Graham Keir, left, and Gabriel Condon won DownBeat Student Music Awards.
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Two Eastman School of Music jazz guitarists, senior Graham Keir and freshman Gabriel Condon, have received DownBeat honors in the magazine’s 33rd annual student music awards.
Keir won an undergraduate college Jazz Soloist award, and Condon was recognized with an undergraduate college Outstanding Performance award. Both musicians are students of well-known jazz guitarist Bob Sneider.
The awards were announced in DownBeat’s June issue, which is scheduled to be on the newsstands on May 18.
At Eastman, Keir has been enrolled in Jazz Studies and in the Musical Arts major honors curriculum. He will receive his Bachelor of Music degree with High Distinction this month and will start studies in the fall for his master’s degree at The Juilliard School.
A native of Philadelphia, Keir played for three years in the Grammy Band at the University of the Arts and won “Best Soloist” awards in local competitions. In 2005, he was the only guitarist selected to participate in the Brubeck Institute Summer Jazz Colony for exceptionally talented young jazz musicians.
At Eastman, Keir has studied composition and arranging and in 2009 was awarded a two-week residency through the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program to compose and perform at the John F. Kennedy Center. In March, a score he wrote to accompany the silent cinema short Colonel Heeza Liar on the Jump was premiered by the Flower City Society Orchestra during a screening at the Dryden Theatre.
Keir has performed on a cruise ship in the Bahamas and spent two summers playing at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, where he also appeared in the Mackinac Jazz Festival. He often joins Trio Slaye, a contemporary trio of Eastman students, in concert. His DownBeat award was based on several recordings, including two from his recent CD Optimism.
“Graham is one of the hardest working students imaginable,” said Sneider. “I first met him when he traveled to Rochester from Philadelphia for a lesson when he was 14. He later enrolled in our summer jazz studies program. His progress has been simply amazing. In the past couple of years, he has really zeroed in on very advanced, tasteful and lyrical improvisation. In addition, his compositional skills are steeped in the jazz tradition but he definitely has his own voice.”
Condon, a resident of Penfield, was selected by Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Principal Pops Conductor Jeff Tyzik as one of the area’s most talented young musicians in 2007. Condon has performed on stage with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and with such jazz artists as violinist Regina Carter and vibraphonist Stefon Harris, and is a fixture at venues and festivals throughout the Rochester area. In 2008, he was selected to participate in the Brubeck Summer Jazz Colony, an intensive performance program for exceptional students. His recordings with his rock band Mint Jam received DownBeat magazine’s “Outstanding Performance” for pop/rock/blues in 2008.
As a composer and arranger, Condon won the Charlie Cote Composition Award at Penfield High School. His piece Second Place, arranged for string quartet, was debuted in the Rochester Chamber Music Society’s 2009-2010 season.
Condon is the recipient of a Rochester International Jazz Festival/Eastman School of Music scholarship. In January of this year, he participated in the YoungArts Program of the National Foundation for the Advancement in the Arts. Condon was one of only 142 students from across the nation and the only jazz guitarist selected to attend the intensive five-day training and performance program. He earned a silver award for his performance as part of a jazz sextet.
“Gabe has been in my studio through the Eastman Community Music School since he was 12 or 13,” said Sneider. “The first time I heard him, he blew me away how good his ears were . . . and he soaked up music like a sponge. His versatility includes singing and performing in styles including rock, pop, and blues. His technique, tastefulness in accompaniment, inventive improvisation, rhythmic drive and an overall commitment to the art form of jazz combine to make him a voice that will be heard for years to come.”
DownBeat is one of the country’s most respected jazz magazines and is often described as “the bible of jazz.” Entries for the annual Student Music Awards are judged on musicianship, creativity, improvisation, technique, sound quality and balance, excitement, authority, and other criteria. The judges include editors of DownBeat, professional musicians, and educators.
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