Lee Graduate Follows Jazz Vocalist Dreams

Chelsea Champ attended Lee and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2013 with a BS in Youth Ministry and a minor in Music. Today, she’s following her dreams as a vocalist for the jazz group, Good Shot Judy.

The group just released its first full-length music video, a cover of Nat King Cole’s L-O-V-E, which you can view below.

Chelsea was a member of Ladies of Lee and Alpha Chi Honor Society, and she was elected to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges. Continue reading to hear Chelsea’s story of her time at Lee and her journey to where she is now.

“I began my freshman year as a Vocal Education Major and had planned on teaching middle school choir after completing a Masters degree. My first two years of college as a music student were some of the best years of my life. I’m not sure that I ever stopped singing. I took seriously one of the first lessons I learned as a music student at Lee: “You don’t have to practice every day… only on the days you eat.” When I began as a vocal student, I had very little confidence in my abilities, especially in the classical world. I had come from a schooling system with very weak music education and felt miles behind my fellow students. I quickly learned that the professors at Lee were eager to assist me, even if it meant spending extra time helping me catch up in music theory and sight reading. As my knowledge grew, so did my confidence.

Dr. Songer was not only an incredible voice instructor, but someone who truly helped me to discover my potential as a performer. She presented me with unique vocal pieces as the semesters went by that proved to be both challenging and incredibly rewarding. While I loved learning and performing classical pieces, my true love was rooted in jazz and swing music. I could never quite shake the sound from my voice – the vocal styling would even creep into my lessons on occasion. While at Lee, I attempted on one or two occasions to find other musicians interested in performing vocal jazz, but nothing ever came of it.

After one particularly challenging semester of music theory and sight reading, I decided to switch my minor and my major out of a fear of losing my scholarship. I continued to take vocal lessons but decided to shift my focus to youth ministry instead, while making music more of a hobby. I graduated in 2013 with my ministry degree and found a job shortly afterward in Virginia, where I worked as a youth minister for a little over a year. While it was an incredibly rewarding experience, and one I will never regret, it never quite seemed to fit. When I left that job, I started a simple position at a store in Colonial Williamsburg and struggled with a the idea of an unknown future. At this point, I probably hadn’t performed regularly in over a year.”

Good Shot Judy performing on stage.

“During the summer of 2016, I walked out the front door of the shop and to The Summer Breeze Concert series and, unknowingly, into my future. The group performing that evening was called Good Shot Judy, and they specialized in swing and big band style music. I had no idea anyone in the area was performing music from this genre, especially at this group’s level of excellence. I sat in awe watching the performance and immediately went home and started rehearsing again. It may not have been the style of music I was trained in, but the same principles applied when it came to posture, breath support, performance techniques, vocal health, accuracy, and emotion. The same determination I felt when I was preparing for my juries in school came back to me as I worked up the confidence to send a song audition to Good Shot Judy.

Months later, I finally decided to message the band leader, Brett Cahoon, with an attached track I had recorded at home using a cheap music application. I quickly received a reply that they were looking for a temporary replacement for a female vocalist who would be out for a few months. During March of 2017, I arrived at their rehearsal space having prepared five songs they had requested for a live audition. I heard back shortly after that I had been awarded the position. Not only would I get to perform the style of music I had loved most since the age of fifteen – I would be paid and have the privilege of performing beside other truly gifted professionals. Over the following months, I watched and listened closely to Brett and began to improve my performance based off of my observation of him. I worked as hard as I could to become indispensable to the group and ended up becoming their first full-time female vocalist.

I never would have guessed that music performance would become a career path for me, but I truly believe I wouldn’t be where I am without the training and confidence I received from Lee University’s School of Music; especially from professors like Dr. Loralee Songer, Professor Alan Elkins, Dr. Bailey, Dr. Green, and many, many others. My life has taken several interesting and unexpected turns since I began at Lee in 2009, but God has always given music a special place in my life, and now I wake up every day with the opportunity to bring joy through it to hundreds of people surrounded by a loving family of talented musicians. To the School of Music at Lee University, thank you from the absolute bottom of my heart. Without your knowledge, care, and encouragement, I don’t know that I ever would have found the confidence or the level of musical ability to lead me along this path.”

Chelsea Champ, pictured on the left, poses with her bandmates in Good Shot Judy.

Good Shot Judy has been in existence for about five years. They specialize in music from the swing and big band era, originally performed by artists such as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, and Nat King Cole, as well as swing takes on more modern songs by Queen, Tom Jones, and Frankie Valli. However, if you are picturing a sleepy jazz band in a late night club, think again. They’ve coined the term “Big Amp Jazz” to describe what they do as jazz with a punk rock twist. The energy on stage is contagious, making it a challenge for their audiences to keep still. The group has opened for the likes of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and other national acts. Good Shot Judy has performed regionally as well as in Washington D.C, Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina, Alabama, and has other states on the horizon this year. To read more about Good Shot Judy, visit their website http://goodshotjudy.com/.

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