What a TO-DO!

It seems that life for the freelancer, which is the work category Julia and I have now solidly placed ourselves in for a while, can be a bit of a battle with the to-do list.  I'm probably not blowing anyone's mind with that assertion.  Still, I think I've been in "to-do" mode for around 16 solid months, at least.  That would be around the time that Julia and I started putting together the initial launch content and design for our ArtistShare project that would ultimately become "Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider."  Anyway, keeping that project running on time while still doing the kind of work that would keep us financially afloat meant staying organized, at least in terms of all those tasks.  

I've noticed, in that time, that when people would ask something of me, a common reply from me would be, "Alright...let me throw it in the iPhone, because if I put it on the to-do list, it'll happen, and otherwise, it won't."  One thing that hasn't been on my to-do list, because, for a few solid months, it was a daily exercise, has been updating this blog.  I left the CD release promo video up for a week or so because I wanted to give people a chance to see it, but the fact that I broke out of my routine was key.  I didn't make a to-do item for resuming the blog at some point, so it didn't happen, and I only put in one entry after that (the one below).  

I'm not automatically a skinny guy, as you probably know, and I'm constantly either in weight loss struggle mode or not-thinking-enough-about-it mode.  When I was in my routine, leading up the CD release, I was doing pretty well, steadily losing fractions of a pound daily.  But stopping the blog and travelling to North Carolina and Utah took me out of my routine, and you'd think that Spring Break would be the ideal time to get back into the routine...but instead, I've spent the whole week focusing on knocking out to-do items, some of which have been pretty big undertakings. More below about that, in the "Catching up with Kerry" segment.

But suffice to say that I've decided to go through another kind of reorganization with my to-do's.  I'm checking out the mind-mapping software for the iPhone, and I'm going to set up a map to which I can refer daily that includes not just to-do items but everyday routine reminders.  These don't have to be competing concepts, I think.  I think I've got it figured out this time...

So...Catching up with Kerry...

Here's what I've been up to over spring break, in no particular order:


  • Rewrote my charts on "Virtual Insanity" and "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing," because they're very popular and the notation and some of the arranging choices have been bugging me.  This, though, has added the to-do item of re-recording demos for those two charts, one of which is in a new key and the other of which has a bunch of new figures added.  Both will be released in their refreshed forms in my *June* new charts release promo.  (That's right, I'm pushing that back to June now, because I want to make sure all to-do items have a chance to be met before I kick the new babies out of their nest).
  • Wrote a new commission on Boyz II Men's "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" for Fife High School in Seattle, directed by Karl Sorensen.  Also recorded the demo on it relatively quickly.
  • Sent out big mailer of the CD to radio stations across the country.  We'd already done our press mailer and our "thank you's" mailer, although we have a supplemental one of those to do, as well.
  • Did some study and tutorial training on Final Cut Pro 7, as Julia and I are planning on doing much more video production starting ASAP.
  • Gave an interview to Jazziz magazine with Julia, for a "Prelude" section feature about the CD to come out soon.
  • Had our first press photo shoot for the album at Sac State with a State Hornet photographer, and did an interview with another Hornet person for a story on our participation on the Monterey Next Generation Festival.
  • Got caught up, then behind again, then caught up again, and now behind again on email correspondence.  That's on my to-do list for today.

And this one isn't an accomplishment, I'm afraid, but just a sad milestone:  My beagle, Nosey, who has been living in Great Bend, KS with my folks for the past five years, had to be put asleep when she had a large growth on her spleen that was painful and inoperable.  She was only about nine years old, and we were pretty devastated to lose her.  If you've been a dog owner, of course you'll understand, but she was very much a part of our family and our lives, and she was extraordinarily sweet and gentle.  Something about losing a being that loves unconditionally is very, very difficult.  Many of my students and friends around here know her, even though she's been out of the state for five years.  She is very much missed.

So what's up for the rest of spring break (about 18 hours left) and beyond?  If I wrote it here, I wouldn't be compelled to come back and write more tomorrow, would I?


The first review is in, and it's a big one!

Terry Teachout has written the first review of our album Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider.  Here's what he has to say:

"Julia Dollison has joined forces with her husband, the singer-arranger Kerry Marsh, to create an album of Maria Schneider's compositions for big band in which all of the original horn parts are sung, not played. (Schneider's own rhythm section provides instrumental support.) More than just a technical tour de force, this CD is a miracle of kaleidoscopically varied vocal color that provides an arresting new perspective on Schneider's musical genius. If you've heard Observatory, Dollison's 2005 debut CD, you won't need to be told twice to get Vertical Voices. If not, get them both."

Teachout is the drama critic for the Wall Street Journal and chief culture critic for Commentary.  He is also a New York Times bestselling author for Pops, A Life of Louis Armstrong.  Our CD is mentioned on his ArtsJournal Blog About Last Night as one of his current "Top 5."


