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Jazz students win multiple DownBeat awards

June 3, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University jazz students have done it again, bringing home multiple awards from DownBeat magazine.

Students in WMU's Jazz Studies Program won a pair of awards in the 32nd annual Student Music Awards. Results of this year's competition are announced in the magazine's June issue, which is now on newsstands.

WMU's Spiro Sinigos Quartet, under the direction of Keith Hall, WMU adjunct professor of music, won the Jazz Group College Winner category. Members of the quartet are:

  • Nick Mainella of Plaistow, N.H., saxophone
  • Benjamin Bourlier of Detroit, Mich., piano
  • Sam Weber of Portage, Mich., bass
  • Spiro Sinigos of Grand Rapids, Mich., drums

The second WMU award went to Gordon van Gent of Virginia Beach, Va., who took home Engineered Studio Recording College Outstanding Performance honors under the direction of John Campos, manager of WMU's Western Sound Studio.

"I believe we have won multiple awards every year but one over the past 14 years," says Tom Knific, WMU professor of music and the program's director. "We are also the only university in Michigan to win an award this year."

In addition to those awards, members of a group from Portage Northern High School with strong ties to WMU won two awards. Knific's son, Gene, a pianist and member of the group, Kind of Blue, won in the Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist category. Though still in high school, he has been dually enrolled at WMU for two years and has completed much of WMU's undergraduate jazz curriculum.

Two other Kind of Blue members--Joe Barth and Ashley Ickes--study privately with WMU jazz faculty. Along with bassist Chris Davis and drummer Darek Cobbs, Kind of Blue won in the Blues/Pop/Rock Group category.

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

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