KCKCC’s The Standard releases first studio album

The Standard, a vocal music ensemble at Kansas City Kansas Community College, will release its first album, “Feelin Good.” (Illustration from KCKCC)

by Kelly Rogge, KCKCC

Kansas City Kansas Community College’s top vocal ensemble, The Standard, can add another accomplishment to their ever-growing list – recording artists.

The ensemble is preparing to release its first album, featuring music the group has performed at national venues including those in Minneapolis, Minnesota; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Dallas, Texas.

Entitled, “Feelin’ Good,” the 11-track album features songs such as “Green Garden” by Laura Mvula; “Feelin’ Good” by Michael Bublé; “Way of the World” by Earth, Wind and Fire and “You and I” by Stevie Wonder, among many others.

The Standard will celebrate this milestone with a CD release party at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Black Dolphin Jazz Club, 1813 Grand Blvd. in Kansas City, Missouri. Attendees must be 21-years or older to attend the show, however, the event is free and open to the public.

“The album features the best repertoire from the 2016-17 and 2017-18 ensembles,” said John Stafford, associate professor of music and director of choral activities at KCKCC. “We hope this album will promote our music department and the college in general, both regionally and nationally.”

Stafford said the album features a combination of traditional jazz standards and popular music arrangements with jazz harmony. Even though every track on the album is considered “jazz” (because of the harmonic content), he said it features music performed in multiple styles including swing, Latin, funk, rock, hip-hop and R&B.

“Since our program is in the process of building a strong reputation, it was time to find other ways to advertise the program,” Stafford said. “Making this album is one of the best ways to advertise the program and the college.” 

Each year, the ensemble is made up of 10 to 12 vocalists (all KCKCC students) and a rhythm section (mostly piano, bass and drums).

All of the vocalists on the album are students, while the rhythm section is a mixture of students, faculty and professional Kansas City jazz musicians. In addition, the album was tracked, mixed and mastered by KCKCC audio engineering students and faculty. The graphic design for the album was created by a student in the art department. 

Contributors on the album include:

Vocalists (all current KCKCC students) – Hayley Hinton, Nellie Bills, Hunter Ramer, Jazmyne Hill, Lexie Freeman, Isabella Ramirez, Sarah Stella, Paige Vogel, Maddie Birdashaw, Brady Rose, Ernesto Hodison, Noah Haskin, Jered Gatson, Trevor Thoelke, Adam Bender, Shawn McDaniel, Michael Schley and Brenden Rennick.

Rhythm Section – Justin Binek (faculty) and Charles Williams, piano; Jim Mair (faculty), alto saxophone; Michael Schley (KCKCC alumnus), guitar; Robert Castillo, bass; Antonio Reyes (KCKCC student) and Doug Auwarter, drums; Sterling Turner (KCKCC alumnus), vocal percussion; Joe Straws III (KCKCC student), turntables; Brady Rose (KCKCC alumnus) and John Stafford II (faculty), producers; Jordan Lankhorst (KCKCC alumnus) and Brady Rose, tracking engineers; Brady Rose, mixing engineer; Ian Corbett (faculty), mastering engineer; Oscar Alvarez-Alonzo (KCKCC student), graphic designer; Keith Kavanaugh, production and licensing service; Joyce Steeby (faculty), rehearsal accompanist; Suzanne Hatcher, vocal consultant; Emily Her (KCKCC alumna), photo credit and John Stafford II, ensemble director.

“It takes a lot of time and patience in creating a full-length record. It’s very exciting, but also mentally exhausting, especially after a mixing session,” Stafford said. “For every song on the album, you have to triple check intonation and rhythm for every voice and every instrument. Plus, add in important studio elements, such as Gain, EQ, Compression, Reverb, etc. – it’s a very tedious and gratefully rewarding process all at once.” 

The album is currently available in hard copy form for $12 through Stafford and will soon be available for digital download. All proceeds will go back to the Music Department to support student travel, such as the upcoming trip to the Jazz Educators Network National Conference in Reno, Nevada, and the Kansas Music Educators Association’s conference in Wichita, Kansas. For more information, contact Stafford at 913-288-7137 or by email at jstafford@kckcc.edu.

The Standard Vocal Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of John Stafford II, performed for the annual KCKCC candlelighting ceremony in December at the KCKCC Performing Arts Center. (Wyandotte Daily file photo)