UMass Amherst Jazz Ensembles, Students Win Top Honors in DownBeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards

UMass Amherst Vocal Jazz Ensemble
UMass Amherst Vocal Jazz Ensemble
Mike Caudill, left, and Christian Tremblay
Mike Caudill, left, and Christian Tremblay

AMHERST, Mass. – Ensembles and individual students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst department of music and dance’s jazz and African-American music studies program garnered six wins in DownBeat Magazine’s 2017 Student Music Awards (SMAs).

Recognized as the top publication devoted to “Jazz, Blues, and Beyond” since its inception in 1934, DownBeat publishes the SMA winners each year in its June issue.

Recordings are submitted from institutions nationwide in a variety of categories and are judged by panels of respected jazz performers and educators.

“These awards are extremely prestigious and are selected through a highly competitive process. The fact that our students were able to amass six this year is all the more impressive,” said Jeffrey W. Holmes, director of jazz and African-American music studies and of Jazz Ensemble I, chosen as this year’s Collegiate Winner of the Blues/Pop/Rock Ensemble (Graduate) category.

The Vocal Jazz Ensemble, directed by Catherine Jensen-Hole, was the Collegiate Winner of the Latin Ensemble (Undergraduate) category.

In addition, soloists Christian Tremblay (keyboards), Mike Caudill (tenor sax, EWI) and Dann Friedman (tenor sax) all received Outstanding Performance recognition in the Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist (Graduate) category.

Mike Caudill also received an Outstanding Performance in the collegiate Jazz Arrangement category for his vocal setting of “Scarborough Fair,” which coincidentally was performed by the Vocal Jazz Ensemble.

The June issue of DownBeat also includes a sidebar article with Mike Caudill’s comments on the Jazz Ensemble’s win in the Blues/Pop/Rock category.

This year’s winners also included UMass Amherst alumnus Lucas Apostoleris, now a master’s candidate at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, who won awards in the Original Composition Small Ensemble and Jazz Arrangement categories.

To date, students and ensembles affiliated with the jazz program at UMass Amherst have won 50 DownBeat SMAs since Jazz Ensemble I first won the Best Collegiate Jazz Ensemble category in 1987.

“Both Jazz Ensemble I and Vocal Jazz Ensemble have won their respective jazz categories in years past, and our students and ensembles have also done so in Jazz Composition for large and small ensembles, Jazz Instrumental Soloist, Jazz Vocal Soloist, Studio Orchestra and Jazz Combo. This speaks to the breadth of music interests covered by our program,” said Holmes.