May 9, 2024

Two students and two ensembles from the Jazz & African-American Music Studies Program (JAAMS) at the UMass Amherst Department of Music & Dance have been selected to receive 2024 Student Music Awards from DownBeat Magazine.

Widely recognized as the top publication devoted to “Jazz, Blues, and Beyond,” DownBeat announces the annual Student Music Award winners in its June issue, which is published in early May. 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 close to 70 Student Music Awards garnered by ensembles and individual students in virtually every category over the past thirty- five years.

Members of Vocal Jazz Ensemble

The UMass Vocal Jazz Ensemble, led by Catherine Jensen-Hole, received the Outstanding Performance award by a Latin Group in the undergraduate category. The group consisted of vocalists Deeksha Kavalapara, Sanjana Pillai, Angel Li, Kay Staley, Anja Doherty, Priscilla Dias de Carvalho, Alice Potapov, Ruby Suman, Norah Thomas, Olivia Reduto, Teddy Jannot, and Michael Filip. They were joined by pianist Ryan Padula, guitarist Jared Cruz, bassists Paul Johnson and Aeneas Strozier, and drummer Ellen Jacobson. The Vocal Jazz Ensemble was named the top Latin undergraduate group in 2023, and also received Outstanding Performance awards in 2021 and 2022.

Violinists in Studio Orchestra

The UMass Studio Orchestra, directed by Jeff Holmes, received the Outstanding Performance award by a Blues/Pop/Rock Group in the graduate category. The 55-plus member ensemble consists of Jazz Ensemble I, the university’s top big band, along with a full complement of strings, winds, and percussion from the UMass Amherst Symphony Orchestra.

Coleman Hovey

Pianist Coleman Hovey ‘23, who studied under JAAMS Director Jeffrey W. Holmes, received the award for Outstanding Performance by a Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist (Undergraduate category). Hovey was named top undergraduate soloist in that category for the past two years, and also received the Outstanding Performance award in 2021.

Keenan Asbridge

Keenan Asbridge ‘23MM, who studied composition with Jeff Holmes, received the Outstanding Studio Orchestra arrangement award (graduate category) for his arrangement of the Beatles’ "Mother Nature's Son." Keenan distinguished himself during his time at UMass through his work as a composer, arranger, and as trumpeter in Jazz Ensemble I and other combos.