WMU News

Music students, Gold Company snag more awards

May 23, 2004

KALAMAZOO--And the beat goes on.

For the 12th straight year, Western Michigan University music students have racked up multiple awards in Down Beat magazine's annual Student Awards Competition.

And in a related bit of news, Gold Company, the University's vocal jazz ensemble, continues to win accolades from a jazz music journal for its releases, this time for its most recent compact disc "25," named in honor of the group's 25th anniversary.

WMU students tallied seven Down Beat awards this year, while Dr. Thomas Knific, chairperson of WMU's Jazz Studies Program, was given an Achievement Award for Jazz Education. The awards are part of a special section in the June issue of Down Beat set to hit newsstands within the coming week.

"This is the second greatest number of student awards for any institution in North America this year," Knific says. "For the past decade, we remain in the top three schools for award winners."

In an added twist, Knific's 11th-grade son's group, Nexus, which he coaches in the family's living room, is the first area noncollegiate group to win an award.

WMU students or ensembles who brought home Down Beat honors this year include Kathryn Campbell, Jazz Vocalist, College Winner; Johnaye F. Kendrick, Jazz Vocalist, College Outstanding Performance; Mialtin Zhezha, Classical Soloist, Violin, College Winner; Gold Company Sextet, Vocal Group, College Outstanding Performance; Gold Company, Vocal Choir, College Winner; Justin Avery, Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist, College Winner; and Justin Avery Band, Blues/Pop/Rock Group, College Winner.

Knific says the awards are a testament to the high quality of music students attending WMU and the University's music programs.

"The world takes note of our achievements through this annual international competition," Knific says. "It shows, once again, that our students are as good as any students anywhere."

Gold Company's CD recently was handed a "Blue Chip" award from Dr. Herb Wong, a noted jazz historian, critic, author and columnist for the "Jazz Education Journal."

As a Blue Chip recipient, "25" is singled out as among one of the best eight recordings from a university campus or institute in 2003. Gold Company is one of two vocal jazz ensembles so honored.

Other Blue Chip winners include the University of North Texas' One O'Clock Lab Band, the University of Miami Concert Jazz Band, and the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra. According to Wong, the selected recordings "offer model references in support of the resource base of jazz studies programs."

Gold Company's CD "While We're Young" was a Blue Chip recipient in 2001, as was the WMU Jazz Orchestra's release "Cosmosis."

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

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