A week later, still Vertical

Gotta dig the in-flight wireless.  OK, American Airlines...plus one to you for now.  Just don't mess it up.  

No video-of-the-day today, or for a little while, probably.  I've waited a week to add a new entry because the story of the entire week (as it remains) is the release of my debut CD with Julia Dollison, "Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider."   Things are going well early on, as we sold a record number of CDs (for us) at our CD release concert at Sac State, and we've had lots of people go to our VerticalVoices.us site and purchase the album.  We're getting lots of very nice emails from listeners who are digging the project, so there's a real sense of gratification already.  There's much to be done with promotion, though, as we want to get the CD in the hands of every fan of ensemble vocals and every fan of Maria Schneider's music.  That's a pretty big target audience, and we're just getting started.  Huge thanks to those who've gotten on board so far!

This is a big week, and there will be plenty to write, and probably a decent amount of down time in which to write it.  I'm currently in the air on my way to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I'll be serving as the choir master for my 10th Ben Folds symphony concert, this time with the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra.  I've got the hang of things now, and we've got six solid arrangements to sing on the gig.  I've chosen eight singers again this time, so I won't be singing the ensemble stuff, but will just sing the classical tenor solo on "Narcolepsy" as I did eight times in the fall.  I particularly like being able to stand outside of the group in the middle of the concert and give entrances and cutoffs, subtly, of course, to give the group confidence.  It seemed to really help the performances when I did that in the fall.

There's one more of these concerts booked at the moment, this time in Denver on October 2nd.  I'll start putting the auditions together for that this summer, to give plenty of lead time for the concert.

After the Raleigh concert, I'll be headed for Salt Lake City, where I'll be meeting up with Julia (flying from Sac) and judging and performing at the Salt Lake City Vocal Jazz Festival.  I believe there will be around ten groups performing during the day, one of which will be selected to perform on the evening concert.  A professional group led by the festival's organizer, Kristie Arnold, will also be on the concert, and I look forward to checking them out.  

And then it's home for a solid seven days of spring break, during which I'll be working on Part Tracks, writing a new commission and recording a few demos.  Should be a really good couple weeks with which to end the month. 

Finally Going Vertical!

Today is the release day for my CD with Julia Dollison, "Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider"!!!

It's going to be a real media blitz for a while, and it's already gotten exciting, starting first with our documentary-style video about the project...

And we'll be sending out our mass email announcement first thing in the morning (if you're reading this and didn't get it, I'm surprised!)

Also, we were really excited to hear a really great story put together by Paul Conley of Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, to be featured on today during Morning Edition.  You can listen to it here...

Finally, here's the full press release:

"These two are the 'genius' duo. They're going to take over the earth."
- Maria Schneider
When vocalists Julia Dollison and Kerry Marsh first proposed the concept of their new ArtistShare® CD Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider to the multi-Grammy Award-winning composer herself, she immediately thought they were "absolutely insane." Using their two voices via studio multi-tracking, the duo would create a virtual vocal orchestra by wordlessly singing the brass and woodwind parts in Schneider's lush, harmonically deep and rhythmically complex compositions. After listening to a sample portion of "Journey Home" that the pair had quickly recorded in their home studio, Maria generously endorsed the project and even pitched the idea to her own orchestra's rhythm section: Ben Monder, guitar; Frank Kimbrough, piano; Jay Anderson, bass; Clarence Penn, drums.  
While the task of recreating vocal versions of Maria's orchestral compositions may seem daunting to some, Dollison and Marsh are not your ordinary vocal duo.  The married team shares a passion for exploring new and challenging vocal possibilities, eager to push the boundaries of what is thought possible in vocal jazz.  Upon hearing the early rough mixes featuring the layered voice parts, Don Heckman of The International Review of Music described them as "remarkable vocal transformations."  Ottawa Citizen's Peter Hum agrees: "I'm with Schneider on this one. You have to give Dollison and Marsh full marks for their ambition, execution, commitment and musical taste."
Julia Dollison was the first vocalist to perform wordlessly with the Maria Schneider Orchestra at New York's Jazz Standard in 2000, singing "Hang Gliding," "Journey Home" and "Allegresse."   After attending the first of these performances, Washington Post columnist Terry Teachout noted that Dollison "darted in and out of the band's rich chords like a silver firefly at dusk, and all at once everyone in the room realized that something special was happening. The Maria Schneider Orchestra had acquired a brand-new tone color, and it seemed as if 'Hang Gliding' had been meant for a singer all along." Schneider later added this new color to her compositional palette, incorporating voice on her two most recent Grammy-winning albums (Concert in the Garden and Sky Blue), both of which were pioneering efforts through ArtistShare®.
Maria fondly recalls, "I was a bit skeptical at first because of the enormous range of my pieces, the intricacy of the lines and the general extreme demands of the repertoire, but I decided to give it a shot. Julia was extraordinary! Her range, her sound, her ability to blend with the instruments and her absolutely perfect pitch just blew me away! She was nothing short of amazing." Dollison later went on to record with Schneider guitarist Ben Monder on her 2005 debut CD Observatory, described as "fresh and substantive" (JazzTimes), "breathtaking" (Sacramento Bee) and "richly imaginitive" (Wall Street Journal). Maria has since invited Dollison to perform wordlessly with her orchestra at 2006 IAJE conference in New York and the Reno Jazz Festival.
Kerry Marsh, also a beneficiary of Maria's guest artist visits to the Universities of Kansas and North Texas, became one of the very first project participants in ArtistShare® history when he joined the 2003 Schneider recording project that became Concert in the Garden.  Maria's influence on Kerry's composition and arranging techniques during his studies helped earn him a DownBeat Student Music Award for best collegiate jazz arrangement later that same year.
Fans of Maria Schneider's music will be anxious to hear these new interpretations of her compositions, influenced largely by Maria's unwavering guidance and supportive presence in the studio during the rhythm section recording. Also among the exciting elements of this project are the all-new improvised solos featuring Dollison and Marsh, reflecting their own unique and personal vocal character and expression. The result of their combined efforts is an album that is nothing less than a revolutionary musical statement, one that will surely resonate loudly in the jazz world and beyond.
Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider is now available for purchase exclusively online in either CD or digital download format through the duo's ArtistShare® website.  The purchase also includes access to a wealth of behind-the-scenes documentary content, providing a unique and fascinating window into the creative process that led to this extraordinary recording.

