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Jazzed About Downbeat Magazine Awards

Published: May 16, 2016

Pacific Standard Time Jazz Group
Pacific Standard Time

Jazz Studies at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at CSULB took major honors this year in the Downbeat Magazine Awards from the magazine dedicated to jazz and known for its annual surveys and critics in a variety of categories.

In the category of large jazz ensembles, CSULB’s Concert Jazz Orchestra under the leadership of Director of Jazz Studies Jeff Jarvis was recognized for a graduate college outstanding performance while Director of Vocal Jazz Christine Guter’s Pacific Standard Time was recognized for the graduate college outstanding performance in the large vocal jazz ensemble category. Guter won her second consecutive Downbeat Award as guest director in the small vocal jazz group category for her work with the 2015 Illinois All-State Honor Vocal Jazz Ensemble. Also, CSULB music major Jamond McCoy was recognized as outstanding soloist.

“That makes three consecutive years that the Concert Jazz Orchestra has won either Outstanding Performance or Best Large Jazz Ensemble and seven consecutive years that Pacific Standard Time has won either Outstanding Performance or Best Vocal Jazz Ensemble,” said Jarvis, a faculty member of the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music since 2005. “This latest recognition feels terrific. I remember winning that first year and thinking `I’ll have to try this again.’ I thought that again when we won in the second year. Now, for three years running, we’ve gotten individual student recognition plus ensemble awards. I guess we’re going to keep doing it.”

When asked who gets the credit for the consistent recognition for Jazz Studies, Jarvis pointed to the students. “They’re the ones who develop the culture that makes our group sound good from year to year,” he said. “When they are totally invested in what’s going on, that’s when things start to work. I don’t have any big secret to what I do. I just don’t settle until I know the students are giving me the best of what they have to offer. But they work so hard at it so often, I don’t have to lean too hard.”

Jarvis believes there is a culture of excellence in the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music that the students had a big hand in developing.

“They learn about the music from the jazz faculty while their applied teachers keep ratcheting up their performance skills,” he said. “It all comes into play when you try to develop an individual musician, while at the same time helping them to turn off the `me’ part and join an ensemble.”

He thinks one reason for the recognition of Jazz Studies’ McCoy for his performance of “Deixa” is the level of his musicianship. “Under Christine Guter’s direction, he has developed the panache that captivates an audience,” he said.

Winning these awards benefits both the school and the students’ resumes. “It always looks great on a resume to come from an award-winning program,” he said. “Downbeat is an international magazine with a global readership. Winners in these categories get plenty of recognition. It helps with recruiting when students see CSULB as one of the top programs in the nation.”

Plus, Jarvis believes the recognition helps at the university level because it gives people who are not musicians a way to measure the quality of musician’s work. “The one thing I always tell our students is ‘don’t take these awards too seriously,’” he said. “It does not define you as a player. It doesn’t always mean you are the best when you picked number one. It means you were the best that day.”

Jarvis was proud of the Concert Jazz Orchestra’s travel schedule including the Elmhurst College Jazz Festival in Illinois and the upcoming International Trumpet Guild convention where the group will perform with jazz legend Arturo Sandoval. He also had praise for the jazz vocal group.

“Christine Guter reminds her students at every rehearsal of Pacific Standard Time that they need an attitude of humility to do their best,” he said. “It does us all well to remind ourselves that there is a long way to go despite the great things they have achieved.”

This coming fall represents the biggest turnover the Concert Jaz Orchestra has ever seen. “It will feature an all-freshman rhythm section in the top band. That’s amazing,” he said. “The challenge will be nurturing strong musicians who need to mature as people and players. It is exciting because they will be here for four years. We’ve got great players coming in to replace great players going out.”

Jarvis wants potential students to remember how many opportunities to perform exist at CSULB.

“We have less than 60 jazz majors. We’re a manageable size offering many opportunities,” he said. “After you get past the awards and accolades, it is all about opportunities for the students, and what will make them better players.”