Umpqua singers travel to Alaska to represent school spirit

Published by Jace Boyd on

Inside the Whipple Art Center, students form a semi-circle around a professor. He is standing facing towards the right talking to a student. He is wearing a tan suit jacket, black shirt,  grey jeans and tennis shoes. He is standing in front of a piano and music stands are placed near students. To the left of the students facing their back is a row of chairs.
Jason Heald and The Umpqua Singers enthusiastically discuss next plans for upcoming concerts this term. Gerardo Lopez / The Mainstream

To celebrate UCC’s upcoming 60-year anniversary, President Pokrant reached out to Jason Heald, director of music, to write a fight song for the school. 

Fight songs have been around since the 20th century mostly stemming from sports teams as a way to boost morale, encouraging the team to reach victory.

Heald did extensive research on previously successful fight songs before creating “Riverhawk Squawk” highlighting the inclusive spirit and “call-and-response” from the crowd. A Call and response is a musical technique where the singer will call out a phrase and the audience will respond with a phrase back.

On the Whipple Fine Art's stage, all students (besides one) stand to sing. The professor, wearing a tan jacket and grey slacks, is conducting. To either side of the stage are guitars and one speaker.
Jason Heald director of music advises Umpqua singers during practice. Gerardo Lopez / The Mainstream

Heald directed the Umpqua Singers in performing the fight song first on the center stage and then invited the crowd to join in at parts during a second round of singing. 

Besides working on writing new music, Heald has also been busy on field trip duty, taking the Umpqua Singers group he advises to Alaska over the spring break to perform in several shows across the state. The group sang songs from jazz, acapella, and pop genres, as well as classic Alaskan songs including the state song. Alaska was chosen since it was close enough for the short spring break and Heald is from Alaska, so the trip was easy to put together based on his previous experiences. This small functional group also travels together to perform at many local and state venues throughout the year and they have previously traveled overseas in the past years to places such as Hong Kong, Spain, and Ireland. 

Guy with a slight beard and a smile plays on his guitar. He is standing in front of a black curtain with a music stand in front of him.
Caleb Jones engineering major and Umpqua singer practices new pieces for the upcoming concerts of spring term. Gerardo Lopez / The Mainstream

Heald, who came to UCC in 1998, directs the Umpqua Singers group of eight to 12 students typically in an amplified style, which includes each member having a microphone due to the constantly changing environments in which they perform. 

Before working at UCC, Heald was a musician living and working in Portland. 

Joining the Umpqua Singers is a year-long commitment and requires students to have a flexible schedule as the Singers perform 45 to 50 times per year. Merit awards are available for students helping them get some relief from tuition costs. 

John Dixon music major student enjoys practicing musical instruments on center stage.
Gerardo Lopez / The Mainstream

Students can also enroll in the Music Studies program that prepares students for transfer to four-year universities, offering comprehensive training in music theory, history, technology, and performance. The Music Studies program has two pathways: an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree and an Associate of Applied Science degree.

According to UCC’s website, this program is approved for “liberal arts and education programs at most four-year colleges and universities.” The program includes award-winning performance groups in choir, band, and orchestra, with specialized classes in jazz and classical music.

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