ROCHESTER, NY — In words and by action, Down Beat magazine — one of the country’s most respected jazz publications — is heaping praise on the jazz program at the Eastman School of Music.
In what is becoming almost a yearly occurrence, Down Beat once again has named the Eastman Jazz Ensemble, directed by Fred Sturm, the best collegiate-level jazz big band in the country. (Eastman shares the honor this year with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble.) This is the fourth time in six years — and the second consecutive year — that Eastman’s premier jazz band has taken or shared the top spot in the magazine’s annual student music awards competition. The issue, which includes all the winners in its 24th annual competition, is on newsstands now. It also cites Eastman graduate student Jamey Simmons from Wisconsin Dells, WI, as the winner (in the college division) for best jazz arrangement (for The Man from Tanganyika).
Down Beat also has extended a special invitation to Eastman to have some of its best students perform at the 18th annual JVC Jazz Festival held in New York later this month (and in other locations around the world through the fall). Eastman is one of only three schools invited to participate this year as part of the magazine’s music outreach program. Down Beat has been presenting student ensembles at this highly acclaimed jazz festival since 1997.
“We’re very selective about the schools we choose to feature at the festival,” said Tom Alexios, director of special projects at Down Beat. “We choose schools that consistently place well in our student awards, but also consider the overall reputation of their jazz programs and the strength of their faculty. Eastman’s got it all. They’re turning out some outstanding students.”
The group that will represent Eastman at the festival is a “Jazz Performance Workshop” honors section, coached by Associate Professor of Jazz and Contemporary Media Harold Danko. It includes pianist Jia Xia, a native of Beijing, China; drummer Ted Poor, from Honeoye Falls, NY; bassist Jon Hamar, from Kennewick, Washington; trumpeter Eli Asher from Chevy Chase, MD; and Jose Encarnacion, a tenor saxophonist from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
“This is a real honor and a big thrill for the students,” said Danko. “The JVC Festival features some real heavyweights in jazz.” Artists who will perform during the festival’s worldwide tour include Ray Charles, Dave Koz, Gladys Knight, Diana Krall, Keith Jarrett, Gato Barbieri, Joshua Redman, and the Afro-Cuban All Stars, among others. The Eastman students will perform between noon-2 p.m., Tuesday, June 19, in New York’s Bryant Park. (For more information on the 2001 JVC Jazz Festival, visit http://www.jvc.com.)
Notes to editors: Fred Sturm and Harold Danko are available for interviews. For more information about Eastman’s jazz program, visit www.rochester.edu/Eastman/Jazz.