Western's jazz program earns accolades from international publication

Contact: Deanne Puca
WMU Advanced Jazz Ensemble

The WMU Advanced Jazz Ensemble received one of three awards granted to Western's jazz studies program from DownBeat magazine's 45th annual Student Music awards.

 KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University’s jazz studies program is boasting several wins from international magazine DownBeat, including being named in its 45th annual Student Music Awards as well as recognition for work from two faculty members.

Graduate and undergraduate students secured three awards in what’s considered the most prestigious competition in jazz education.

The winners from Western include:

  • Gabe Bertolini, Tenor Saxophone, Graduate College Outstanding Performances (Dr. Andrew Rathbun)

  • Faith Quashie, Vocal Jazz Soloist, Undergraduate College Outstanding Performances (Gregory Jasperse)

  • WMU Advanced Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combo, Graduate College Winner (Dr. Andrew Rathbun, director)

Hundreds of musicians, educators and industry professionals have received their first international recognition as winners of DownBeat awards. Western’s jazz studies program now holds nearly 200 historic wins in virtually every category, establishing it as one of the top collegiate jazz programs in the world.

June DownBeat magazine cover

“The jazz program at Western Michigan University continues to garner recognition of the outstanding artistic work of both its students and faculty alike. With a newly redesigned degree that incorporates more technology, new partnerships and new faculty, Western’s jazz program is poised to foster the next generation of important new voices and continue its tradition of excellence," says Rathbun, chair of the jazz department and associate professor of saxophone and jazz.

Faculty honored

Western instructors also established themselves on the international stage.

Keith Hall, assistant professor of jazz drum set and jazz studies, received 4.5 stars from critics for his new CD "Made In Kalamazoo" in the magazine's August issue. Hall has been featured in numerous works, however this is his debut as a lead on an album.

"As a former WMU student and longtime instructor, Keith has been an important part of the University," Rathbun says. “'Made in Kalamazoo' is a revelation into the width of his imagination and experience behind the drums and provides a long-awaited opportunity for him to showcase his percussive prowess front and center."

Rathbun himself was also recognized in the August issue and included in DownBeat's 70th Annual International Critics Poll. Editorial staff from around the world pick musicians for both Established Talent and Rising Stars. He was again recognized as a Rising Star in the tenor saxophone category, marking Rathbun’s second appearance on the list. 

View DownBeat’s 45th annual Student Music Awards in its June issue, and check out the70th annual Critics Poll and Hall's review in the August issue.

Learn more about Western’s jazz studies program.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.