Profile of Greg Jasperse, Director of WMU’s Gold Company

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Greg Jasperse, director of Gold Company regarding his experience as former member of Gold Company, his professional career after WMU, and the upcoming show Gold Company: From Brazil with Love, coming to Miller for two shows on Saturday, Feb. 14 at 2 & 8 p.m. Here’s what he had to say in a chat with Mike McDonald, Miller marketing assistant, before the new year.

Mike: I understand you're an alumnus of Gold Company yourself. Tell us about your time there.

Greg: My time in Gold Company was life-changing in every sense. I'm certain the trajectory of my life would be much different (and probably a lot less exciting) had I not had my Gold Company experience. Steve [Zegree] demanded excellence on every level—musical, personal and professional. Working together on such a high level with my peers forged a community of friendships and relationship that have endured to this day, with many of us working together in the "real world."  

Mike: You've also worked with some pretty big names in the music industry, including Muse, Adele and others. That must have been exciting for you, can you tell us about what it was like to work with some of them?

Greg: My time in Los Angeles was incredibly exciting, getting to work in film and television. It's a massive industry, as you can imagine. I still remember singing on my first movie score, "National Treasure 2:  Book of Secrets." I looked around at the rest of the choir, the sound-stage and the movie playing on the screen behind us. It was such a "pinch me" moment. I couldn't believe I was actually working in Hollywood. With Adele, we sang back-up for her performance of "Skyfall" on the Oscars. She was such a consummate professional. She called extra rehearsals at a sound-stage in Burbank even before the official on-site Oscars rehearsals. And she never "marked" her rehearsals but instead sang full-out every time. She wanted to be completely prepared. With Muse, we were down at Capitol Records in the iconic studio A, recording the background vocals for their CD "The 2nd Law." They had already recorded their parts but they were there in the studio, producing us and making sure they got what they wanted. It was pretty dramatic, no surprise for the Muse fans out there. Everyone I ever worked for in LA, without exception, was kind, gracious and appreciative...not to mention exceedingly talented.  

Mike: What was it that brought you back to direct Gold Company?

Greg: When I was on one of my last film sessions in LA, I looked around and saw three other GC alums singing. No other school was represented in that way there. So I'm passionate about the traditions of excellence that Steve cultivated. While Steve has moved on to build something new at Indiana University, the Gold Company program here at WMU is still regarded as one of the best vocal jazz programs in the world. The opportunity to come back and direct Gold Company was a chance to parlay all of my freelance experience into teaching and equipping the next generation of young talent. I've already had such amazing professional opportunities. I must be growing up or something because now it's even more exciting to think about my students having those opportunities.  

Mike: What will be the main difference between your direction of GC and that of Dr. Zegree?

Greg: The biggest difference between Steve's GC and my GC is probably the size of the group and different performance aesthetic. We're smaller than Zegree's standard 16 voice ensemble.  We also don't have choreography as a staple in our "shows." Another big difference our audiences will recognize is that I'm a lot less active on stage than Steve. I save most of that for rehearsal. In performance, I want my students to learn and experience how to "direct" the music themselves, allowing them to communicate directly with the audience. But they can't communicate with you if I'm in their way. Jazz is an inclusive art form and we want you to be part of that "conversation."

Mike: Is there anything exciting on the horizon for GC?

Greg: I'm afraid there's no such thing a boring horizon for GC. We've received an unprecedented invitation to perform on the mainstage (think center court at Wimbledon) at the Jazz Education Network conference this January. Very few vocal groups, let alone college groups are afforded this invitation and it's never been extended to Gold Company. This performance takes place in San Diego on Jan. 10. Gold Company is also going on tour with Chorale this May.  These two ensembles have never toured together but Dr. Kim Adams and I are excited to share multiple sides of the amazing School of Music with audiences from here to NYC.   

Mike: What can audiences expect this year at Gold Company: From Brazil with Love?

Greg: Audiences at "From Brazil with Love" should expect a Gold Company Miller Show 2.0. First of all, you can't go wrong with Brazilian music. The heat of the samba and the romance of the bossa nova are perfect for a wintry Valentine's Day. Audiences will probably notice an update in the production as well as some twists in the format of the show. The students are still working hard to make it entertaining and fun for the whole family. Warning:  audience members shouldn't be surprised if they end up onstage with us or at the very least dancing and singing along from the auditorium. In Brazil, a samba is essentially a street party, not a spectator sport.  And we hope you'll be there to party with us.  

As do we, Greg! Don’t miss Gold Company: From Brazil with Love, coming to Miller Auditorium on Feb. 14, with performances at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.! Tickets are available now.