The orchestra, an ensemble of the Eastman Community Music School, was also selected as one of the finalists in the Combo Category. Directed by Howard Potter, the Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra is the only ensemble among the 11 big bands and combos from around the country to be competing in two separate categories. The competition has four categories: Big Band Regular; Big Band Specialized; Combo Regular; and Combo Specialized. The Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra is included in the specialized categories.
The Charles Mingus High School Competition was held for the very first time last year. The event celebrates Mingus, a virtuoso bass player, pianist, bandleader, and composer who is considered one of the most important figures in jazz and 20th century American music. He died in 1979 at age 56.
“It was a thrilling and proud moment for the Eastman musicians last year to be the first ones to receive a Best Big Band award from Sue Mingus,” said Potter, associate dean for community and continuing education at the Eastman School of Music. Sue Mingus is the widow of Charles Mingus. “It’s a great recognition of the orchestra’s remarkable talents to be selected to compete again. These students represent the best among up-and-coming high school jazz performers.”
This year’s festival and competition take place Saturday, Feb. 13, through Monday, Feb. 15, at the landmark St. Bartholomew’s Church and at Manhattan School of Music, which co-sponsors the festival and competition with Let My Children Hear Music/The Charles Mingus Institute.
The first day includes clinics, workshops, and master classes featuring such prominent educators and musicians as Pulitzer Prize-winning composer/conductor Gunther Shuller, trombonist and Oberlin College Professor Robin Eubanks, Manhattan School Associate Dean Justin DiCioccio, Mingus Big Band member Boris Kozlov, and others.
The Mingus High School Competition will be held on Sunday and will be followed by a concert by the Manhattan School of Music Mingus Combo and the Mingus Dynasty.
In the Big Band Category (Specialized), the Eastman Youth Jazz Orchestra will compete against the Academy Big Band of the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and Manhattan School of Music’s Precollege Big Band. In the Combo Category (Specialized), the orchestra is up against the Manasia Improv Ensemble of the Manhattan School of Music and the York College Blue Notes.