The jazz choirs at Seattle Academy have become well known for their musical talent, but many people forget who makes the jazz choir program what it is. Mark Hoover is the head of the vocal jazz program at SAAS, and he has quite the musical background.
From the age of five, Hoover studied piano and sang in church choirs. In high school, he not only became the accompanist for his school’s choir, but helped form a rock group which played local high school dances. In 1978, Hoover went to college in pursuit of music. “That’s what I was passionate about,” says Hoover. In 1975, he went out on the road with a top 40 band called Second Wind. They played clubs mostly in the Northeast.
Hoover encouraged Second Wind’s horn section to cover songs by rock band Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears. “They liked being on the road, but didn’t like to work as hard as I wanted to,” Hoover says, “I needed to find people who were more devoted and serious about music, which made me pursue music education.”
In 1987, after speaking with a Seattle Academy alumnus, Hoover decided to apply for a job here and became the music teacher. After years of slowly developing the vocal program, Hoover received an arrangement from Darmon Meader, one of the members of the jazz quartet named the New York Voices. Meader’s arrangement made Hoover fall in love with vocal jazz.
The vocal jazz program started as an after school program that anyone could participate in. The 2001-2002 school year yielded the first jazz choir class, but it took many years for the program to become recognized. In 2010, the jazz choir went to the Reno Jazz Festival for the first time. On their second trip to Reno, In 2011, “We won first place in our category, and that was unexpected,” says Hoover, “We were the smallest school. We didn’t think we would be recognized due to these ambitious jazz programs we competed against. The work we were doing was at a higher level then we realized.”
Mark Hoover created this program from nothing, and the program’s success has shown in the many awards the jazz choirs have earned. He has devoted his life to music, and he has a good reason why: “I think music is the purest expression of the human spirit other than complete silence.”