Jazz Musicians
Honors and Awards

Two Students, Pair of Ensembles Selected for 2024 DownBeat Magazine Student Music Awards

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Two students and two ensembles from the Jazz & African-American Music Studies Program (JAAMS) in 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 announced the annual Student Music Award winners in its June issue.

Recordings by artists and ensembles 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 nearly 70 Student Music Awards garnered by ensembles and individual students in virtually every category over the past 35 years.

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.

The UMass Studio Orchestra, directed by Holmes, received the award for Outstanding Performance 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.

Pianist Coleman Hovey, who studied under Holmes, received the award for Outstanding Performance by a Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist in the 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, who studied composition with Holmes, received the Outstanding Studio Orchestra Arrangement award in the 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 and arranger, and as a trumpeter in Jazz Ensemble I and other combos.