WMU News

Jazz students rack up five Down Beat awards

May 22, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- Make it an even 10.

For the 10th consecutive year, students in the Western Michigan University School of Music have chalked up multiple awards in Down Beat magazine's annual Student Awards Competition.

WMU students garnered five awards this year, highlighted by a three-award tally by guitarist Brett Farkas of Northville, Mich. Farkas won in the categories of College Outstanding Performance, Guitar; Jazz Instrumental Group, College Co-Winner, for Farkas' jazz group, the Brett Farkas Trio; and Blues/Pop/Rock Group, College Co-Winner, for Farkas' rock group, Doc Brown.

Rounding out WMU's awards were Ryan Billington of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, Jazz Vocalist, College Co-Winner; and Gold Company, Jazz Vocal Choir, College Outstanding Performance.

This is the 25th year for the annual Student Music Awards. This year's awards are published in the magazine's June issue, which is now on sale at newsstands. Central Michigan University, with one award, was the only other institution in Michigan to win an award.

Three WMU alums also took home awards, although they are now students at the University of Miami (Florida). The most notable was Jed Scott, who won the award for Engineered Studio Recording, College Outstanding Performance, and whose competition material was actually performed by WMU students and recorded at WMU.

Dr. Thomas Knific, WMU professor of music, chairperson of the Jazz Studies Program and Farkas' teacher, says his pupil's Down Beat performance is unprecedented.

"It must be a school record for one person," Knific says. "We've had a couple of double winners, but I don't think anyone has won three in one year."

WMU's string of multiple awards dates back to 1993. For several years running, WMU was leading all schools in the nation in the number of awards during the same period.

Knific says WMU's performance in the competition speaks well of the University and its students.

"It's an honor and a great privilege to have students who produce at this level," Knific says. "This is one of the more important, or perhaps the most important, barometers of collegiate programs."

Producing a successive string of multiple winners is an affirmation of everybody's hard work, including that of students and faculty, Knific adds.

"I've always said that our students are as good as any students, anywhere," Knific says. "They just keep proving that."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 269 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
269 387-8400