The Jazz Arts Group of Columbus (JAG) has announced its winner of the 2012 Hank Marr High School Jazz Award. This award demonstrates excellence in musicianship and performance amongst central Ohio’s young students of jazz. Six extremely talented high school students auditioned for the $500 cash award and the chance to perform with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and Artistic Director Byron Stripling at the July 20th JazZoo! at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium.
First round adjudicators were Michael Cox, saxophone and Professor of Music at Capital University; Ben Huntoon, trumpet, and Jazz Education Specialist at Stanton’s Sheet Music; and Tony Bondardi, piano and adjunct at Capital University. After listening to all six taped auditions, these three narrowed the field to three, who auditioned with a rhythm section on May 12, 2012 at the Jazz Academy.
This year’s three finalists were Micah Thomas, piano, Westerville, Ohio; William England, saxophone, Grove City, Ohio; and Thomas (Mac) Connor, trumpet, Westerville, Ohio. Adjudicators for the final round included: Tom Carroll, guitar, Professor of Music, Denison University; Michael Cox, saxophone, Professor of Music, Capital University; Jim Rupp, drummer, owner Columbus Pro Percussion; and Gene Walker, saxophone, professional musician.
Final adjudication took place on Saturday, May 12 at JAG’s Jazz Academy. All three finalists, with a rhythm section made up of local professional jazz musicians, performed solo then as an ensemble and all three played beautifully. Jurors Carroll, Cox, Rupp and Walker all commented on the quality of the three finalists, highlighting the strengths each performance. And, after much discussion, the adjudicators unanimously agreed that the 2012 Hank Marr High School Jazz Award winner is Micah Thomas.
“The playing levels of the participants seem to get better and better every year,” stated co-judge Tom Carroll. “This competition is extremely important in these times where music and arts are being cut back all across the board in public education from K-12. Keeping this American art form in the schools is extremely important to those who want to play this music as well as keeping it a part of the landscape of our communities.”
Micah Thomas will receive a collection of Jamey Aebersold books, a $500 check and the opportunity to perform with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra at its July 20th JazZoo! concert. Micah, a freshman at Westerville South High School, has been studying music for about 12 years, most recently with local pianist and OSU/Capital Professor Mark Flugge. Thomas won the Kessler Young Artist Scholarship in Orlando, Florida at age 9, and has been a member of JAG’s Youth Jazz Program for the last three years.
Will England, saxophone and Mac Thomas, trumpet, will each receive a selection of Jamey Aebersold books for their continued learning in the jazz idiom, gifted by corporate partner Stanton’s Sheet Music. Both England and Connor are graduating from high school this year and are going on to study jazz – England at University of North Carolina, Greensboro with sometime Columbus Jazz Orchestra member Chad Eby, and Connor will attend The Ohio State University and study with Kenyatta Beasley.
Columbus musical legend Hank Marr was one of the world’s masters of the Hammond B-3 organ. Along with Hank’s celebrity status as a member of the jazz elite, he was a dedicated and gifted educator. In recognition of over fifty years as a performer, teacher, arranger and conductor, the Jazz Arts Group established the Hank Marr High School Jazz Award as a tribute to this special individual. His willingness to “pass it on” makes the encouragement of young jazz artists an important and meaningful activity.
“If a young player had any questions he would stop in his tracks and take as much time with the youngster as needed,” shared Carroll. “On a personal note, I was one of those youngsters and it evolved to the point that Hank started to hire me to play with him. Then that introduced me to Rusty Bryant, Gary Carney, Ola Hanson, John Ulrich and MANY more local legends who I played with and became friends with.”
Jazz Arts Group thanks Crabbe, Brown & James for its financial support of the Hank Marr High School Jazz Award and the many individual contributors who knew and loved Hank.