Open the curtains and set the stage for Élan students to prepare a beautiful ensemble of unique melodies. Élan’s powerful performance reflected student talent and spirit. 

Élan Vocal Jazz Ensemble presented “Songs of Love” a mix of jazz and swing classics of the 40’s and 50’s eras. The group performed a fusion of musical elements from the past to present. Musicians collaborated with students on April 18 at McCrary Theatre to explore swing-style music. 

Élan is a Vocal Jazz group that consists of various musical genres such as Broadway, jazz and pop songs. The group prepares students for the entertainment industry through performance practice, artistic elements and musical concepts. Students can audition for Élan or Music 1052 to become a member of the group. 

Stephen A. Futrell, director of choral activities and professor of music, selected the swing-era music to reflect themes of love. He said students have an opportunity to learn a variety of music genres each semester. Futrell hopes to educate students about the diverse styles, forms and approaches to music through entertainment. 

“I try to pull from my past experiences in music and offer guidance about different angles,”  Futrell said. “I teach students about the various forms with mic technique, vocal technique, vocal health and style. There are always different genres and styles so I try to connect students with worldwide composers to learn new skills.”

Futrell said this knowledge exposes students to diverse cultures and genres in the music industry. Since he began at Elon in 1999 he said students continue to surprise him with their talents. He said the students did a great job developing vocal skills and musicianship skills in their performance. 

“I hope that students understand the artistic elements found within music,” Futrell said. “Singing together, cutting off together, pronouncing the words together, put a scoop here, elongate that phrase there so we get into the little details of art that are present in pop music or multicultural music.”

Pianist Charles Cleaver collaborated with Futrell to enhance the rhythm of swing music. Cleaver has been playing the piano since 8 years old and teaches piano lessons. He said this is his third time working with Élan in the band section. 

Students inspire him to continue his career, especially their passion for music, Cleaver said. He values the educational aspects of music genres and how it prepares students for the music industry. 

“It’s really inspiring,” Cleaver said. “The music and arts are extremely important to shaping who I am today, and it's how I was able to become the best version of myself through teachers that I had in high school and college.”

Cleaver emphasized the importance of students enhancing their musical skills in higher education. He said college creates an environment for students to improve their talents and find their path in the musical universe. His students showed their dedication to music with an outstanding performance, Cleaver said.

“They worked extremely hard,” Cleaver said. “It's good to be able to carve out part of that time to rehearse and perform music that can be difficult. So it requires you to put your heart into it and it's really rewarding. Seeing that reminds me of myself and inspires me to keep that sort of feeling going in my life.” 

Sophomore Ian Zhan said Élan Vocal Jazz allowed him to pursue his interests in music. He said as a member of traditional choirs this offered a new perspective on diverse genres of music. As a music and liberal arts major, Zhan decided to take this opportunity to enhance his vocal skills. 

“It's something different that I do think is really fun to explore here at Elon,” Zhan said. “Coming into the Élan vocal group was a very different experience, but I do enjoy it a lot.”

Zhan said he grew up in a musical home and took lessons at a young age. He said Élan has inspired him to achieve his dream position as a studio tech recording engineer creating music with others. 

“My friends convinced me to join the choir my junior year,” Zhan said. “From then this reignited my love for music. At this moment I realized that I wanted to pursue music to some degree.”

Freshman Skylar Jensen and Zhan both said they had a wonderful time working with Futrell. Jensen said Futrell is a great mentor for beginners in the music industry. She said he provides resources and guidance for students to improve their musical skills. 

“Futrell is just the greatest,” Jensen said. “He uses interesting metaphors to describe what he's trying to convey to us. He explains complicated topics in simple terms and he is very friendly.” 

Jensen said she began her music career as a toddler and then transitioned to choir in elementary school. She continued to follow these interests in musical theatre. She said the moment that inspired her to pursue a music degree was here at Elon. 

“My orientation group had musical theatre and singer majors,” Jensen said. “It really inspired me to declare my major as vocal performance which is so fun. I just love singing with other people, making music, and hope to continue this forever.” 

She also presented a solo for the section, “When I Fell in Love '' a slow and serenading mix of sounds. This section explores the tension between a man and a woman falling in love. Jensen said this was one of her favorite a cappella songs during the performance. 

“I really like this song,” Jensen said. “It pulls you into the moment with a mix of beautiful harmonies and silence in the background. Everyone is singing lou harmonies creating a smooth and simple sound. It was wonderful to experience this on the stage.” 

Jensen encourages students interested in music to check out what Élan has to offer them. She said Élan is welcoming to everyone and open to new members. 

“Sometimes it's a little difficult for music people to work it into their schedule,” Jensen said. “But if you have free time I suggest taking the opportunity to join Élan because it's so much fun. Everyone is super friendly and open to new people in the group. Most of us have become friends through our musical experiences which is the best part.”