It’s not every day that a college student gets to meet a Grammy winner, but it was a reality for Central’s Vocal and Instrumental Jazz and Pop Combo students.
Combos, as the ensemble is popularly called, invites a jazz singer to guest perform with the group which hosts numerous sellout concerts every year. Peter Eldridge, a member of the New York Voices, was this year’s choice.
Associate professor of music and Combos director Gabriel Espinosa organized Eldridge’s appearance. “The idea was to have our student to experience a professional vocal jazz show live,” he says. “Some of them were able to see a professional show for the first time in their life.”
The New York Voices—a four-person vocal group consisting of Eldridge and his three co-members, Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan and Darmon Meader—has won two Grammy awards and produced twelve CDs since their founding in 1988, which makes Eldridge an ideal choice to mentor students. He visited campus and performed with Espinosa’s jazz trio, and then held a master class for the Combos members.
“Peter gave a voice clinic in which he worked with us on our performance technique,” says Combos performer and sophomore Robert Askern. “He also gave us insight into the music industry which was enlightening for those of us contemplating careers in music.”
After perfecting their singing technique, the group trekked to Des Moines to see the New York Voices in concert for a night of entertainment. Eldridge’s investment in the students brought one member a sense of purpose in following her dreams.
“Coming into college, I had an interest in performing as a career, and singing in a jazz ensemble would be my dream job,” explains senior Meghan Nelson. “I had lost touch with that until the New York Voices reopened that dream for me. Central College provides opportunities for their students. I now feel that I have a dream worth pursuing again.”
Eldridge not only inspired students to realize their goals, but they were humbled by the group’s efforts to share their talents with ambitious musicians.
“Thanks to the New York Voices, I experienced art in a form I had never been subject to,” says senior Mitchell Stearns. “I do believe music to be the universal language capable of eliciting commonalities and rejuvenating the soul.
“I think what I loved most about this group was their unselfish demeanor,” he continues. “After being together for 25 years, mastering their skill set and winning Grammy’s, they still take the time to care about young and aspiring artists. As a musician, there is seldom a better feeling than receiving even the smallest amount of affirmation from someone who has been in your shoes and ended up making it big.”