Kerry Marsh is a composer and arranger specializing in contemporary music for vocal jazz ensembles.  In high demand as a commissioned arranger and clinician for many of the nation's top educational vocal and instrumental jazz ensembles, Marsh has a large and varied catalog of music performed regularly around the world.  As the director of vocal jazz ensembles at Sacramento State, Kerry and his students have been awarded ten DownBeat Student Music Awards since 2005.  Kerry has most recently worked as a vocal arranger and choirmaster for indie-pop singer/pianist Ben Folds, performing alongside Folds with major symphony orchestras on tour. Kerry's arrangement of Folds' "Selfless, Cold and Composed" was featured on the 2009 Epic Records release Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella.
Since winning the DownBeat Student Music Award for best collegiate vocal jazz soloist in 2000, Julia Dollison and her jazz voice students have earned eight additional DownBeat Student Music Awards during Julia's time at the University of Miami, The New School University in New York and Sacramento State.  As a performer, Dollison has frequently collaborated with Grammy-nominated pianist Geoffrey Keezer, who has since written for and produced Dollison and Marsh in the studio, multi-tracking their voices for an upcoming album mixed and mastered by Joe Ferla.  A classically trained soprano, Dollison has performed under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas and Erich Kunzel as well as with Ben Folds during his performances with the Boston Pops Symphony and National Symphony Orchestra.  Dollison can be heard on the Academy Award-winning Vera Drake film trailer and on film scores for The Stepford Wives and The Corpse Bride.

Dollison and Marsh · Vertical Voices: The Music of Maria Schneider
ArtistShare® · Release Date: March 16, 2010

For media information, please contact:
DL Media · 610-667-0501
Jordy Freed · jordy@jazzpublicity.com

Just a day

We have confirmation that "Vertical Voices" will arrive today.  We've finished a sweet new documentary-style video about the CD that I'll post tomorrow in celebration of the release.  For today, here are the three videos we've posted during the launch and creation of the CD...

Highlights from the comments of these videos, to date:

---Just as well I pursued a career other than music. These guys are depressing. How can one measure up to that? At the very least, being able to contribute to these artists' efforts feels like an extremely worthwhile cause. Kerry Marsh's work is the most amazing revelation I've had on YouTube to date.

---This was a great intro by Maria Schneider. Wow, you guys are going to take over the world, musically that is. I believe it. You two are amazing! 

---Wow. I love Maria Schneider, and Kerry and Julia sound FANTASTIC! Wow!

---What's the name of the track playing at the beginng? I'm new to her music, and that is just amazingly beautiful

---I can't wait to experience the whole project. Singers Unlimited on steroids.

---The original compositions of Miss Schneider stand on their own but with this wonderful vocal musical collaboration with Julia & Kerry covering all the horns and strings it has new wings. They're singing is angelic and edgy and cutting edge and improvisationally magnificent. Grammy time!!!!!  Any questions!!! I think NOT.

---Thats gonna be one epic CD

---Normally I can't stand scat signing, but you guys sound really good doing it!