WMU jazz students roll a lucky 'seven' in this year's DownBeat Awards

by Mark Schwerin
| WMU News
Photo of a cover of DownBeat Magazine.

The June issue of DownBeat Magazine will be on newsstands in mid-May.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University jazz students came up big in DownBeat's 38th Annual Student Music Awards, rolling a seven and tying for second in the world.

The strong finish puts WMU in good company, in second place with the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Graz, Austria, a highly regarded program in its own right. The only program to win more awards was the University of Miami, with 18 awards. But several of Miami's awards, as well as those won by the University of North Texas and California State University-Long Beach came at the hands of WMU alumni Kate Reid, Christine Guter and Jennifer Barnes, who have all visited WMU recently as distinguished alumni and guest artists.

"This is our best ranking in many, many years," says Tom Knific, professor of music and director of the WMU jazz studies program. "And, obviously, it's an amazing thing when you consider the scope of the programs we have bested. Most of the peer institutions in the rankings have a multiple number of our students and even a greater multiple of jazz dedicated faculty."

Rounding out the top five were the University of North Texas with six awards, California State University with five, and the University of Indiana, Eastman School of Music and Manhattan School of Music, each with four. WMU has won six awards in the competition in each of the previous three years.

Honorees

This year's WMU honorees, along with the category of their award and their director or professor, are:

  • Lasse Grunewald Quartet, Small Jazz Combo, Graduate College Outstanding Performance, Andrew Rathbun, professor.
  • Sam Alhadid, Vocal Jazz Soloist, Undergraduate College Winner, Greg Jasperse, professor.
  • Monica Pabelonio, Vocal Jazz Soloist, Undergraduate College Winner, Greg Jasperse, professor.
  • Out of State, Small Vocal Jazz Group, Undergraduate College Winner, Greg Jasperse, professor.
  • Kellen Boersma (guitar), Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist, Undergraduate College Winner, Andrew Rathbun, professor.
  • Elliot Weeks, "Dust of Snow," Original Composition-Small Ensemble, Undergraduate College Outstanding Composition, Andrew Rathbun, professor.
  • Elliot Weeks, "Dust of Snow," Original Composition-Large Ensemble, Undergraduate College Outstanding Composition, Greg Jasperse, professor.

WMU's strong showing in the contest over the past several years places the University squarely among the top five award-winning programs in the world, Knific says. The results speak well of the program's talented students.

"It shows that our students are among the most dedicated, hard-working individuals you will ever encounter," Knific says.

Over the past three-plus decades, WMU has tallied more than 150 DownBeat Awards. Results of DownBeat's 38th annual Student Music Awards will be presented in the magazine's June issue, expected to hit newsstands in mid-May.

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