CCPA’s New Deal Jazz Ensemble Reimagines Classic Songs

Rhema Glover
Staff Reporter


Karen Antunez. CCPA performer from New Deal Jazz Ensemble. Photos by An Phan.

On Tuesday Nov. 6, the CCPA New Deal Jazz Ensemble took place at the Jazz Showcase on South Plymouth Court in downtown Chicago.

The Jazz Showcase is the oldest jazz club in the city. Many of the well-known jazz vocalists such as Ira Sullivan, Dizzy Gillespie and Bill Evans have performed there. The ensemble was directed by Cheryl Wilson, jazz voice instructor at RU.

Performers were Natalie Lawrence, Jayla Lawrence, Nora Harstford, Grace Hardy, Sarah Cauley, Naomi Ayala and Karen Antunez. The singers were also accompanied by Aaron Day (guitar), Hana Fujisaki (piano), Angela Talley (acoustic bass) and Joshua Hill (drums).

Their performance consisted of classic songs such as, “The World is a Ghetto” by War, “Fallin” by Alicia Keys and “What a Man (1968)” by David Crawford. It started with all seven girls walking on stage wearing all black, and looking ready to sing their hearts out. After introducing themselves as RU students; they started their performance. Before each song, they would give insight of the history of the song, why it was chosen and what made it a “classic.” They performed a total of sixteen songs (including the jam session).

Wilson coordinated the performers with much enthusiasm and passion. The unity of the vocalist and instrumentalist complimented the historic vibe of the building and nearly all performances were followed by loud cheers and encore requests. The audience willingly started to clap with the rhythm and cheered them on.

The night ended with a unrehearsed jam session by each individual singer to show their raw talent; leaving the crowd impressed. The jam session allowed the singers to pick any song they believed embodied their vocal talent; their choices ranged from Lauryn Hill to Sia.

Wilson jokingly offered for anyone else to sing, but Talley got from behind her acoustic bass and began singing herself. The show truly reflected the passion each artist had for singing and performing as a whole.

Antunez, a freshman jazz vocal major, said the performance was fun. “My favorite part was singing together. I wasn’t planning on the jam session at all… it was inspiring and made me want to sing more.”

Antunez said she believes Roosevelt University is helping her reach her dream career.

“The curriculum, the classes and my teachers are helping me; and my voice teachers especially because they all have outside experience,” Antunez said.

Antunez mentioned how Wilson has sang for artists like R. Kelly and Aretha Franklin. She also added how another one of her teachers, Jeffrey Morrow, also worked with artists like Jay Z and Celine Dion. Antunez expressed how knowing this information about her teachers lets her know she is being led to the right direction.

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