Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble Wins DownBeat Magazine’s Outstanding Performance Award

Posted on: May 1st, 2007 by Rick Peterson

APPLETON, WIS. — One of the nation’s best. Again.

For the third time, the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE) has been honored by DownBeat magazine with the “Outstanding Performance Award” in the college big band category. The outstanding performance award, part of the magazine’s 30th annual student music awards competition, will be announced in DownBeat’s upcoming June edition.

Under the direction of Fred Sturm, director of jazz studies and improvisational music at Lawrence, LUJE was one of three university jazz ensembles in the United States and Canada recognized by DownBeat. Lawrence was joined by the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Miami as outstanding performance award recipients in the big-band category.

LUJE’s performance award was based on the seven-track CD “Witnesses,” which featured compositions and arrangements written exclusively by Lawrence students. The disk was recorded over the course of two days in May, 2006 by Lawrence recording engineer Larry Darling.

“It’s always a thrill to be recognized with an award like this, but what I’m most proud of is the fact that we accomplished this as an undergraduate institution,” said Sturm, who returned in 2002 to the Lawrence jazz studies department he helped found after leaving for the Eastman School of Music in 1991.

“We have no master of music or doctoral candidates in our bands like many of the schools we compete against.  Every aspect of the recordings we submitted for the award is home grown.  All of the music was composed and arranged by current Lawrence students, performed by Lawrence students and recorded by Lawrence engineer Larry Darling.  Very few collegiate ensembles submit student works for these kinds of competitions because those pieces typically pale in comparison to professionally published compositions and arrangements.

“We won seven of these awards during the 11 years I was in New York,” Sturm added, “and while I appreciated every citation, none of those were as sweet as the one the students have brought home to Lawrence this year.”

In addition to LUJE, 2006 Lawrence graduate Doug Detrick was named the winner of the “Outstanding Jazz Arrangement Award” in the magazine’s college jazz arranging category. Detrick, currently a teaching assistant in jazz studies at the University of Oregon, was cited for his award-winning arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “Single Petal of a Rose,” which he scored for combined symphony orchestra and jazz ensemble. The work was performed and recorded by the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra and LUJE under the direction of David Becker last June.

Known as “DBs” and presented in 14 categories in four separate divisions (junior high, high school, performing high school and college) the DownBeat awards are considered among the highest music honors in the field of jazz education.

LUJE was the first ensemble or individual at Lawrence to be recognized by DownBeat, earning the first of its three outstanding performance awards in 1985.  LUJE also was honored in 2000.  Lawrence students have earned 15 DBs since the competition’s inception, including six in the last seven years.

This year’s DownBeat competition drew a total of 865 ensemble and individual entries for all categories in all four divisions.

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