Idyllwild Arts Berklee sextet with faculty Marshall Hawkins (left) and Paul Carman (right). Students are from left, Cameron Smith, Carlos Del Castillo, Luca Jacaruso, Randy Plummer, Alex Keller and Inigo Mantecon. Photo courtesy of Paul Carman

The upstart school from the West has made it three in a row at the annual Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston, Mass. This past weekend, for the third consecutive year, a jazz combo from Idyllwild Arts earned top honors at the national festival.

The school that no one at the most prestigious high school jazz festival had heard of crashed the scene in 2011 with a sextet and took first place in the most competitive category, jazz combo class 4. Class 4 schools are magnet and performing arts schools and academies, and Idyllwild’s top finish displaced schools long accustomed to a place in the winner’s circle.

Honored with an outstanding musicianship award, guitarist and Idyllwild Arts sophomore Cameron Smith. Photo courtesy of Allen Bush, Berklee publicist
Idyllwild Arts jazz repeated its win in 2012 with a quartet and again finished in top position in 2013 with a sextet.

In addition to top combo honors, 10th grade guitarist Cameron Smith won the outstanding musicianship award, an honor which guitarist Lake Jiroudek also won in the 2011 competition.

For the first time, a singer was part of the Idyllwild Arts ensemble, senior Alex Keller. “Having a singer there is a very rare thing,” Carman said, “and they [the judges] loved it that we were using a singer in this way [Keller sang a horn part].”

Of the win, Carman said, “Once again the discipline, focus and musicality of our jazz students was noticed and honored by the Berklee faculty judges.”

“There were no usual comments [from the judges and audience], only speechless praise,” Marshall Hawkins said.

In addition to Keller and Smith, the sextet included Luca Jacaruso on piano, Inigo Mantecon on bass, Carlos Del Castillo on drums and Randy Plummer on sax.