May 5, 2023
Left: Coleman Hovey playing piano. Middle: The vocal jazz ensemble performing on stage. Right: Helkin Sosa playing trumpet.
Coleman Hovey, Vocal Jazz Ensemble, Helkin Sosa

Two student performers and one ensemble from the Jazz & African-American Music Studies Program (JAAMS) at the UMass Amherst Department of Music & Dance have been selected to receive Student Music Awards from DownBeat Magazine.

Widely recognized as the top publication devoted to “Jazz, Blues, and Beyond.” DownBeat announces the Student Music Award winners each year in its June issue, which was published last week. Recordings are submitted from institutions nationwide in a variety of categories and are then adjudicated by panels of respected jazz performers and educators. Under the direction of Jeffrey W. Holmes, the UMass JAAMS program has maintained a long tradition of DownBeat award success, with 64 ensembles and individual students being recognized over the past thirty-five years in virtually every category.

The UMass Vocal Jazz Ensemble, led by Catherine Jensen-Hole, was selected as the top Latin Jazz Group in the undergraduate category. The group consisted of vocalists Héloïse Goncalves, Teddy Jannot, Jordan Kinder, Olivia Reduto, Norah Thomas, Mae Whaley, and Hannah White, and instrumentalists Jared Cruz, Dakota Gill, Coleman Hovey, and Ellen Jacobson. This is the third consecutive year that Vocal Jazz has earned DownBeat Student Awards; last year, the group won the Outstanding Performance award by a Latin Group, and also won the Outstanding Performance award by an Asynchronous Small Vocal Jazz Group the year prior.

For the second consecutive year, pianist Coleman Hovey, who studies under JAAMS Director Jeffrey W. Holmes, won the award for the top Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist in the undergraduate category.  Hovey was also selected for Outstanding Performance by a Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist in 2021.

Rounding out the list of this year’s winners is Helkin Sosa, whose entry, My Better Half, was selected as the Outstanding Recording by an undergraduate in the Engineered Studio Recording category. Sosa, who studies composition with Holmes and Salvatore Macchia, is also a talented trumpet player and member of UMass Jazz Ensemble I.