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Music students win nine DownBeat awards

May 3, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Just when it was opened to schools across the globe, DownBeat magazine's annual student music competition this year has a Western Michigan University ring to it, with Bronco musicians taking nine awards and placing second among all schools.

Results of the 33rd Student Music Awards are included in the magazine's June issue, which will hit newsstands soon. The competition is now open to schools internationally, with only the University of Miami producing more awards.

"This is a banner year for WMU and a record for us," says Tom Knific, WMU professor of music and director of the WMU Jazz Studies Program. "It most certainly puts us in the very top tier of winners of all universities in America. The Manhattan School of Music, University of Northern Colorado and the University of North Texas--all considered stellar programs as well as originators of collegiate jazz studies programs--tied at No. 3 with eight awards."

There was only one other win in the state of Michigan--Michigan State University--which won one award. Juilliard's new and highly touted program also received a single award. One WMU student--Galen Bostian-Kentes--brought home two awards.

Knific has reason to be doubly proud. His son, Gene, won his third DownBeat award in the contest. Though still attending Portage Northern High School, the younger Knific has been dually enrolled at WMU and has completed much of WMU's undergraduate jazz curriculum.

2010 DownBeat Student Music Awards
WMU honorees

  • Gene Knific (piano) of Portage, Mich., Blues/Pop/Rock Soloist, High School Winner.
  • Eric Bowman (trombone) of Portage, Mich., Instrumental Jazz Soloist, Undergraduate College Outstanding Performance.
  • Ryan Andrews (drums) of Kalamazoo, Mich., Blues/Pop/Rock/Soloist, Undergraduate College Winner.
  • Galen Bostian-Kentes (vocals) of Ann Arbor, Mich., Blues/Pop/Rock/Soloist, Undergraduate College Outstanding Performance; and Jazz Arrangement, Undergraduate College Winner.
  • Randy Gist (alto and tenor saxophone) of Kentwood, Mich., Blues/Pop/Rock/Soloist, Undergraduate College Outstanding Performance.
  • Compendium (ensemble), Blues/Pop/Rock/Group, Undergraduate College Winner.
  • Ryan Andrews Group (ensemble), Blues/Pop/Rock/Group, Undergraduate College Outstanding Performance.
  • Mas Que Nada (ensemble), Latin Group, Undergraduate College Winner.

WMU's continued strong performance in the annual contest puts the University's music school on the map, Knific says. In addition, DownBeat now separates submissions into graduate and undergraduate categories. All of WMU's wins were in undergraduate categories, while the vast majority of wins of many of the "big name" music schools were in the graduate categories.

"We completely stole the undergraduate competition," Knific says.

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

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