The Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra, a 23-member ensemble of the Eastman Community Music School (ECMS), won the Big Band Category in the first annual Charles Mingus High School Competition.
The competition was part of a three-day festival held at the Manhattan School of Music Friday, Feb. 20, to Sunday, Feb. 22, celebrating Mingus, a renowned bass player, pianist, bandleader, and composer who performed with such legends as Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Art Tatum, and Duke Ellington. He died in 1979 at age 56.
The weekend included a keynote address by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer/conductor Gunther Schuller as well as a panel discussion moderated by Justin DiCioccio, assistant dean of the Jazz Division at the Manhattan School of Music, with saxophonist/educator Vincent Herring; Conrad Herwig, trombonist and jazz professor at Rutgers University; Andy McKee, bassist and director of the Mingus Ensemble at New School University; and Sue Mingus, widow of Charles Mingus, president of Let My Children Hear Music/The Charles Mingus Institute, and creator of the Mingus repertory bands.
The panel of judges was composed of Herwig, Schuller, DiCioccio, bassist Boris Kozlov, and saxophonists Vincent Herring and Donny McCaslin.
Under the direction of Howard Potter, associate dean of the Eastman School of Music and director of the Eastman Community Music School, the ECMS Youth Jazz Orchestra performed three Mingus works: “Moanin’,” “Sue’s Changes,” and “Gunslinging Bird” on Sunday afternoon. The ensemble was announced as the winner of the Best Big Band title, beating out four other finalists, later in the day and received the award from Sue Mingus.
“We’re very proud of this achievement by this remarkable and accomplished group of Eastman Community Music School musicians,” said Potter. “They represent the best among up-and-coming high school jazz performers.”
The Gates Chili High School Jazz Ensemble was also one of the five finalists in the Big Band category. The other competitors included the LaGuardia High School of Music and Art’s Senior Jazz Band of New York City; the Lexington High School Jazz Ensemble of Lexington, Mass.; and the Rivers School Big Band of Weston, Mass. The event and competition were sponsored by the Manhattan School of Music and Let My Children Hear Music/The Charles Mingus Institute.
The Eastman Community Music School (https://www.esm.rochester.edu/community/) is a division of the Eastman School of Music, established in 1921 by industrialist and philanthropist George Eastman.
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