Music Student Wins Award, Travels To The Netherlands

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Brittany Henderson

ELIZABETH–Brittany Henderson, a junior at Benedictine Academy in Elizabeth, spent a week in the Netherlands recently, as the recipient of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC)-Wachovia Jazz for Teens (WJFT) Program’s fifth annual Groningen Award. Henderson, a vocalist, was selected out of many students, and named as the 2011 recipient along with bassist Ian Kenselaar of Maplewood.

In receiving the Groningen Award, Henderson and Kenselaar, as current students in the Wachovia Jazz for Teens Program, were provided the opportunity to travel to the “New York comes to Groningen” Program at the Prince Claus Conservatory in Groningen, Netherlands. The program is described as a “unique approach to undergraduate jazz education that emphasizes professional mentoring, diverse music styles and strong focus on performance”.


A group of eight New York-based jazz musicians travel on a rotating basis to teach in the “New York comes to Groningen” program. While in the Netherlands, Henderson enjoyed the privilege of studying under Don Braden, Music Director of NJPAC’s WJFT Program. She also took classes with other jazz teachers, who were from Holland. She learned about music theory; vocalizing; improvising; scatting; and expressing lyrical feelings.

Henderson’s best experience while in the program was “playing music with people I’ve never met before, going to jam sessions at night and singing jazz…everyone was very welcoming and it all inspired me to move forward,” she stated.

Henderson, a resident of Newark, hopes to have a career in music. She would like to attend classes at the Prince Claus Conservatory after high school graduation in 2012. “Prince Claus (Conservatory) is absolutely phenomenal,” Henderson commented. The entire experience gave her a “great understanding of music…how they teach is very different…I didn’t want to leave,” she said.

Henderson’s vocal talent has earned her special recognition before. Last fall, she performed on stage at the “WBGO Champions of Jazz Benefit” at the NJ Performing Arts Center in Newark . The then-sixteen-year-old was selected to sing on stage as part of the opening act of the WBGO “Champions of Jazz Benefit” at the Victoria Theatre.

Henderson is in her second year of NJPAC’s Wachovia Jazz for Teens Program. Roseanna Vitro, Vocal Jazz Instructor for WJFT, has had high praise for Henderson’s talents. Vitro believes Henderson has a “soulful sound, rooted in blues, gospel and R&B”. Through her education in the NJPAC “Wachovia Jazz for Teens” program, Henderson has “developed the exciting element of jazz improvisation” into her sound and style, according to Vitro. She feels Henderson can “go anywhere” she chooses with her “talent and confidence”.

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