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  • Writer's pictureKen Laster

New Soil Ensemble Wins Coveted DownBeat Award

Young Lions Jazz Conservatory New Soil Ensemble Downbeat 46th Annual Student Music Awards
Young Lions Jazz Conservatory New Soil Ensemble Downbeat 46th Annual Student Music Awards

Young Lions Jazz Conservatory is proud to announce that New Soil Ensemble has won the prestigious Downbeat Student Music Awards for High School Honors Ensemble Outstanding Performance. The DownBeat awards are considered among the most coveted honors in the music industry. This is the 46th annual Student Music Awards which were launched in 1976. Ensembles from YLJC have received this honor for four consecutive years.

Entries are adjudicated solely on the basis of ability as demonstrated on the candidate recordings. Among the criteria considered are musicianship, creativity, improvisation, technique and excitement. The judges are all respected professional musicians and educators. All entries are judged "blind" (no student, group or school names identified).

YLJC founder and artistic director, Gilbert Castellanos when asked to comment on this achievement said, "These young talented musicians are representing San Diego on so many levels! The future is extremely bright in the world of music! I am their biggest fan!"

This is what some of the ensemble members had to say about their interest in jazz and how music education and YLJC has influenced their lives.

Ethan Fairclough (bass) - To me, music education means a study in which the goal is to teach how one can express themselves musically. To reach this goal, music education usually, but does not always, consist of learning how to play an instrument, compose, play and communicate with other musicians, and find one's unique sound. I believe YLJC not only includes and exceeds all these aspects in music education but also teaches you how to apply them outside of the conservatory into the real world (how to work). YLJC gives real music education from real musicians.

Joey Kim-Weigandt (piano) - Originally a classical pianist, I discovered jazz when I joined Young Lions Jazz Conservatory; I immediately grew fond of the art style for its freedom and improvisational experiences. I also enjoyed performing alongside other musicians for the first time in a small ensemble. I was hooked. Currently a sophomore, I am excited to be part of the New Soil Ensemble, the Free for All Ensemble, and the Jacobs Jazz Orchestra, as well as the jazz band at my high school, Canyon Crest Academy. I love the positivity flowing through the air with my amazing instructors and peers... It's been a privilege to perform these compositions at exciting venues around San Diego. I'm extremely grateful for Gilbert Castellanos, who is an amazing mentor and teacher, and for the other talented instructors at YLJC. They have inspired me to one day pursue jazz studies in college and to become a professional musician.

Elijah Marrewa (drums) - I grew up with music everywhere. My dad plays guitar in a Blues Band, so my earliest memory of playing an instrument was banging a little drum set at three years old. I could always tell that music was what I was meant to do. Young Lions Jazz Conservatory has helped me gain a deeper understanding and love of the music. I’ve been so lucky to be given so many chances and amazing opportunities to be able to grow as a musician and person. Gilbert has done nothing but push me since day one and I can’t thank him enough for all that he has done for me and the Jazz community. Now that I am graduating high school, I am off to study Jazz at the University of North Texas in Denton. I can’t wait to meet a bunch of incredible musicians and make some incredible music in college.

Congratulations to all of the Young Lions that comprise the New Soil Ensemble. Nick Caldwell - Tenor Sax, Taichi Okumura - Alto Sax, Joey Kim-Weigandt - Piano, Ethan Fairclough - Bass, Elijah Marrewa - Drums.

👉Catch New Soil Ensemble and all YLJC ensembles, June 10th, 2023 our All-Ensembles Showcase at The Loft at UCSD!

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