UMass Jazz Ensembles Claim Top Honors in Annual Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards
Monday, April 30, 2018
Monday, April 30, 2018
AMHERST (MA) – Two ensembles from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Music & Dance’s Jazz & African-American Music Studies Program garnered awards in Downbeat Magazine’s 2018 Student Music Awards (SMA’s). Recognized as the top publication devoted to “Jazz, Blues, and Beyond” since its inception in 1934, Downbeat publishes the SMA winners each year in their June issue. Recordings are submitted from institutions nationwide in a variety of categories and are judged by panels of respected Jazz performers and educators who then pick winners and give outstanding performance citations. In addition to UMass Amherst, other colleges and universities honored this year included Manhattan School of Music, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music, and University of Northern Colorado.
The Chris Foe Project won the award for Outstanding Performance, Graduate College Blues/Pop/Rock Ensemble. A native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Foe earned his Master's in Jazz Composition and Arranging from UMass last year. The work submitted to Downbeat was a multi-movement setting of Psalm 88 that drew on elements of Jazz, Renaissance-era polyphony, and “heavy music.” Besides Foe on guitar, The Chris Foe Project featured both instrumental and vocal graduates and undergraduates from UMass Amherst Music and Dance, including Luis Granda, bass guitar; George Robinson, drums; Justin Esiason, trumpet; Zachary Bartolomei, alto saxophone; Dann Friedman, tenor saxophone; Nicholas Biagini, baritone saxophone; Jessica Erving, soprano; Grace McKay, alto; Henry Zagarella, tenor; and Eric Weloth, bass
The award for best Undergraduate College Latin Group went to the UMass Brazilian Jazz Combo, consisting of Justin Esiason, trumpet; Peter da Silva, saxophone; James McCarthy, drums; Matt Twaddle, piano; Ben Powell, guitar; and Ben Gunderman, bass (not pictured). The group worked with UMass faculty member Dr. Felipe Salles in studying and performing music of prominent Brazilian musicians like Egberto Gismonti and Hermeto Pascoal while exploring current trends in Brazil's local jazz scene.
Program director Jeffrey W. Holmes commented that this year’s winners are part of a proud tradition of Music & Dance Department students that have been recognized with Downbeat Student Awards in the past. "Individual students and ensembles related to the Jazz and African-American Music Studies Program at UMass Amherst have won in virtually every performance and writing category over the years, with 52 Downbeat awards to date," added Holmes.