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Jazz House Kids Wins Big in National High School Competition
(Published: February 20, 2014)

Jazz House Kids, a nationally acclaimed, community-based arts organization that has brought innovative jazz education, music instruction and performance to more than 35,000 students, took top honors at the prestigious Charles Mingus High School Competition & Festival at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City this weekend. The Jazz House Big Band won first place in the Big Band-Specialized Schools and Programs category, and the Jazz House Messengers, which competed in the Combo category for Specialized Schools and Programs, received the Spirit Award for its passionate performance that got right to the true essence of Charles Mingus' music. Additionally, Outstanding Soloist Awards were presented to six Jazz House Kids students: trombonist Coleman Hughes, drummer Cameron MacIntosh, saxophonist Zoe Obadia, guitarist Rahsaan Pickett, pianist Isaiah Thompson and trumpeter Liam Werner.
The annual nationwide competition is presented by Sue Mingus and Let My Children Hear Music/The Charles Mingus Institute and Justin DiCioccio and the Manhattan School of Music. Activities included a series of full-day clinics, master classes and jams designed for high school jazz students at the Manhattan School of Music, and Mingus Big Band performances at the Jazz Standard.
Jazz House Kids competed against an elite pool of 13 big band and combo finalists recognized from across the country in two sections - the Big Band Category with the Jazz House Big Band directed by Julius Tolentino and the Combo Category - with the Jazz House Messengers directed by Bruce Williams.
"It's been an amazing experience for all the groups from across the US to share Charles Mingus' music as part of the Mingus Competition. The level of musicianship in all the groups gets higher each year and our Jazz House musicians should be proud of their contribution to that," noted Jazz House Big Band director Julius Tolentino who had the distinction of having two bands in the competition, his Newark Academy Big Band was in the Regular Schools and Programs category. Mr. Tolentino's bands swept first place in both categories.
This was the third year in a row that Jazz House Kids was selected to participate in the highly regarded Mingus competition. In 2013, the organization earned four Outstanding Student Soloist Awards and in 2012, Jazz House Kids swept with Best Big Band in Specialized School Category, Best Small Group in Specialized Combo and eight outstanding soloist awards.
Each year, Jazz House Kids delivers an authentic music education and performance experience to hundreds of young people from diverse backgrounds. According to Melissa Walker, president and founder of Jazz House Kids, the key to the organization's accomplishments, and its mission, is to create as many authentic jazz experiences for young people as possible. "Having a strong teaching faculty is the first step and, if possible, is augmented with one-on-one lessons," said Walker. "Our ensemble program's success is an example of how all students who pass through the Jazz House get unique opportunities to learn from top talent in a caring and nurturing environment."
Jazz House Kids has gained a reputation as a preeminent arts organization producing many of the nation's top young musicians through its unique method of music, mentoring, education and apprenticeship. The 20+ talented New Jersey students who comprise the Jazz House Big Band are some of the top high school jazz musicians in the nation. Last month, four students were selected to participate in the GRAMMY Camp - Jazz Session; Jazz House Kids students make up more than 20% of the entire band. Four Jazz House students were selected from 10,000 applicants to participate in the coveted 2014 National YoungArts Week. Only six students nationwide were chosen to be National YoungArts scholars in jazz. In addition, three Jazz House Kids students have been nominated to be 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts out of only 60 students chosen nationwide.
Last year, the Jazz House Big Band won second place in the 18th annual Essentially Ellington Competition and Festival, and took home nine awards for outstanding soloists. One student, Coleman Hughes, received the Ella Fitzgerald Outstanding Soloist Award, the highest award presented to an individual player in the competition. Coleman, a senior at Newark Academy, was also awarded a prestigious 2013 Davidson Fellows Scholarship. Out of the 20 distinguished fellows selected, 18 were math and science awardees. Coleman was the first jazz musician in history to receive this award, which included a $25,000 scholarship.
Jazz House Kids creative chair is internationally renowned bassist Christian McBride. McBride assists with the appointment of faculty and guest artists and is key to the framework of the music programs which brings together international artists to teach alongside its professional faculty. Students are offered a wide range of creative programming that develops musical potential, leadership and strengthens academic performance. This relationship has ensured that students are mentored by a host of extraordinary talent, including Esperanza Spalding, Chick Corea, Dianne Reeves, Pat Metheny and Chris Botti.
"While all our students, regardless of level have found a home at the Jazz House, our Jazz House Big Band and Jazz House Messengers members who are graduating seniors have worked together for almost four years and really understand what it takes to make a great ensemble swing!" said Walker. "We are so honored to have been selected to participate in the esteemed Charles Mingus competition."
Starting this spring semester, Jazz House Kids is adding to its award-winning instrumental ensemble program and Jazz Drama Workshop for tweens, the new Vocal Jazz Academy directed by recording artist and Adjunct Professor of the New School, Amy London for teens and up. For more information, contact Jazz House Kids, call 973-744-2273 or visit www.jazzhousekids.org.

More Information: http://www.jazzhousekids.org

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