Vanderbilt jazz program again honored by ‘DownBeat’ magazine

Vanderbilt Blair School of Music is among the winners of  DownBeat magazine’s 45th annual Student Music Awards.  

Blair’s blossoming  jazz program earned a top ranking for its big band in the category of Best Undergraduate Large Jazz Ensemble. For the first time in school history, the program received four awards in the same year, bringing its total number of awards from the magazine to nine over the past four years. In addition to the ensemble award, three individual student recipients were honored in the categories of original composition and engineered live recording. 

“I am delighted to note this honor by DownBeat magazine as the jazz program continues to build on its success,” said Lorenzo F. Candelaria, Mark Wait Dean’s Chair of the Blair School of Music. “The Blair School is proud of the accomplishments of these students and the leadership of our outstanding faculty.” 

Students honored include junior jazz studies major Kevin Shinskie for his original composition “Cannon’s Groove,” and junior trombone performance major Jonathan Salcedo for “Mambo No Nombre.” Senior percussion performance major Joshua Weinfeld earned recognition in the engineered live recording category.  

“I am extremely proud of our students and all they have accomplished, and I’m grateful to all my faculty colleagues who support our students and the jazz program we have built. It is truly a team effort,” said Ryan Middagh, director of jazz studies at the Blair School. “The individual student awards are extremely exciting, as they reflect our values of creative composition and excellence in music technology.” 

Jazz courses were first offered at Blair in 2002 under the direction of the late Billy Adair. Middagh took over as director of the jazz program in 2014, and since then the jazz program has received national and international recognition, including the DownBeat magazine student music awards, invitations to the 2017 and 2022 Jazz Education Network Conferences and a tour of Colombia on behalf of the U.S. State Department.  

Blair made its first appearance in DownBeat’s Student Music Awards in 2019 when the Blair Big Band was named Best Undergraduate Large Jazz Ensemble. Each year the winners are unveiled in the magazine’s June edition.