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Women in Jazz & World Music

Women in Jazz and World Music (WJWM) is a vocal training course led by Professor Dee Spencer from San Francisco State University. WJEM is designed for students ages 15 – 24 years who have an aptitude for singing and who want to develop better techniques and understanding to further their abilities as vocalists. The course is open to those with both professional aspirations and recreational interest.

The next vocal training course will run in April 2024 at the Community Music Center, 544 Capp Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

The plan is to hold nine two-hour class sessions. The new dates are Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30pm - 7:30pm followed by a graduating concert on Friday May 3.

The dates are as follows:

Wednesday April 3, 10, 17 Tuesday April 23, Wednesday May 1.

Monday April 8, 15, 22, 29.

Graduation Concert: Friday May 3, 7:00pm

To get more information and to register students for the program send an email to [email protected].

The course includes:

  • An introduction to the physiological and psychological mechanics of singing.

  • Techniques of vocal instruction and comparative methods of developing vocal techniques and repertoire.

  • Exercises in musical improvisation.

  • Technical problems and performance practice of vocal repertoire.

  • Sharing historical context and background on jazz and various world music forms. The course focuses on the contributions of underrepresented women artists who have often been omitted from the historical narrative.

  • Explores the unique career trajectories and highlights of historical figures by imparting biographical information and hearing their first and subsequent recordings. Students will learn about the artists’ educational backgrounds and (where relevant) any significant social or political movements they belonged to, and the communities and artists who influenced them.

  • Studies of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and others.

  • Great guest lecturers: This year Rachel Garlin, Katherine Park, Lisa Graciano, Allegra Bandy and our own Mistress of Choirs, Michelle Jacques.

  • Students will also learn about the professional paths of guest artists through small group discussions about careers in music. Goals include imparting the importance of establishing disciplined music practice and rehearsal routines.

Students are required to actively participate in each 2-hour class session. Following the culminating performance, they will receive final evaluative comments, a grade from Professor Spencer, and a certificate of completion. Grades are ranked on a scale of 1-5: outstanding; very good; good; fair; poor. Rankings are based on each student’s level of engagement with the material; musicianship (technical progress in solo and ensemble work); and on their own articulation of what they have learned during the course of the intensive. Their “voice” is heard from the beginning to the end of the intensive.

WJWM is supported by a grant from the California Arts Council's Creative Youth Development program.

The official video of the Women in Jazz & World Music Graduation Concert, June 30, 2023

San Francisco International Arts Festival
Phone Number: 415-399-9554 | Email: [email protected]
1222 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94109



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