UMass Jazz Program Claims Three Student Music Awards from ‘DownBeat Magazine’

UMass Graduate Jazz Composers Ensemble
UMass Graduate Jazz Composers Ensemble

Two ensembles and one solo musician from the jazz and African-American music studies program (JAAMS) at the UMass Amherst department of music and dance have been selected to receive Student Music Awards (SMAs) 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.

JAAMS director/coordinator Jeffrey W. Holmes commented, “The UMass JAAMS program has a long tradition of ‘DownBeat’award success, with close to 60 ensembles and individual students being recognized over the past thirty five years in virtually every category.”  Recordings are submitted from institutions nationwide in a variety of categories and are then adjudicated by panels of respected jazz performers and educators.

This year, the UMass Graduate Jazz Composers Ensemble, led by Felipe Salles, was selected as the top Asynchronous Latin Group (Graduate College category). The group, which showcases new works by composers in the graduate jazz composition/arranging program, includes Zach Robarge (flute and baritone saxophone) Kyle Murray (tenor sax), Mitch Gibbs (trumpet), Andrew Wilcox (piano), Liam Birkerts (acoustic bass), Pedro Gomes Lobato (electric bass) and Mark Walker (drums and percussion).

The UMass Vocal Jazz Group, led by Catherine Jensen-Hole, took top honors for Outstanding Performanceby anAsynchronous Small Vocal Jazz Group (undergraduate category). The ensemble, which has garnered numerous SMAs over the years, consisted of soprano Hannah White, altos Emma Hagan and Alice Merville, tenor Jordan Kinder, and bass Michael O’Malley.

Pianist Coleman Hovey, who studies under Holmes, was selected forOutstanding Performance by a Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist (undergraduate category). In addition to his jazz performance studies at UMass, Hovey is also focusing on arranging and composing, and recently had a new work entitled “Tribute Suite” premiered by the UMass Jazz Ensemble I.