The Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp was founded in 1989 to provide an educational and nurturing environment for aspiring jazz vocalists in an intensified, week long course of study and skills development conducted by a staff of professional jazz artists. The camp has been cited by Jazziz Magazine as “...one of the most innovative and dynamic summer jazz educational programs in the country.”
The camp's mission is to enable jazz vocalists to develop and enhance their individual performing skills and musical creativity, regardless of prior experience level, by studying with and attending performances of professional artists actively engaged in the field of jazz performance. To this end, a staff of jazz artists is selected whose qualifications include international recognition not only as performing and recording artists of high caliber but also as experienced and effective jazz educators. The diversity of their musical backgrounds and stylistic approaches enables the camp to encompass a broad range of jazz performance styles and teaching methods.
The Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp is unique because it is the only autonomous workshop focusing on solo vocal performance and improvisation. The daily curriculum for the week long event consists of workshops in jazz improvisation, performance styles and techniques and solo performance preparation, as well as artist master classes, vocal jazz history and music theory. It concludes with a student concert in which each camp participant performs with the faculty rhythm section.
In its twenty years the camp has featured an outstanding artist faculty of innovative jazz vocalists, including Sheila Jordan, Jay Clayton, Judy Niemack, Janet Lawson, Karrin Allyson, Kitty Margolis, Judi Silvano, Suzanne Pittson, Roseanna Vitro, Madeline Eastman, Cathy Segal Garcia, and Rosana Eckert. The camp faculty structure accommodates 36-40 participants, maintaining an intimate student-teacher ratio which supports the camp's philosophy. Marketed internationally, it draws participants from all parts of the U.S. as well as from around the world. Participants typically range in age and experience from high school and college students to adult professional vocalists and jazz educators.
Originally conceived as an educational component of the camp curriculum, the evening concerts presented by the faculty artists for the camp participants were expanded into a six-night concert series, open to the general public and publicized separately from the camp itself as “Hot Jazz - 6 Cool Nites.” Each evening a different combination of performers and repertoire is offered, highlighting the diversity of stylistic approaches among the faculty artists and enabling the series to encompass a broad spectrum of musical styles within the vocal jazz idiom. The concert series nurtures a growing audience of jazz enthusiasts in Chicago's western suburbs, attracting hundreds each year from numerous communities throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.
Since its inception, the Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp has evolved into one of vocal jazz's most prestigious events, enjoying an international reputation as an educational catalyst for the ongoing development of contemporary vocal jazz artistry. WGN-TV featured the event as one of “ Chicago's Very Own,” broadcast to over 38 million viewers in all 50 states, Mexico and South America . The camp has been featured on the nationally-televised PBS program “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer,” as well as in a 30-minute documentary PBS produced for HDNET-TV. WTTW Channel 11 Chicago filmed a segment for its “Arts Across Illinois” television program, and WBEZ-FM Chicago Public Radio taped the final faculty concert for broadcast on its “Performance Space” program. Written about regularly in such internationally-distributed jazz publications as Jazziz, Downbeat, Jazz Times and Jazz Educators Journal , the camp has attracted interest and participants from throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Japan and South Africa.