NWSA Jazz Ensemble wins First Place in prestigious Essentially Ellington (EE) High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival

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Jazz ensemble playing at Ellington competition.New World School of the Arts Jazz Ensemble returned home to Miami last night victorious with First Prize from the prestigious Essentially Ellington (EE) High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival augmented by a $5000 cash award and a trophy. Coupled with intensive jazz training and mentoring by some of the world’s most distinguished jazz artists, along with nationwide peer collaboration, the NWSA Jazz Ensemble had the opportunity to “realize their potential and shine for the world to celebrate them,” stated Dr. Daniel Andai, dean of music at NWSA.
In the last fifteen years, New World School of the Arts has participated in Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival twelve times, including 2016. The group has placed in the top three on six occasions - 1st, 2nd and 3rd – each twice.
“We are so proud of our students and our jazz ensemble director, Jim Gasior, for their victory in New York,” said Dr. Andai. “The NWSA High School Jazz Ensemble students are winners of the 21st Essentially Ellington Competition in New York, but beyond that, they are winners for dedicating themselves to a higher goal by coming together as a team, ensuring that their individual skills in music theory and technical proficiency on their instruments met the rigorous demands, and that they were mentally and physically prepared to accomplish their task of performing with passion andintelligence.”
The 25-member NWSA High School Jazz Ensemble received a total of eleven recognitions in numerous categories during the Essentially Ellington Competition awards ceremony, while a Special Award for NWSA Professor of Jazz Studies and director of the Jazz Ensemble, Jim Gasior, was presented for Most Original and Consistently Original Directing Style. As he presented the outstanding honor, world-renowned musician Wynton Marsalis said about Gasior, “We don’t know how he invented it, but it is truly in the spirit of Jazz. He came up with that one.”
Jim Gasior noted that, “This success is a tribute to our great partnership [Miami Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida] and to hard work and progress over the past four years. Every student's participation was important, but we have two MVP's - Joseph Miller (Lead Alto) and Victor Valdes (Drums). Their level of musical maturity and positive influence on their peers sets the highest bar for student leadership.”
The three top-placing bands had the opportunity to perform during the final concert on Sunday, May 7, at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC where the NWSA Jazz Ensemble, directed by Gasior, offered the contagious and tropical sounds of The Peanut Vendor. Followed by the popular American song St. Louis Blues, with a special solo by distinguished saxophonist Ted Nash and NWSA velvety vocalist, Jasmine Moody.
Along with the other two top-winning bands, the NWSA Jazz Ensemble was chosen by a panel of judges comprised of distinguished jazz musicians and historians including Wynton Marsalis, Managing Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center; respected trombonist Chris Crenshaw; renowned saxophonist and jazz educator Lauren Sevian; Grammy-nominated recording artist Jeff Hamilton; and Bass player, composer and arranger Chuck Israels. Three top winners were selected from a total of fifteen jazz bands finalists. The awards included $5000 forfirst place - New World School of the Arts; $2500 for second place - Triangle Youth Jazz Ensemble; and the third prize, which went to Tucson Jazz Ensemble, was $1000. The remaining 12 competing jazz bands will each receive $500 dollars for improving the jazz education program of each respective high school.
Over 2000 schools requested and received the music from Essentially Ellington to participate in the 2016 Essentially Ellington High School JazzCompetition and Festival, 112 decided to send in recordings to be selected, 15 placed as Finalists and 3 as top winners.
With a BM in Studio Music and Jazz Performance and an MM in Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Miami, Jim Gasior is a successful jazz and commercial pianist, composer and arranger. He has recorded and/or performed with Ricky Martin, Kelly Clarkson, Alih Jey, Michael Bolton, Smokey Robinson, Patti Austin, Little Richard, Chayanne, EdCalle, Arturo Sandoval, Duffy Jackson, Freddie Hubbard, Duffy Jackson and others.
Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival, however, is not the only noteworthy achievement for the NWSA Jazz Ensemble. Competing against other outstanding high school Jazz bands from across the nation, the NWSA Jazz Ensemble proudly brought home the coveted first-place title of the 2008 Savannah Music Festival’s (SMF) Swing Central High School Jazz Band Competition. In 2010 the NWSA Jazz Ensemble participated in the Thelonious MonkInstitute national Peer-To-Peer Jazz Educatio  n Program, joining other students from across the nation. In addition, the jazz musicians had the honor of representing South Florida as they participated in Jazz Studio, a music series initiative held at The White House, also in 2010.
Most recently, in October, 2015, the NWSA Jazz Combo represented Miami and the United States during the Kagoshima Asian Youth Arts Festival, an international music-centered arts festival that highlights youth from various countries and regions throughout Asia. The exchange allowed the students to perform in Japan during the tenth-year celebration of the festival, while strengthening the cultural relationship between Miami-Kagoshima Sister Cities.
Numerous New World School of the Arts jazzstudents have been recognized for their musicianship on a national scale. NWSA students have also received Downbeat Student Music Awards, Young Arts talent search awards, and have been selected to perform with the NWSA High School Grammy Band in Los Angeles, California.
New World School of the Arts was created by the Florida Legislature as a center of excellence in the performing and visual arts, is an educational partnership of Miami Dade County Public Schools, Miami Dade College and the University of Florida.
Information about New World School of the Arts is available at305-237-3135 or at http://nwsa.mdc.edu
More about the Music Division in New World School of the Arts at 305-237-3539.
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