By Marshall Smith
The Idyllwild Arts Academy Jazz Combo returned to the top of the podium, taking first place in the 49th Berklee High School Jazz Festival, small combo, (S-4) smaller-school category. Once again, two IAA musicians were honored in the highest individual award categories — Owen Zorn, bass, for Superior Musicianship, and Sumi Onoe, piano, for Outstanding Musicianship.
Paul Carman, jazz studies faculty, took a drummer-less sextet to Berklee — Mark Beebe, alto sax, 10th grade; Moe Fienberg, trumpet, 11th grade; Quincy Ryan, guitar, 12th grade; Bella Hartmann, bass, 12th grade; Owen Zorn, bass, 12th grade; and Sumi Onoe, piano, 12th grade.
“It was absolutely amazing to come in first place at a prestigious competition like this without a drummer,” said Carman. “The students played as well or better than I have ever heard them. I could hear the judges behind me gasping and commenting with things like ‘Wow!’”
Carman noted these results were especially astounding given that the group arrived in Boston at 9 a.m., went to the hotel, got two hours of sleep and then played in competition at 1 p.m. The sextet played “Ecaroh” by Horace Silver, “Gabriela Rise” by Russell Frantz and “O.P.” by Charles Mingus.
In its maiden outing at a national jazz festival in 2011, the IAA Jazz Combo took top honors at Berklee, storming into the spotlight with a first-place small combo (S-4) win and additional awards for Superior Musicianship (Lake Jiroudek, guitar) and Outstanding Musicianship (Jacob Scesney, sax).
IAA took first place again in 2012, 2013 and second in 2014, notching individual Superior Musicianship wins for guitarists Lake Jiroudek (2012) and Cameron Smith (2013).
IAA also was recognized for a 2017 Participation Award (Five Years). Participation Awards also were given to schools for 10, 15, 20, 25 and 35 years of attendance. From 2011 through 2013, Carman and Marshall Hawkins were listed as co-directors. For 2014 and 2017, only Carman is listed.
There were 127 schools in competition from 15 states in 2017, with a majority of those schools from east of the Mississippi. California was the only state west of the Mississippi to participate, with two schools represented — IAA and Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. Mira Costa took second place in the large ensemble, largest school category. This was Mira Costa’s first appearance at Berklee.