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Efforts paid off for vocal group

AFTER NUMEROUS fund-raisers and benefit performances, members of Jazz at 8 have raised nearly enough money to finance their trip to Carnegie. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2002, The Union Democrat).
AFTER NUMEROUS fund-raisers and benefit performances, members of Jazz at 8 have raised nearly enough money to finance their trip to Carnegie. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2002, The Union Democrat).


Jazz at 8 has always been popular in Tuolumne County.

But now the elite group has the chance to be hip on the East Coast, as well.

The members of Jazz at 8 will perform on one of the country's most beloved stages this spring — Carnegie Hall.

To become a member of Summerville High School's small vocal jazz group, a student must first spend at least a year in regular choir. Only after that can he or she audition for Director Madeline Young. This competitive process makes Jazz at 8 a refined, accomplished choir, often asked to sing at public events in the community.

At one such event — a jazz festival at Columbia College — a man named Phil Mattson sat in the audience. Mattson is the director of the choral group Voices Iowa, and he also organizes the annual North America Vocal Jazz Festival, held at Carnegie Hall.

Mattson invited Jazz at 8 to the festival.

However, along with the honor came a big bill — it would cost $26,000 for the 18 singers and seven chaperones to fly east to take part in five days of workshops with Mattson and other hand picked college and high school vocal groups. The trip would culminate in a performance in the famous venue.

Jazz at 8 accepted the invitation, and with the help of a number of generous donations, raised the money and will hit the New York stage in April.

"A New York trip is quite costly, but we had a number of people immediately saying, ‘Hey, how can we make this happen," Young said.

Because of the strong community support Jazz at 8 elicited — and the group's own efforts — the group became one of the Top 10 newsmakers of the year.

"The students, of course, are honored and thrilled over this opportunity," Young said in August. "There is no other performance venue in the world like Carnegie Hall — most important the acoustics, and then the history."

When Mattson invited Jazz at 8 members last summer, it seemed like they had ages to plan and hold fund raisers that would get them to New York.

They started small, planning bake sales and car washes, but soon local philanthropists and fans stepped in to help.

The Sonora Area Foundation donated $6,000, and an anonymous donor matched that amount, bringing the total raised to $12,000.

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