favorite part about the master class was getting useful, professional advice.
“It really helped us a lot,” Cox said. “We learned that we need to blend more and listen to each other more.”
Another vocalist, student Nicole Pearce, also appreciated the suggestions.
“The biggest piece of advice was not to sing vibrato, but to sing more straight tone,” she said.
“Even just in there I could tell a huge difference.”
Cheryl Taylor, the Jazz Vocals teacher, said her favorite part of the master class was listening to the professionals. “They were wonderful examples for students to listen to, and they helped them listen.”
She said the biggest piece of advice from The Four Freshmen was to listen to top vocal groups and take examples from that.
“It’s great that OCCC is aware that master classes are so helpful,” Taylor said. “It makes me really proud to be a teacher here.”
The master class was about an hour long, and was designed to critique vocal-music students at OCCC. About 20 people attended the master class.
The Four Freshmen gave a little of their history, having started back in 1948. The group has been performing non-stop for 65 years, with new members taking over as others leave.
The four men live in four different parts of the country, and fly to meet each other to prepare for their performances.
“One week we rented a big cabin where we would rehearse, make food, rehearse, sleep, and rehearse,” Calderon told the crowd. “Sometimes we try to send each other the sheet music so it’s not messy when we get together.”
Observers could tell the group really does enjoy performing, especially with each other. The group performed two songs for the master class, then opened the floor for questions from the crowd.
A student asked The Four Freshmen, “I’m guessing you don’t let any girls in your group?” They all laughed. “Well, it is called The Four FreshMEN,” one of them said.
Another student asked, “How exactly do you pick your songs?”
Ferreira replied, “We just pick old songs that we like. Brian does the new arrangements.”
Eichenberger said the four musicians work by consensus.
“There’s no director, never been one. And we’ve made some changes with just the four of us.”
Lemuel Bardeguez, the OCCC Cultural Arts director, expressed his gratitude.
“We are definitely thankful that The Four Freshmen are providing this master class,” he said. “Our community really likes them. They’re a popular group, especially because they’re young. We have had The Four Freshmen four times as part of the Cultural Arts Series.”
The first time was in 2009, which was Bardeguez’s first year as the Cultural Arts director.
The Four Freshmen performed their concert later that night to a sold-out crowd.