Two Lawrence jazz vocalists lauded

Perron, Amelia

Vocalist Megan Hamm’s first recording session last fall almost didn’t happen. The junior’s voice was “toast” that day, and she had a mix-up about the recording time. But thanks to the help of senior and fellow jazz vocalist Charlie Christenson, Hamm got a recording together – and it was a good thing she did. The resulting recording, and the one Christenson made, received recognition as “Outstanding Performances” in solo jazz vocals by Down Beat Magazine..
Recognition from Down Beat is among the most meaningful awards a young jazz musician can receive. Out of nearly 900 impressive entries from high school and college soloists and ensembles, the magazine selects some 100 winners in categories ranging from jazz vocals to classical ensembles to composition. The entries are judged not just on technique and intonation, but also on creativity, interpretation, and “presence.” As Christenson notes, many great jazz musicians have won this award in the past. On being the next in the great tradition, he says: “I just can’t quite seem to wrap my mind around it.”
Winning the award in the same year seems quite appropriate for two musicians who have worked together so closely. Says Christenson, a senior, “The last few years, Megan and I have had a lot of the same teachers and have spent a lot of time together on jazz singing. Now we have both won this award and I can’t think of anyone I would rather share this honor with.” Hamm adds, “I am honored to win this award alongside Charlie.” They cite each other as primary influences in their development as jazz musicians.
In addition to their work together, they are both grateful to a number of their teachers and peers at Lawrence. Christenson speaks warmly of his creative endeavors with drummer Nick Kraus and various bassists, most recently John Sutton, ’03. Hamm’s recording was supported by bassist Karl McComas-Reichl, with Eric Cline on piano and Zach Preston on drums. The award is significant also for vocal jazz professor Chris Salerno. Fred Sturm, director of jazz and improvisational music, says, “I’m particularly happy to see Chris recognized nationally for the great jazz educator that she is.”
As for their futures as jazz musicians, Hamm and Christenson are still uncertain. Hamm is equally drawn to classical music, and Christenson has plans to teach music in Chicago this fall. But they both acknowledge the doors that the Down Beat award has opened for them, and they hope to pursue jazz throughout their musical careers.
Whatever their uncertainties may be, Salerno has confidence in her students. “I think they are both top-notch performers, and also talented teachers. I see many possibilities for both of their careers, including working in studios, performing, arranging and writing, and teaching if they want. Megan and Charlie both have the potential to do whatever they want.

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