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Blues and Rock Ensemble I Wins in DownBeat’s 42nd Student Music Awards

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April 30, 2019

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - Kutztown University's Blues and Rock Ensemble I was named one of two winners in this year's DownBeat Student Music Awards (SMA). KU took home a co-win with the University of Miami's Frost School of Music in the Undergraduate College Outstanding Performance in Blues/Rock/Pop category. This year marks the Blues and Rock Ensemble I's second consecutive year winning the award. The ensemble is under the direction of Dr. Kevin Kjos, director of jazz studies and professor of trumpet at KU since 1998. 

Kutztown is the only institution of higher education in Pennsylvania to receive a 2019 Student Music Award and is one of four total Pennsylvania schools that won, the other three being middle schools across various categories.

DownBeat Magazine is the premier jazz magazine for professional jazz musicians, producers, engineers, advertisers and students. For the annual SMA, institutions nationwide submit recordings in a variety of categories to be judged on the following performance criteria: overall sound, presence or authority, proper interpretation of idiom, improvisation or creativity, technique, intonation, phrasing, dynamics, accurate rhythm/timing and material, among other engineering criteria.

Panels of respected jazz performers and educators then select winners and outstanding performance citations. This year's panel consisted of 21 judges, including Jim Anderson, multiple Grammy winner and professor at NYU's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music; Orbert Davis, Emmy award-winning trumpeter, composer and educator, and co-founder and conductor of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic; and Bart Marantz, a legendary Jazz educator whose ensembles have won more than 245 DownBeat SMAs.

The DownBeat SMAs, founded in 1976, are considered the most prestigious awards in jazz education. Hundreds of musicians, music educators and music industry professionals received their first international recognition as DownBeat Student Music Award winners. Even before becoming professionals, students are able to use this recognition to garner various scholarship opportunities. Being a DownBeat Student Music Award winner is an accomplishment line on any college application or professional resume.

"This award is an acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication our students put into this ensemble; it shows how far someone can go with a great attitude. We have a bunch of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth students here who find a way together to achieve great things. It's an honor to teach them," Kjos said. 

In DownBeat's Magazine announcing this year's winners, KU student Brianna Parry spoke of her four years of experience in the ensemble and discussed why she thought diversity within the group was an important aspect to their success. This year, she submitted three widely varied selections, including the heavy-duty funk of Tower of Power's "Hangin' with My Baby," the more subdued groove of "Home At Last" by Steely Dan and an acoustic number, "The Eye," by Brandi Carlile.

"I think it's important to showcase that we're all versatile as musicians and that we can adapt to whatever kind of song we're presented with," Parry said. She also commented on her feelings about the ensemble, claiming that for her, it is ideal preparation for a life in professional music or a teaching career.

"Being in this group, we've all grown as musicians together. The family feeling that we share prepares us for a future of interacting with other musicians-or even a classroom of students," Parry said.

For more information about the KU Department of Music, please visit https://www.kutztown.edu/music.

To read the full article announcing the win, please visit http://downbeat.com/digitaledition/2019/DB1906_sma/single_page_view/124.html.