Calloway’s JazzChords sing Sunday at Smyrna Opera House

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The JazzChords of Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington perform Sunday afternoon at the Smyrna Opera House. (Submitted photo)

SMYRNA –– The JazzChords of Wilmington’s Cab Calloway School of the Arts will perform a concert of seasonal classics and jazz staples Sunday afternoon at the Smyrna Opera House.

“We have a large repertoire and try to keep a good balance of songs and something that everyone will like,” said the JazzChords musical director Martin Lassman.

The group, made of 34 students from ninth through 12th grade was founded in 1997 when Bob McGrath of “Sesame Street” performed at the Grand Opera House and invited students from the Cab Calloway to provide a jazz choir to sing back-up vocals onstage at Wilmington’s Grand Opera House.

From there, the JazzChords started as an after-school program for advanced vocal students but four years ago turned into a daily class.

“It’s given more students the opportunity to participate because it doesn’t interfere with any after-school activities,” Mr. Lassman said.

“So students looking for a challenge are able to participate whether they have sports or something else going on after school.”

He said the challenge is part of the fun.

“Some of the new members come in nervous because the JazzChords have a reputation of being challenging and when we perform in small groups of a dozen or so, there are parts that individuals have to carry on their own,” he said.

The JazzChords have many a cappella pieces but some songs are typically accompanied by modest instrumentals like a piano and/or a bass, leaving no place for any voices to hide.

“The students are always learning and improving and it’s always an achievement for them when they master a part before a show,” Mr. Lassman said.

The group has performed across the East Coast at venues like the Grand Opera House, Kennedy Center, New York City’s Hard Rock Cafe and the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival in Wilmington –– the largest outdoor jazz festival on the East Coast.

In addition to performing at various venues, the JazzChords are also experienced with performing in various capacities, like serving as the main attraction at a theater or as an ensemble of about a dozen singers in more intimate settings like a cocktail event or party.

The JazzChords do nearly 30 out-of-school concerts every year and Mr. Lassman said their busiest times of the year are December and May –– December for holiday concerts and May for outdoor engagements.

“Our students put on a show that most people wouldn’t expect from high schoolers,” Mr. Lassman said. “The singing is great and there really is something for everyone to enjoy.”

Sunday’s show starts at 3. Doors will open at 2:15 p.m. at the Smyrna Opera House at 7 W. South St. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 Opera House members, senior citizens, and military, and $8 for children under 12.

They can be purchased at, by calling (302) 653-4236 or at the door.

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