Who are we?
Originally founded in 2019 as BlueNote Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Touch of Blue is a jazz-based and improvisatory vocal group at the University of Michigan. We perform a range of music from standards to graphic scores, and from contemporary jazz-influenced songs to brand new commissions from living composers. Two principles are at the heart of what we do: firstly, that we align ourselves with jazz musicians and traditions through collaboration and improvisation, and secondly, that we seek to uplift voices that often become marginalized in the separation of vocal and instrumental jazz.
As well as making music together, Touch of Blue holds regular Essential Listening sessions as a group, where members take it in turns to present to their peers on a specific topic within our musical sphere. In this way, we have structured ensemble learning time, so that we understand more deeply the traditions that we operate within. We believe strongly that ensemble music-making should be a joyful and participatory educational experience, even during extra-curricular time.
Touch of Blue typically performs one concert per semester, in the Cady Room, our home on campus. We rehearse twice each week, and participate in other events as they come up during term-time. We offer a project-based membership model, in recognition that our members often perform with many ensembles on campus and beyond. We are currently comprised of mainly SMTD music majors, but we are always seeking to broaden our membership across the university.
You can meet our current members here!
Our mission is to inspire diverse audiences through the exploration and presentation of jazz-centric American vocal music, with a commitment to uplifting and celebrating this music through both improvisatory and more conventional performance modes.
The music we perform is heavily influenced and inspired by jazz as an American idiom, which is rooted in African American music-making practices of the last century.
Our Artistic Space is:
One that challenges its members to repurpose their existing skills and learn new ones to bring a more inclusive, nuanced understanding of jazz to the university and wider community;
One that engages with new writing as much as or more than it engages with music of the past, to foster collaboration in the creation of jazz-centric musics;
One that encourages a healthy engagement with our own positionality, as well as the intellectual and physical labor it takes to create and maintain such a space, so that our mission is tangible and actionable for the foreseeable future.