Eastman Students Levi Saelua, Karl Stabnau Win DownBeat Awards

May 15, 2012

More Information:
For Media Only: Helene Snihur (585-274-1057, hsnihur@esm.rochester.edu)

Levi Saelua and Karl Stabnau

Levi Saelua, left, and Karl Stabnau are winners in this year’s DownBeat Student Music Awards.

Two Eastman School of Music students, Levi Saelua and Karl Stabnau, have received DownBeat honors in the magazine’s 35th annual student music awards.

Saelua, a senior jazz writing major from Sacramento, Calif., was recognized in the Jazz Arrangement/Undergraduate College category for “Allegretto from Symphony No. 7,” his arrangement of the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.  Stabnau, currently a master’s degree student in music education who received his Bachelor of Music degree in jazz performance at Eastman in 2011, was recognized in the Outstanding Performance/Graduate College category.

Saelua’s winning entry is an eight-minute arrangement of Beethoven’s classical piece and is orchestrated for a standard jazz ensemble of five saxophones/woodwinds, four trombones, four trumpets, guitar, piano, bass, and drums. The piece was performed by the Eastman Jazz Ensemble under director Bill Dobbins in Kilbourn Hall on Sept. 19, 2011.

“Levi Saelua has a wonderful musical voice expressed through his compositions and arrangements,” said Jeff Campbell, associate professor and chair of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media.  “He creates music that is both imaginative and engaging to listener and performer.  He is also a very fine saxophonist and improviser.”

Stabnau’s winning submission featured his baritone saxophone work on three songs. Two of the songs, “Stella by Starlight” and “From This Moment On,” were from his 2011 degree recital and were arranged by Saelua for a 13-piece group consisting of a jazz rhythm section, strings, and woodwinds. The third piece, “The Way You Look Tonight,” was from a live broadcast with Stabnau’s quartet on Rochester radio station WGMC Jazz 90.1 in September 2011. Stabnau is from Brighton.

“Karl Stabnau is a highly versatile and valuable musician,” said Campbell. “Not only is he a wonderful low-woodwind doubler, he is also a gifted improviser who is well versed in the tradition and future of the music.  He brings an enthusiastic attitude to each musical situation and is a positive musical force.”

Noted Dobbins, “Levi and Karl both have that rare combination of exceptional talent, great motivation and a love of productive work.  Levi has a rare comprehension of the many common elements that all great music shares, regardless of superficial categories.  I’m sure that this understanding was helpful in making such a convincing jazz ensemble interpretation of the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.  Karl has a keen ear for strong melodies and a fertile imagination for hearing compelling ways to develop melodic ideas.  I’m happy to see both of them receive this well-deserved recognition.”

The Student Music Awards were announced in the June issue of DownBeat, one of the country’s most respected jazz magazines and often called “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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